Types Of Flowers You Can Eat


Not long ago, edible flowers were reserved for fancy bakeries and Michelin-starred restaurants. And then Instagram happened. Fun as decorating your smoothie bowls and other eats with edible flowers may be, though, it’s not a total free-for-all. (No, you can’t just turn any old bouquet into a salad.)

“The term, ‘edible’ simply indicates that the flower was grown in a food-safe way, meaning it wasn't treated with unsafe pesticides or preservatives," explains Todd Seyfarth, RD, dietitian, chef, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Johnson & Wales University. "It also means that the flower doesn’t naturally contain any compounds we've identified as dangerous or toxic.”

Not all edible flowers are actually worth eating, though. “Often, plants with vivid and deep colors are bitter on the palate, so [appreciation for their taste] will vary from person to person,” says Seyfarth. If you're not a fan of bitter flavor, you'll probably want to remove those deep-hued petals from your food after snapping a pic for the 'gram.

That said, deeply-colored flowers are often the most nutrient-rich (like all edible plants, edible flowers contain important vitamins and minerals). “The more colorful the plant and deeper the flavor, the more antioxidant power the plant usually has,” Seyfarth says.

If you're intrigued by flowering up your food, make sure to only purchase flowers marked as edible. “They are harder to find, but gourmet grocers usually have them," says Seyfarth.

From there, you'll want to prep your flowers a little differently than other fruits and vegetables. “Most flowers are very delicate and will be damaged by rough washing,” says Seyfarth, who recommends dipping edible flowers into a bowl of clean water and carefully hand-drying them.

Add some flower power to your next meal with one of the following 10 popular edible petals.

Squash Blossoms

Available from late spring to early fall, squash blossoms have a relatively mild flavor. Though they're typically battered and deep-fried, you can also stuff them with a ricotta-herb blend or chop and stir them into a rice pilaf.

Though flowers can't typically hold up as a dish's main ingredient, "zucchini blossoms, which I never pass up when they are in season, are an exception,” Seyfarth says.

Hibiscus

Because of its “tart, almost citrusy flavor,” Seyfarth likes to use hibiscus both in cooking and in tea blends.

The bright flower also offers potential health benefits. In fact, one 2015 review found that regular consumption of hibiscus tea helped reduce blood pressure.

Dried hibiscus flowers are easier to find than many other edible flowers. Use them to make tea, or sprinkle them over yogurt or oatmeal for a fun flavor boost.

Carnations

Thanks to their bright, peppery flavor, Seyfarth also adds carnation petals to dishes on occasion. Sprinkle chopped petals into lettuce salad bases or use them as a cake garnish that also adds a slightly spicy bite.

Roses

Roses have a bold flavor, so Seyfarth uses them only as a garnish, which is just as well since they can be expensive.

Try tossing thinly sliced rose petals into fruit salad for some floral notes or make your own rose water by steeping petals in hot water. (Some research suggests that drinking rose water might be good for a sore throat, since it can help relax your throat muscles.)

Dandelions

A popular ingredient in teas and other natural remedies, dandelion is an all-star edible flower. (Research shows that the antioxidant-rich flower can help control blood sugar levels, which is particularly important in diabetes management.)

Plus, dandelion's benefits aren’t limited to just the flower itself. While the tiny yellow petals work great in teas or as subtle pasta mix-ins, dandelions' leafy greens are also a fun alternative to kale or spinach, and you can find it in most grocery stores.

Lavender

Love it or hate it, this light purple flower has an intense and perfumey flavor. Though research is mixed, many people tout lavender as being beneficial for digestion and anxiety.

Either way, you can still add a spoonful of chopped-up lavender to cake or quick-bread batters for added flavor, or use the petals make a simple syrup for drinks.

Pansies

Rich in several beneficial antioxidant compounds, pansies come in a variety of colors and have a delicate, floral flavor. Buy a bag that contains all different colors, candy them, and use them to garnish cakes or puddings. Or, chop them up and toss them into summery vegetable salads.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle has been a staple in Eastern medicine for centuries because of its supposed anti-inflammatory properties. Though research has yet to back up these claims, honeysuckle steeped in water or tea can be delicious and soothing.

Be careful, though; while honeysuckle petals are safe, eating large quantities of certain honeysuckle berries (there are many different types) could be poisonous, says Seyfarth.

Chamomile

Long beloved for its calming qualities, some research does suggest that chamomile can help you sleep.

If you'd rather consume chamomile flowers in their natural form (instead of in a tea or extract), try sprinkling a few petals into a smoothie before you blend it. Just don’t be too heavy handed; while the petals add a nice earthiness, they’re also pretty bitter, says Seyfarth.

Purslane

Like dandelions, purslane greens are sometimes used in cooking. However, their tiny flowers (often yellow) deserve some love, too.

The next time you sauté up purslane greens, garnish them with a few flower petals for good measure. Since research indicates the plant is relatively high in melatonin, eating it for dinner might promote sleep.

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