Edible Flowers: Adding Flavor and Color to Festive Tables
The use of flowers in cooking is not a new concept. It has been practiced for thousands of years by various cultures, including the Chinese, Greeks, and Romans. In fact, culinary use of flowers can be traced back to ancient times. Many cultures have incorporated the use of flowers in their traditional cuisine. For instance, rose petals are commonly used in Indian cuisine, and squash blossoms are a staple in Italian cooking.
In modern times, flower petals have become an increasingly popular and ubiquitous ingredient in salads, teas, and as a garnish for desserts. The possibilities are endless, and your imagination is your only limit. With the festive season upon us, adding colorful and fresh flower accents or crystallized flowers can delight your guests.
Here are twenty flowers that can add flavor and color to any festive table:
1. Apple Blossoms
Apple blossoms have a slightly floral taste and are ideal for use in salads. Petals can be infused in whipped cream or ice cream to go over an apple tart. Blossoms can make an attractive addition when floated in fruit punch.
2. Basil Flowers
Basil flowers can be a great substitute for basil leaves in any recipe. They should, however, be used sparingly due to their intense flavor. These flowers are delicious when added to salads, soups, or pasta dishes.
3. Chives Flowers
Chive flowers have a mild onion flavor and add some crunchiness to your meal. They are widely used in salads, pasta, omelets and scrambled eggs. You can also add a few chive flowers to white fish dishes or to cheese sauce for that extra bite.
4. Daisy Flowers
Daisy flowers can be pulled apart to form a mass of small quill petals that make a colorful garnish on soups or desserts. They are also useful as decorations for cakes, biscuits, mousses, and pâtés.
5. Dandelion Flowers
Dandelions are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers. It is best to pick them when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Dandelion flowers are good both raw or steamed, and young leaves taste good when steamed or in salads. When serving a rice dish, use dandelion petals as confetti over the rice.
6. Day Lily Flowers
Day lily petals are great in salads, hot and cold soups, or cooked and served as a vegetable or chopped and added to stir-fries. Try sautéing the buds or flowers, which can then be stuffed with almost any filling.
7. Hibiscus Flowers
Infuse hibiscus flowers to make a popular, mildly citrus-flavored tea. You can also add strips of vibrant-colored petals to fruit salads. It is best to use the petals from the flower heads. If you use them whole, beware of the pollen.
8. Jasmine Flowers
Jasmine flowers are intensely fragrant and traditionally used for scenting tea. However, they can be added to shellfish dishes for a twist.
9. Lavender Flowers
Lavender flowers have many uses in sweet or savory dishes. Try making delicious lavender sugar, which can be added to biscuits, sorbets, jams, or jellies. You can add flowers to vegetable stock to create a tasty sauce for duck, chicken, or lamb dishes.
10. Lilac Flowers
Mix fresh and fragrant lilac flowers with a little cream cheese and serve on crackers or stir flowers into yogurt to add a hint of lemon. They can also be used as a garnish for cakes, scones, or sweets.
11. Marigold Flowers
Marigold flowers and leaves have a citrus taste, making them ideal for adding to salads, sandwiches, seafood dishes, or hot desserts.
12. Nasturtium Flowers
The fresh leaves and flowers of nasturtium have a peppery flavor similar to watercress. Nasturtium flowers can add a spicy touch to salads, and the green seeds can be chopped and used with parsley as a garnish or made into capers. Try combining them with cream cheese or butter in canapés or in a cheese and tomato sandwich. Nasturtium flowers can also be used to garnish steaks or casseroles.
13. Pansy Flowers
Pansy flowers have a lettuce-like flavor and make a decorative addition to a green salad, garnish, pâté, or dessert. They can also be crystallized and used to decorate cakes, cookies, or creamy desserts.
14. Rose Flowers
As a general rule, if a rose smells good, it will taste good. Petals have a delicate flavor that will improve cool drinks and fruit dishes, or you can try rose petal jam. Rose hips and petals can both be used in jellies. If the flowers are crystallized, they will make attractive cake decorations. It is best to remove the white heel from the base of the petals before eating.
15. Rosemary Flowers
Rosemary flowers and leaves can be used with poultry or pork. You can add a few flowers to biscuit dough to add flavor.
16. Squash Flowers
All squash flowers have a slightly sweet, nectar taste. They can be stuffed with cheese and other fillings, battered and deep-fried, or sautéed and added to pasta. Thinly sliced blossoms can also be added to soups, omelets, scrambled eggs, or used to add color to salads.
17. Sunflower Flowers
The buds, petals, and seeds of sunflowers are all edible. You can add the petals to a green salad for a color contrast and a mild nutty taste. The green buds can be blanched, then tossed in garlic butter, and they are similar in flavor to a Jerusalem artichoke. The kernels inside the seeds can be eaten raw or toasted as a snack.
18. Tulip Flowers
Tulip petals have a sweet pea-like flavor and are tender with a crisp texture. You can try stuffing whole flowers with a shrimp or chicken salad. Also, add strips of petals to salads or sandwiches for that added touch of color. However, always remove pollen and stigmas from the base of the flower before stuffing. You need to be careful with tulips, as some people have had strong allergic reactions to them.
19. Viola Flowers
Viola flowers have a lettuce-like flavor and make a decorative addition to salads, garnishes, pâté, or desserts. They can also be crystallized and used on cakes, cookies, or creamy desserts.
20. Yucca Petals
The white yucca flower is crunchy with a mildly sweet taste (a hint of artichoke). In the spring, they can be used in salads and as a garnish.
With these 20 flowers, you can add edible and colorful accents to your holiday feasts. If you’re wondering where to buy flowers in the heart of winter, you can order them online from places like Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, Marx Foods, and Melissa’s.
Adding flower petals to your meals can add flavor, color, and nutrition. The use of flowers in cooking has been practiced for thousands of years, and it continues to be an increasingly popular and ubiquitous ingredient in salads, teas, and as a garnish for desserts. With the festive season upon us, adding colorful and fresh flower accents or crystallized flowers can delight your guests. Be sure to try out some of these 20 amazing flowers, and let your creativity run wild. Happy cooking!