Manataka American Indian Council
By Cyndi Lauderdale
traditionally been used in many types of cooking: European, Asian,
East Indian, Victorian English, and Middle Eastern. American Indians
and early American settlers also used flowers as food. Today, there
is a renewed interest in edible flowers for their taste, color, and
fragrance. Edible flowers can be used fresh as a garnish or as an
integral part of a dish, such as a salad. Squash flowers can be
fried in light batter or cornmeal. Some flowers can be stuffed or
used in stir-fry dishes. Edible flowers can be candied; frozen in
ice cubes and added to beverages; made into jellies and jams; used
to make teas or wines; minced and added to cheese spreads, herbal
butters, pancakes, crepes, and waffles. Many flowers can be used to
make vinegar for cooking, marinades, or dressings for salad. Herbal
flowers normally have the same flavor as their leaves, with the
exceptions of chamomile and lavender blossoms, where the flavor is
usually more subtle.
Not all flowers are edible; some may taste bad and some are poisonous. Eat flowers only if you are certain they are edible. Consult a good reference book. An extensive list of poisonous plants can be found at the following Web site:
A flower is
not necessarily edible because it is served with food. A partial
list of edible flowers can be found in Table 1. The flowers of most
culinary herbs are safe to use.
Pesticides for use on fruits and vegetables have undergone extensive testing to determine the waiting period between treatment and harvest and potential residuals on food. Pesticides used on flowers and ornamentals have not been evaluated to determine their safety on food crops. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, garden centers, or flowers found on the side of the road. Consume only flowers that you or someone else have grown specifically for that purpose. If you have hay fever, asthma or allergies, it best not to eat flowers since many allergies are due to sensitivity to pollen of specific plants. It's best to introduce flowers into your diet one at a time and in small quantities.
Growing Edible Flowers
Growing edible flowers is essentially the same as growing flowers for ornamental purposes. Most flowers require a well-drained soil with a pH around 5.5 to 6. Soil test. Use a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture, maintain uniform soil temperatures, and reduce the amount of soil splashed onto the plant during a heavy rain. Irrigate to keep plants actively growing and flowering; most plants will need 1 inch of water per week. If possible, avoid overhead irrigation because moisture on the leaf surface for extended periods of time can increase the chances of disease development. Irrigating with a soaker hose works well.
Chemicals for pest control should be avoided, if possible. Hand-pick harmful insects. Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and praying mantids, can be used to decrease insect populations. Growing different flowers together provides diversity to support a good beneficial insect population and keeps pest problems low. Many gardeners locate their edible flower garden away from other plants to avoid chemical spray drift. Many edible flowers can be successfully grown in containers.
Flavor can vary with growing conditions and cultivars. Conduct a taste test before harvesting large amounts of a particular flower. Flowers should be picked in the cool of the day, after the dew has evaporated. For maximum flavor choose flowers at their peak. Avoid flowers that are not fully open or that are past their prime.
To maintain maximum freshness, keep flowers cool after harvest. Long-stem flowers should be placed in a container of water. Short-stemmed flowers, such as borage and orange blossoms, should be harvested within 3 to 4 hours of use, placed in a plastic bag, and stored in a refrigerator. Damp paper towels placed in the plastic bag will help maintain high humidity.
Because pollen can distract from the flavor, it's best to remove the pistils and stamens. Pollen may cause an allergic reaction for some people. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. For flowers such as calendula, chrysanthemum, lavender, rose, tulip, and yucca, only the flower petals are edible. The white base of the petal of many flowers may have a bitter taste and should be removed from flowers such as chrysanthemums, dianthus, marigolds, and roses.
|FLOWER NAME||SCIENTIFIC NAME||FLAVOR||COLOR|
|Apple||Agastache foeniculum||Floral||White to pink|
|Arugula||Eruca vesicaria sativa||Spicy||White|
|Basil||Ocimum basilicum||Herbal||White, purple|
|Bachelor's Button||Centaurea cyanus||Vegetal||White, pink|
|Bee Balm||Monarda didyma||Minty, sweet, hot||Wide range|
|Calendula||Calendula officinalis||Slightly bitter||Yellow-orange|
|Chamomile||Chamaemelum noblis||Sweet apple||White|
|Daylily||Hemerocallis spp.||Sweet, honey||Wide range|
|Dianthus||Dianthus spp.||Vegetal, sweet||Wide range|
|Dill||Anethum graveolens||Sweet clove||Yellow-green|
|English Daisy||Bellis perennis||Sweet||Pink|
|Fennel||Foeniculum vulgare||Mildly bitter||Yellow-green|
|Hibiscus||Hibiscus rosa-sinensis||Mildly anise||Rose, red|
|Hollyhock||Althea rosea||Mildly citrus||White, pink|
|Honeysuckle||Lonicera japonica||Vegetal||White Yellow|
|Johnny-jump-up||Viola tricolor||Sweet||Purple, yellow|
|Lilac||Syringa vulgaris||Sweet, perfumed||Lavender|
|Nasturtium||Tropaeolum majus||Spicy, peppery||Wide range|
|Pansy||Viola x wittrockiana||Vegetal||Wide range|
|Passion flower||Passiflora spp.||Vegetal||Purple|
|Pineapple Sage||Salvia elegans||Sweet, fruity||Red|
|Red Clover||Trifolium pratense||Sweet||Red|
|Rose||Rosa spp.||Perfumed||Wide range|
|Scarlet Runner||Phaseolus vulgaris||Vegetal||Purple|
|Scented Geraniums||Pelargonium spp.||Varies||Wide range|
|Signet Marigold||Tagetes signata||Spicy, Herbal||Yellow|
|Snapdragon||Anthirrhinum majus||Bitter||Wide range|
|Sweet Woodruff||Galium odoratum||Sweet, nutty||White|
|Tulip||Tulipa spp.||Vegetal||Wide range|
|Violet||Viola odorata||Sweet, perfumed||Violet|
Violet Jelly Recipe:
4 cups violets flowers
3 cups boiling water in quart jar
steep 24 hrs. Strain flowers.
2 cups of juice bring to boil.
Stir in 1 pkg Sur-jell 1/4 cup lemon juice boil again stir in 4 cups sugar boil hard 1 minute.
Skim foam pour in sterile jars. Seal completely with paraffin. Makes 4 cups jelly
~Submitted by Connie
Additional flowers that have been reported to be edible include: Black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia; Cattails, Typha spp.; Clary sage, Salvia sclarea; Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca; Coriander, Coriander sarivum; Fuchsia, Fushia x hybrida; Gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides; Garlic, Allium sativum; Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum; Gladiolus, Gladiolus hortulanus; Hyssop, Hyssopus officalis; Leek, Allium porrum; Lemon, Citrus limon; Marjoram, Origanum vulgare; Marsh mallow, Althaea officinalis; Mustard, Brassica spp.; Nodding onion, Allium cernuum; Peony, Paeonia lactiflora; Orange, Citrus sinensis; Oregano, Origanum vulgar; Pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana; Plum, Prunus spp.; Radish, Raphanus sativus; Redbud, Cercis canadensis; Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus; Safflower, Carthamus tinctorius; Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginia; Strawberry, Fragaria ananassa; Water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes; Water lily, Nymphaea odorata; Winter savory, Satureja montana; Yucca, Yucca spp.
Belsinger, Susan. 1991.
Flowers in the Kitchen; Interweave Press; Loveland,
Barash, Cathy Wilkinson. 1997.
Edible Flowers: Desserts and
Publishing; Golden, Colorado.
Barash, Cathy Wilkinson. 1993.
Edible Flowers From Garden to
Publishing; Golden, Colorado.
Herst, Sharon Tyler.
The Food Lover's Companion, 2nd
Educational Service, Inc.
Kowalchik, Claire and William H.
Hylton, editors. 1987. Rodale's
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Rodale Press, Inc.; Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Peterson, Lee Allen. 1977.
Edible Wild Plants. Houghton Mifflin Company; New
Shaudys, Phyllis V. 1990. Herbal Treasures. Garden Way Publishing; Pownal, Vermont.
Cyndi Lauderdale, Extension Agent, Wilson County Center. Erv Evans, Extension Associate Department of Horticultural Science College of Agriculture & Life Sciences North Carolina State University
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