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Using Edible Flowers to Add Colour to Your Menu

Photo: nasturtiums close up

Edible flowers often have delicate flavours and are generally included in dishes for their beauty and visual impact, not their taste. There are exceptions to this rule, and flowers like nasturtium are actually quite delicious and peppery.

Edible Flowers & Allergies

If you have pollen allergies (to plants like ragweed and golden rod), you should avoid the pistils, stamens, and pollen of the flowers, and in certain cases, as with compound flowers like sunflowers or thistles, avoid them altogether.

Edible flowers can be used in a wide variety of ways, not just the usual garnishes or in salads. The can be cooked as well as used raw, but they do not last long once they are cut. If you are using the petals only, wait until the last possible moment before removing them from the pistil - wash and dry before detaching.

Try a floral butter - find instructions on the Make Your Own Herbal Preserves page. It is a good way to acquaint yourself with the subtle flavours of edible flowers, as are: infused oils, vinegars, vodka, wine, and sugars. Adding a few florets to your teas is an excellent way to liven up an old favourite. You will find that some flower types are already old standbys, such as bergamot in Earl Grey.

Warnings:

If you are new to the idea of putting flowers in your meals, here are a few tips you should know:

  • Do not eat any flower you cannot positively identify.  Most varieties of flowers are inedible or even poisonous.
  • Add one floral variety to your diet at a time. This will let you identify any allergies you may have.
  • Do not use flowers that have been treated with pesticides - purchase them from organic growers, or better still, grow them yourself. 
  • Do not use flowers from your local florists or those grown in garden centres unless they are specifically identified as organically grown .
  • Never use flowers picked at the side of the road.  These collect toxins from car exhaust and may have had pesticides sprayed on them.
  • Do not eat flowers if you have allergies to pollen, and especially avoid "compound flowers" like dandelions and calendula.
  • As a general rule, only eat the petals of edible flowers.  If the plant is suitable for eating the seed or leaves, it will clearly state this fact.

How to harvest:

Photo: Roses
  • Pick flowers at the peak of their bloom, in the morning while it is still cool.
  • As with herbs of any type, check for insects before bringing them inside. If there are insects but not of a kind that spins webs on the blossoms, shake them off outside. Leave flowers that have spiders, mites etc.
  • Remove the pollen, pistil, and stamen from the flower as they can agitate allergies as well as adding an unpleasant bitterness. Also, remove the white area from flowers with a thin white band at the base of the petal (e.g. roses).
  • Some flowers are not very colour-fast; test a blossom or two before washing vigourously.
  • Wash the flowers in water to remove dirt.
  • For most varieties, use only the petals; you can try to maintain the shape of the bloom, or pull the petals off individually.
  • Store flowers in layers of damp towels or paper towels in the refrigerator. Some varieties store better prior to being washed.
  • Some varieties can be dried like herbs (see Harvesting) and used in their dried state.

Tips:

  • A given variety of flowers may taste different when grown in different regions or even different flower beds thanks to soil conditions and/or fertilizers.
  • Use edible flowers in vinegars to add a decorative touch.

Flowers:

This list is generated from the database. It will update constantly as new herbs and flowers are added.

Bergamot Orange, Calendula (Pot Marigold), Chives, Dog Rose, Elder, German Chamomile

Information on this website is for information purposes only.
Please consult a qualified health practitioner before taking any course of action.
Always check for counter-results before deciding on a course of action.

+Other NHC news:
Blog post: Understanding Our Editorial Choices, by Gisela McKay
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Workplace Wellness Programs: bring healthy ideas to your workplace...
Bio Intolerance Elimination: An exciting new approach to allergy relief
Read the #naturalhealth incanada Daily! [news] Click here for news, recipes, opinions from Canadian naturalhealth practitioners.


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