Daylilies with Chicken-Artichoke Salad Photo by Sheryl Campbell
Edible flowers are used in recipes and as garnishes at many restaurants these days, but have you tried them in your own garden and kitchen? There are so many edible flowers to choose from, and you may already grow many of them in your ornamental or vegetable beds. There may even be some growing wild on your property as there are in mine.
A couple of key safety rules to remember when growing and using your own edible flowers is that you must not put any chemicals on them. That means no chemical fertilizers, and no insecticides. Also don’t use flowers grown close to the road as car exhaust can be taken up in them while growing.
Edible Flowers and Where to Find Them
Here are all the edible flowers that I use in cooking for my family and friends. I’ve divided them out by where you are likely to find them in your gardens and on your property. Go to Bouquet Banquet’s Listing for details on each type of edible flower, including its Latin name (important for safe identification), information on taste, and suggested uses in the kitchen.
From your vegetable garden, use the flowers of:
- Runner beans
- Sweet potato
From your herb bed, use the flowers of:
- Anise hyssop
- Bee balm
- Mints (each type has a different taste)
- Basils (each type has a different taste)
- Lemon balm
From your ornamental flower beds, use the flowers of:
- Tuberous begonias
From the wild, use the flowers of:
- Red clover
- Wild purslane
- Wood sorrel
- Wild strawberry
- Wild violets
From your trees, shrubs, and vines, use the flowers of:
- Wild rose
- Japanese honeysuckle
- Crab apple
- Red bud
Ways to Cook With Edible Flowers
Edible flowers are flavorful, they are textured, and they are colorful. There are flowers that taste of cloves, of cinnamon, of pepper, and anise. Bite into other flowers for the taste of beans, asparagus, and cucumbers, but not from the plants that give you those actual vegetables. You can find a large number of Edible Flower Recipes here to start your own kitchen experiments.
Edible flowers add taste, color, and texture to casseroles, sandwiches, frittatas, and salads. Mixed with vinegar, oil or butter they make lovely glazes or toppings for meats. Daylily, gladiola, and tulip flowers can be used as individual serving dishes while adding flavor and crunch to whatever you put in them. Edible flowers are used to create better appetizers, meat dishes, side dishes, and desserts. They liven up your oil and vinegar infusions, and make lovely flavored sugars and salts.
To get you started, here are some new recipes to try right now. Edible flower availability changes with the seasons. Seek to grow a wide variety of edible flowers and you’ll be cooking with them spring through early winter.
Chicken with Nasturtium Balsamic Glaze Photo by Sheryl Campbell
Nasturtium Balsamic Chicken
I love to make my own flavored balsamic vinegar using edible flowers or the juice from fruits grown on my farm. Go beyond garnish to make this delectable chicken dish using both nasturtium petals and nasturtium vinegar in the marinade.
- 8 chicken thighs, skin on
- 2 T. butter
- ½ cup Rosemary Nasturtium White Balsamic Vinegar (see below)
- 3 T. dark honey
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup nasturtium petals, separated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup whole nasturtium flowers
Rosemary Nasturtium White Balsamic Vinegar
Fill a jar with nasturtium flowers, lightly, and then fill with white balsamic vinegar. Seal the jar tightly and shake vigorously every couple of days for 2-4 weeks. Store in a cool cupboard away from light. When the vinegar has reached the strength you desire, strain out flower petals and pour into a vinegar cruet. Stored away from light this will last for months.
Directions for Chicken
1. Whisk together vinegar, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir in nasturtium petals.
2. Rinse chicken thighs and pat dry.
3. Place chicken in a baking dish and pour marinade over top. Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Remove chicken from dish.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.
6. Sear chicken for 2 minutes per side.
7. Brush marinade over chicken and bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
8. Garnish with whole nasturtium flowers and serve.
Fresh Beans with Flower Confetti Photo by Sheryl Campbell
Mixed Garden Beans with Flower Confetti
Green (or yellow or purple) beans by themselves, or even with butter, become old over the summer. Here’s a way to liven them up with a myriad of flavors from edible flowers.
- 3 cups fresh green beans
- 2 cups fresh yellow beans
- 1 T. butter
- 1/4 cup each calendula petals, nasturtium petals, runner bean flowers, and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup herb flowers (your choice of mixture)
1. Fill a large pot with water and heat to boiling.
2. Cook the beans for 4 minutes until color brightens.
3. Stir in butter. Cool slightly.
4. Mix in flower confetti with the beans and serve immediately.
Violet Coconut Layer Cake Photo by Sheryl Campbell
Violet Coconut Cake
Coconut cake is one of my favorite desserts. Over the years I’ve combined recipe ideas from my grandmother, one of my cousins, and my best friend. Wanting to take this amazing dessert even higher, I recently added violets to it – but not just as a garnish! Read on.
Ingredients and Directions for the Cake
- Cream together ½ canola oil, ½ cup unsalted butter, 2 cups sugar, and ½ cup violet petals
- Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until fluffy
- Gently beat in 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Sift together 2 ½ cups cake flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. salt
- Mix ½ cup coconut milk with ½ cup buttermilk
- Alternately add dry ingredients and milks to the butter mixture
- Stir in 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- Beat 3 egg whites until stiff and gently fold in to the batter
- Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until an inserted pick comes out clean
- Cool 15 minutes in pans and then on rack until completely cool
Ingredients and Directions for the Frosting
- Cream together 16 oz. of cream cheese and 2 sticks unsalted butter, both softened
- Gently beat in 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 pound sifted powdered sugar
- Stir in ¾ cups sweetened flaked coconut
Building the Cake
- Place one cake layer on a pretty cake plate
- Top with some of the frosting
- Add the second cake layer
- Frost the top of the cake
- Now frost the sides of the cake, creating a textured pattern
- Top with candied violets (see below), putting a few of the violets around the sides of the cake as well
How to Make the Candied Violets
- Beat one egg white until very frothy
- Put 3 T. confectioners sugar in a sifter
- Line a baking sheet with paper towels
- Harvest 25 violets leaving some of the stem intact
- Dip each violet into the egg white and shake off excess
- Place each violet right side up on lined baking sheet
- Sift powdered sugar over violets, turn them face down with stems upright
- Sift more powdered sugar over them
- Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours until the sugar glaze is dry
- Remove from the refrigerator and let site out at warm room temperature for another 24 hours
- Snip off the stems and use immediately or store in an airtight container for 1-2 months
Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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