Many flowers are edible and many edible flowers come from herbs.  As I purposely investigate ways in which to incorporate fresh and dried herbs into my diet more often, I’ve decided to become more adventuresome in eating the flowers of herbs. I invite you to join me.

Like most herbs, it is best not to rinse flowers after harvesting.  Flowers lose quality when they are wet, and they are often hard to dry.  It you decide not to wash them, you can free the flowers of any lurking insects with this easy remedy.  Place the blossoms into a plastic bag, blow into it to inflate and close with a twist tie.   Place the bag in the refrigerator for about a half an hour and if there are any bugs, they should cling to the side of the bag or drop to the bottom when you remove the bag.  I live in an area close to the freeway, therefore due to car emissions,  I rinse my herbs and I want to rinse edible flowers as well.  If you feel more comfortable giving the flowers a rinse like I do, rinse and gently pat dry at the last minute before adding them to a salad or a beverage. 

Salads
In addition to tasting good, edible flowers are visually a colorful addition to salads.  But be sure the taste of the flower will enhance or compliment your recipe, not fight it.  You can’t tell what a flower tastes like by looks or smell alone, therefore you should taste it before adding it to the salad.  Nasturtium blossoms have a peppery bite, borage flowers taste of cucumber, and bee balm florets are minty. Basil flowers, calendula petals and chive florets, are good ones to taste and add to your favorite salad.

Beverages
As with salads, the addition of edible flowers adds flavor and color to your favorite beverage.  When using a mint sprig to decorate and flavor a glass of ice tea, choose one adorned with flowers.  Dianthus, also known as “Pinks,” can be frozen in ice cubes.  Pinks come in many gradations of color from pale pink to dark red and they have a minty, spicy flavor.   Check out this website to learn how to freeze Pinks, Borage, and other blossoms individually in ice cubes to add an artistic flare to cocktails or punch. 

Baked Goods
Lavender buds are a favorite addition to nearly any kind of pastry. There are countless recipes available in your home cookbooks and online.  But for culinary purposes, certain lavender varieties are recommended over others.  “ English Lavender” (Lavendula angustifolia officianalis) is a good one.  However, for taste, Provence”(Lavendula x intermedia) is the most appealing and popular as it has a lower camphor and resin content than the” English Lavender” variety. 

A Few More Uses for Edible Flowers

  • ·         Dried calendula petals can be used for coloring cooked rice.  Often called “the poor man’s saffron”, it is not as pungent as the real thing.  If you have the curiosity and patience, you can grow your own saffron.  Harvest the stigmas of Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) in the fall when the flowers are fully open.   After pulling them out with tweezers, dry the stigmas between sheets of paper in an airy location.  Then use in any recipe calling for saffron.
  • ·         Nasturtium seed pods can be pickled and used in recipes as a substitute for capers.
  • ·         Violets (viola odorata) and borage flowers can be crystallized to decorate desserts.
  • ·         Add a few sprigs of flowering thyme into your next stir fry.

 Try this recipe for a late spring, early summer salad when your garden is in full production mode.  Feel free to substitute according to what you have available.  This recipe is a fun way to use many herbs and flowers for tasteful, colorful and healthy eating.

 Romaine, Arugula, and Flower Salad
Serves 4

For the Dressing
4 tbsp sunflower or grapeseed oil, plus 1 tbsp to finish
4 lovage leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp. superfine sugar
1 tbsp. tarragon or white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad
4 ½ oz lightly packed romaine, choosing the more tender leaves rinsed and dried and torn into bite-sized pieces.
3  oz arugula, loosely torn
3  oz pea shots, loosely torn
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp. chopped chervil
1 tbsp. small mint leaves
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
½ cup edible flowers, such as nasturtium or chive flowers, English violet or pansy flower petals

1.  Select a wide shallow salad bowl and prepare the dressing.  Pour in the oil and season with salt and pepper.  Whisk in the vinegar and sugar, and stir in the lovage.
2.  Add the romaine leaves to the bowl.  Scatter half the arugula and half the pea shoots over romaine.  Then add half the parsley, chervil, and mint.  Do not toss
3.  Scatter over the remaining leaves, still without tossing.
4.  Just before serving, scatter in the chives and flowers.  Sprinkle over the reserved 1 tbsp. of oil and season lightly.
5. Toss gently to coat the leaves, herbs, and flowers.  Serve Immediately.