Flowers are, of course, used more for decorating than for flavor. Keep that in mind when spicing up your summer salads and don’t go overboard. Remember that less is more when it comes to flavoring with flowers. There are many edible flowers and several herbs that have edible blooms. Chive and thyme flowers can be eaten, although the chive flower may surprise you with its strong onion taste.
Flower blossoms are often used in spicing foods and in blending herbal teas. The best-flavored ones are chamomile, hibiscus, lavender and violas. Be aware that the leaves or other parts of edible flowers may be toxic and may trigger allergic reactions.
There are a few rules you should follow when using flowers to dress up a salad. One is to use the salad dressing before adding the flowers. This avoids discoloration. Make sure you rinse your flowers first. Don’t cut the flowers until right before serving the salad. Otherwise the flowers may wilt.
For an easy Edible Flower Dressing try the following: Combine ½ cup safflower oil, ¼ cup honey and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Whisk this together for a full minute. Toss the dressing in the salad and serve with a sprinkling of pretty flowers on top. It makes for an impressive and colorful presentation.
You you may be wondering if any of the flowers in your own yard can be eaten. You will be surprised at how many of them are edible. Often you can use parts of the leaves and still use the flower as an attractive garnish. Make sure your guests know which are just for show. For example, leaves of bee balm are used to make teas. They have a citrus flavor combination of orange and lemon and can be included in a salad. Their beautiful red flowers make a showy garnish, but should not be eaten.
Borage leaves and flowers are not readily available unless you happen to have them planted in your yard. The flowers are often used as an accent in punch bowls, however they can be toxic in quantity. The leaves taste like cucumber and can be used in potato or tuna salads, soups, teas and with vegetables.
Geranium leaves can be used on ice cream, puddings and other desserts. These leaves are also used to make jelly. The flavor is like a mixture of nutmeg, coconut and lemon, but will vary based on the kind of geranium you have. Try to refrain from munching on geranium leaves at your local nursery. You don’t know what chemicals have been used on them.
Calendula and other marigold petals were once used as a cheap substitute for the expensive spice known as saffron. Use the petals only. Their aromatic, slightly bitter flavor is good with eggs, cream cheese, rice and vegetables.
Pansies and violas add a vibrant color when placed in a green salad. Make sure to remove the pistil, stamen and heel of the flower first. In other words, use just the petals. Johnny jump-ups are particularly good when served with peaches.
Well, now I can see that your interest is piqued. There are many other edible flowers, but make sure you do your homework and figure out which parts of the flower is alright to eat and which are not. Here are a few more that you can find out about: bachelor buttons, carnations, chrysanthemums, dandelions, daylilies, fuchsias, hollyhocks, honeysuckles, impatiens, lilacs, mint blossoms, snapdragons, squash blossoms and yuccas. Who knows, your edible flower garden may just turn into a salad garden before your very eyes.