Early summer brings a myriad of floral delights – not to mention the beginning bounty of produce. We often use flowers for decorative reasons that we sometimes forget how some flowers are actually edible. Whenever I have access to such flowers, I always enjoy sprinkling them in salads and rice dishes since the jewel colors can animate sedate-looking dishes. Edible flowers should be harvested from unsprayed plants. Be sure to check prior to using them in salads and other dishes. Check for insects unless you want an unsuspecting source of protein!
- Borage (Borago officinalis) – A cool refreshing shade of blue, borage surprises with its cucumber flavor.The hairy calyces are unpleasant to eat and should be removed gingerly from the flowers. I like the flowers for cocktails, especially those with gin or Pimms. People sometimes will freeze the flowers in ice cubes for color in cold beverages.
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Bright orange or yellow, calendulas are the ‘spice’ of edible flowers. I prefer to separate and sprinkle the petals into green leafy salads – the orange against the bright greens of lettuces is an exciting jolt for the eyes.
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – We get fixated on harvesting chives for its leaves that we overlook the flowers, which have the same strong onion flavor.
- Marigolds (Tagetes sp.) – Tagetes lemmonii has a pronounced citrus fragrance that is noticeable from rubbing its leaves. However, the culinary species in Mexico and South America are Tagetes lucida and T. minuta. Called pericón, the former is used in medicinal tea by Mexicans.The latter, known as huacatay in Incan language, is used primarily in the South American potato dish ocopa. Some liken the flavor of Tagetes minuta to basil, tarragon, and mint with hints of citrus, and sometimes steep the leaves for medicinal tea.
- Nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.) – Nasturtiums, unrelated to watercress which uses the name for its genus, are the first edible flowers people think of. Their bright orange or yellow flowers have a distinctive peppery taste like the leaves.
- Rocket or arugula (Eruca sativa) – White flowers are as edible as the leaves, having the same spicy taste.
- Viola (Viola tricolor) – More for its color than its taste, viola flowers look delicate nested among the leafy greens. it is not to be confused with Viola odorata more popular in confectionery as sugared violets.