Ask Keri: I’ve been seeing flowers on a lot of foods. How do I know which are edible, and are there any nutritional benefits?
Keri Says: I love edible flowers! They are a great tool for dressing up your cooking without adding unhealthy ingredients. And they make you look like a pro—throw a few pansies on a plate of gluten-free brownies and suddenly everyone thinks you’re a farm-to-table pastry chef.
Here’s what you need to know before adding a bouquet to your pantry.
Tips for Using Edible Flowers in the Kitchen
First, edible flowers are generally used as garnish, so the nutritional benefits are pretty negligible. Many do contain vitamins, minerals, and even a little fiber, but you’re likely not going to be eating enough for that to matter. They don’t add anything bad to the mix, though. Think of it as sprinkling on a little extra vegetable.
- Consult this list of edible flowers before eating a new one. There are many that are inedible or that could make you sick, and you want to avoid those!
- Grow your own or buy your flowers from a flower shop you trust. You want to avoid flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or ones growing on the side of the road that have been soaking up exhaust.
- Wash them gently and lay them on a cloth to dry before using.
- Avoid edible flowers if you have allergies. This isn’t a definite, but you should at least be much more cautious.
The Best Edible Flowers
While there are dozens and dozens to choose from, these are some of my favorites, which are common and easy to use in the kitchen.
- Pansies. These delicate, colorful beauties are gorgeous on top of cakes, and you can barely taste the petals.
- Calendula/marigold. Make a simple salad of bibb lettuce, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Dress simply with a little olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper and then sprinkle with calendula flowers. The bright yellow-orange petals are beautiful and fragrant.
- Nasturtium. These are one of the most popular in the garden, and they’ve got a sweet-spicy thing going on. Place them in ice cube trays or molds and fill halfway with water. Freeze to set the flower and then fill the tray to the top with water and refreeze. You’ll end up with pretty cubes you can use in water, iced tea, or those summery low-sugar cocktails.
- Dandelions. Yup, these ubiquitous weeds are good for more than just dandelion crowns. Their greens are notoriously bitter (but still delicious), but you can eat the flower tops, too. Use them as a garnish every which way.
- Lilac. I mean, these smell so good it doesn’t even matter what they taste like. And they look oh-so-pretty as a salad or protein garnish.