Well, when you think about it, we use plenty of herbs in foods, and herbs are plants, right? (So are fruits and vegetables, and many of them start out as flowers! Artichokes, cauliflower, and broccoli ARE all flowers, but we consider them "vegetables"! )
So yes- flowers are edible, (at least some are- but not all!) And, in some cases, the flowers themselves are cooked in syrups or liquids to extract the flavor, and then strained. (Example: elderflowers, hibiscus, orange blossoms, etc.)
Have you ever heard of "Dandelion Wine"? Well, you guessed it- it's made with those horribly irritating "weeds" that go nuts on people's lawns in the spring!!! They can also be sauteed with garlic and butter to accompany many food items! You've probably heard, (or even used), the very expensive spice called "Saffron", but did you know it is extracted from the flower "Crocus sativus"?
In recent years, "Squash blossoms" have become all the rage in the foodie world, and the most popular way of enjoying them is by stuffing them with cheeses, and/or battering and deep frying them.
Recently, I made a cake with sugared rose petals, and gave some to a friend of mine to try. She said she ate one of the petals, but her husband told her, "You can't eat those, because they're poisonous!!" Roses are not poisonous! In fact, many Middle Eastern countries and Europeans have used roses in desserts since ancient times. The Polish are known for making "rose petal jam", which is used in many pastries, along with "Rose Water".
In many Asian countries, it is popular to use Orchids, (as all varieties are edible), and they are used for their flavor, beauty, and medicinal purposes. (Specifically the Vanilla Orchid - which produces vanilla (pods) beans, and is the highest industrial produced orchid in the world.) Day lilies have long been used as well in these areas for garnish, as well as elements of stir fries, salads, and other dishes.
However, that being said, it's extremely important to note that regardless of whether or not a flower is indeed edible, you still need to take precaution as to where the flower comes from! In other words, if using florals in food items or for decoration, it's important to:
***Make sure the flower you are about to eat is indeed a known edible, and not poisonous!! **Click on the guide listed at the bottom of this blog for a list of edible flowers.
**Use organic- NEVER SPRAYED flowers, (you wouldn't want to consume pesticides or herbicides!), or flowers right next to the roadside, etc. (This especially goes for decorating cakes/ wedding cakes with fresh flowers as well!)
***It's best to grow, and use flowers from your own garden! (This way, you know exactly where your flowers come from!)
***Depending on the time of year, many times you can find edible flowers in the produce section of your local market or grocer. (Pansies are a popular flower for packaging to use in salads.)
***It should also go without saying, to check the flowers for insects! (As some are very small!)
****Always remove any stamens, stems, etc. from the flower before consuming or using as decoration. For your heartier flowers, you may want to gently rinse them in cold water prior to using- to rinse off any pollen, dirt, etc.
***Most importantly: If you have pollen or honey allergies, you should probably stay away from consuming any edible flowers!!! (As it could cause a serious reaction.)
***And one more thing I would like to make clear, many flowers contain oils - which are used for homeopathic purposes. But these are NOT FOOD GRADE OILS!!! (For example: lavender oil should not be used in food items, as it can cause illness! Only fresh or dried flower buds should be used for recipes!)
Is there nutritional value in flowers? The answer to that is yes, but it obviously depends on the flower, and the fact that eating any fresh flowers should be kept to a minimal amount! Flowers are also composed of 95% water, and are essentially calorie free!
There are many varieties of flowers that can cause diuretic effects- if consuming too many at one time, so it's highly recommended that edible flowers be used minimally in dishes. In other words, you wouldn't want to make an entire salad solely consisting of fresh day lilies, (for example.) It's truly best to consume fresh flowers mixed with other food items, or as a garnish. (This especially applies to the more fragrant flowers- such as roses, marigolds, etc.)
Some flowers are highly regarded throughout history as having incredible healing and medicinal value- such as "St. John's Wort", dandelions, calendulas, nasturtium (antibacterial properties), echinacea, and so many more! Lavender has been touted since ancient times as having incredible calming effects, and most all of the edible flowers contain small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and possible other health benefits.
Some examples are:
Day Lilies are known to contain an array of antioxidants, protein, beta- carotene, and contain Vitamin C.
Pansies contain Vitamins A & C.
Tulips contain antioxidants, and trace amounts of vitamins.
Roses & rose hips are very high in Vitamin C.
Hibiscus contain Vitamin C, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Fresh flowers really do add beauty, texture, and flavor to many salads, desserts, and main dishes. And if you are still leary about trying fresh flowers, look for teas with flowers, take them as a medicinal supplement, (such as echinacea), or start small by purchasing some dried lavender, and adding small amounts to beverages, soups, or meats. For some recipe ideas, click on the recipe page above!
Click here for a guide of edible flowers: ****This may not be a complete list, but will give you an idea!