What is crunchy and tastes like a bean yet is exotically big and colorful? Is there something of many hues with a bite like black pepper? Can something pink smell and taste like cloves? What is purple but reminds your taste buds of licorice? How can something soft and blue taste like cucumbers? These are all edible flowers – and they will change your cooking.
Its spring here in the mid-Atlantic and flowers are starting to show up in our meals. Let’s take a look at the edible flowers of spring and some of the wonderful things you can cook up with them.
Apple and Crabapple Blossoms — Malus spp.
The flavor is slightly floral. We use them in salads, ice cream, and to garnish sweet dishes.
Dandelion — Taraxacum officinale
These can vary from bitter to earthy in taste, they are better picked in the bud stage or very early bloom. We like the very young buds fried in butter, or you can make fritters from the petals when they first open.
Lilac — Syringa vulgaris
The petals have a slight floral taste and are pretty added to soft cheeses and to garnish sweet dishes.
Redbud — Cercis canadensis
The small buds or flowers have a flavor that is a cross between green beans and a tart apple. You can pickle them in vinegar or use the flowers in fritters. We like them tossed in salads or with cooked vegetables.
Garden Pea flowers — Pisum sativum
The taste of pea flowers ranges, by variety, from grassy to beany to floral. We like them on appetizers and in salads. CAUTION: Sweet pea flowers (the decorative plant) are extremely poisonous. Only eat the flowers of garden peas such as English peas, Sugar Snap peas, and snow peas.
Strawberry flowers — Fragaria spp.
These tiny flowers have a mild flavor that is good tossed in salads and looks pretty as a garnish. You can use the flowers of wild or cultivated strawberries.
Tulips — Tulipia
The petals have a sweet, pea-like flavor with a tender-crisp texture much like lettuce. They are beautiful as a salad base, in tea sandwiches, dipped in savory dips, or used as a cup for stuffing with chicken or shrimp salad. Remove the pollen and stamens when using whole. CAUTION: a very few people are allergic - start with a small taste and look for numb hands or an upset stomach.
Violets — Viola odorata
A strong, sweet floral taste comes from these petals which are wonderful candied or plain on top of desserts, fruit salads, or in tea sandwiches. You can also freeze them in ice cubes to float in drinks.
What do all these wonderful flowers look like on your plate?
The vibrant colors of spring flowers liven up your plated vegetables and salads to bring a smile to your lips, and unexpected tastes to your palate. The flowers and buds are a delight to pick, and a pleasure to serve to your family and guests. Mix petals confetti with spring peas and roasted radishes. Candy violets to top a coconut cake. Toss some redbud flowers into a salad for a citrusy bite. Try red and yellow tulips nestled into each other to make stunning taco salads as in the recipe below,
Tulip Taco Salads
- 2 large tulips per individual salad plate
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Grape tomatoes, halved
- Taco meat mix (browned ground beef, taco seasoning, kidney beans)
- Tortilla chips
- Lettuce leaves
Taco Dressing – blend the following:
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- Scant 1/2 cup ketchup
- Scant 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Prepare a bed of lettuce on each plate. Remove the pollen and stamens from the tulips. Cup two flowers together, offsetting the petals so all the colors show. Set the flowers on the beds of lettuce. Fill with taco meat mix. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and halved grape tomatoes. Surround with tortilla chips. Drizzle with dressing. A fiesta on a plate!
For more edible flower ideas and recipes, go to Bouquet Banquet.