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How to use edible flowers

Besides adding color and interest, there are plenty of healthy reasons to incorporate edible flowers into your recipes.

Salad with edible flowers

Just like their mother plants, edible flowers contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and essential amino acids, and offer a variety of flavors and textures.

What do they taste like?

For the most part, edible flowers taste like they smell, so dig your nose in there and inhale deeply. Herb flowers often taste similar to the herb itself — basil flowers taste like basil, chive blossoms taste like chive. Depending on the plant, the flower’s flavor may be more delicate than rest of the plant or more pronounced.

Beyond squash blossoms

The most widely known edible flower is the squash blossom, often stuffed and deep-fried, but edible flowers can be harvested from herbs such as oregano and basil, vegetables such as peas and pumpkins, and plants usually grown for their flowers such as roses and violets.

To incorporate edible flowers into your recipes, follow these easy steps:

Step 1: Make sure it’s edible

Before noshing on any flower, make sure it’s edible. Most every common herb flower can be consumed, but there are many plants and vegetables whose flowers may be poisonous. When in doubt, buy edible flowers only from your grocer or a reputable online source. You can also call your local agricultural cooperative extension office for a list of edible flowers.

Step 2: Make sure it’s pesticide-free

So you figured you would pick a few pansies from your garden and throw them into your salad before guests arrived for dinner — or that you would grab a few rose petals from the bouquet your boyfriend brought? Unless you can guarantee these flowers do not contain pesticides, don’t do it. Only use edible flowers that have been specifically grown for eating.

Step 3: Remove the naughty bits

Remove the pistils and stamens from flowers before eating; they’re often bitter and also contain pollen, which may cause irritation to the nose, mouth, throat or stomach in some people.

Step 4: Mind the time

If you are harvesting flowers you have grown, pick during the coolest part of the day when they are fully open, which will cause less stress for the plant and provide you with a beautiful product.

Step 5: Rinse

Whether you’ve picked the flowers yourself or purchased them, give them a gentle rinse under cool water, being careful not to bruise the delicate pedals.

Step 6: Enjoy

Because most are so delicate, most edible flowers should only be added as a garnish at the last minute to salads, soups or other recipes. Hardier blossoms, such as squash and pumpkin, can be stuffed, sautéed or deep-fried, and then served immediately. Flowers and petals can also be sugared and used as decorations for confections and desserts. To sugar, brush egg white over each petal and dust with super-fine sugar. Allow petals to dry completely before using.

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