Edible flowers have intrigued me since I was a budding (pun intended) floral designer. The concept that something so beautiful to touch, see, and smell could also be a beautiful experience on your taste buds still seems novel and alluring.
Although edible blooms can accent any kind of culinary creation, I want to share with you how to florally adorn salads. The combination of ingredients such as greens, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, fruits, and nuts already makes for a colorful spread, but by the time you are done dressing your plate with edible flowers, it will look like the centerpiece of the table.
The source of edible flowers is the most important part of a floral salad. It is important to choose flowers that have not been sprayed or treated with any kind of herbicide or pesticide. Working directly with an organic market or grower is the best way to determine these blooming bites’ point of origin. In addition, many of these blooms are sold in mixed packages at your local grocer. These are usually found with the fresh herbs.
Here is my list of easily sourced, go-to edible flowers and their flavor profiles:
- Snapdragon - A bitter taste that can create depth within a dish
- Marigold - Slightly bitter, less intense than the Snapdragon
- Carnation - Sweet clove flavor, almost spicy, but more penetrating than most spices
- Chrysanthemum - Strong and unique, tastes as it smells
- Geranium - Strong at first with a sweet finish
- Lilac - A distinct lemony taste with floral, pungent overtones
- Nasturtium - Peppery, but mild
In addition to flavor profiles, there are other factors to consider when choosing edible flowers. Because you don't want a floral fragrance to overpower that of the food, it is important to match the dish with the fragrance. A strong-smelling flower like the Lilac may be best placed in small quantities on a bed of simple greens, merely as an accent. A more mild smelling flower, like the Nasturtium, is an excellent accent to more complex dishes like pasta or chicken. Be sure to choose varieties whose fragrance complements the dish.
Color is also important. Most of the edible varieties listed above are bright and will look beautiful in many different dishes; however, be sure you don't have too much orange Marigold on butternut squash soup, for example. Keep the colors complementary for the best visual impact.
Once you have educated yourself on the different types of edible flowers and established their origins, you can put your culinary skills to the test. Here is a recipe for a delicious edible floral salad that you can use to make your dining table more colorful and keep your guests talking about the unique dining experience for years to come.
- 1 Teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coarse Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
- 5 1/2 Ounces Spinach and Baby Spinach (About 12 Cups)
- Snapdragons, Carnations, Chrysanthemums, Geraniums, and Lilac (about 3/4 Cup of Blossoms per Plated Serving)
- Combine vinegar and mustard in a bowl. Gradually whisk in oil, then season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
- Toss dressing with greens and top with flowers. Serve Immediately.
Owner of Floral Underground