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Cooking with Flowers – Which Ones are Edible and Which Ones Will Kill You

October 28, 2009 Le Cordon Bleu Pittsburgh 0 Comments

As a garnish, as a snack, or as a flavorful ingredient to any recipe, flowers make a welcome addition to any plate. Remember, not all of your ingredients need to come from the grocer. Branch out and cook with flowers for a fragrant and delicious food.

Popular Edible Flowers

There are dozens of edible flowers, many of which add great flavor to a meal. But be warned; just because a flower is edible does not mean it’s worth eating. Always use smell as your guide. If a flower smells pungent, it’s likely the taste will be too. Here are several flowers that have proven popular over the years:

  • Chamomile
  • Dandelion
  • Thyme
  • Jasmine
  • Rosemary
  • Violet

Where to Find Edible Flowers

Don’t buy flowers from a florist, unless the flowers were grown completely chemical free. In most cases, the flowers you find in a store have been treated with pesticides, preservatives, and other chemicals. Even after washing treated flowers, they may be unsafe. It’s best to grow the flowers on your own, or hunt for natural growth away from roadways and maintained properties (you never know where pesticides have been sprayed).

Edible Flower Recipes

  • Tea –Boil ½ cup of bee balm petals and stems in six cups water for a sweet hot or cold tea. Other floral teas include chamomile, jasmine, and hibiscus.
  • Soups – Garnish both warm and cold soups with flowers such as pansy, calendula, borage, and fennel.
  • Cake decoration – Many flower petals and buds can be used to decorate cakes. Either in their natural state or crystallized in sugar, flowers can take all different range of tastes. For example, Johnny jump-ups have a minty flavor and violets, carnations, and day lilies are sweet.
  • Bread – Following a typical bread recipe, it is easy to add flowers such as lavender to the mix. The flavor will be subtle, but satisfying.
  • Salads and cheese – There is no limit to what you can do with flowers as a garnish. In either salads or with cheeses, the following flowers make a tasty companion: nasturtiums, yucca petals, radish leaves, chrysanthemums, dame’s rocket, and dandelions.

A Warning on Eating Some Flowers

It’s important to research every flower you eat before you eat it. Some flowers are very poisonous and will cause illness or death. In other cases, only parts of the flower are safe to eat. Find out whether the entire flower or just the petals should be consumed.

Here are several flowers to stay away from, but this is not a complete list of poisonous flowers. Again, always do your research.

  • Calla lily
  • Daffodil
  • Oleander
  • Rhododendron
  • Wisteria
  • Iris
  • Sweat pea

This article is presented by The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute offers Le Cordon Bleu culinary education classes and culinary training programs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Pittsburgh for more information.

The jobs mentioned are examples of certain potential jobs, not a representation that these outcomes are more probable than others. The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute does not guarantee employment or salary.


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