are many beautiful, edible flowers, which can impart delicious subtle
flavours in cooking and look stunning as a colourful garnish. The only
limitation is one's imagination. Flowers have been used for flavour,
colour and garnish in the cuisines of all the great ancient
civilisations. The Romans, Chinese, Indians, Egyptians and Persians
appreciated flowers in their culinary dishes. In modern times, flowers
are hardy ever eaten, apart from cauliflowers, broccoli and artichokes.
Any 'fresh' vegetables now sold in supermarkets need to be able to store
well during long distance haulage. Alas, most flowers are fragile and
unsuitable for this purpose. Even so, you can still grow your own
beautiful flowers to enhance your garden, with the added bonus of
providing edible fresh flowers for the kitchen.
CAUTION: Make sure that you identify the flower species correctly. An error can result in serious illness or even death. One friend saw some blue-flowered plants in a neighbour's garden and thought - Comfrey. The leaves were steamed and served with a nice dressing to her husband. There was only one problem - it was actually Forget Me Knot, which, if poisonous, could have killed him. These two species look completely different and such an error should never have been made. MANY FLOWERS ARE POISONOUS, such as Azalea, Hydrangea, Morning Glory, Lantana, Oleander, Pittosporum, Sweet Pea, Wisteria and many others. Take care in the garden as eating the wrong plant can cause death or severe allergic reactions.
There are many
flower recipes on the internet for those interested. A few suggestions
are presented as follows:
(Cynara scolymus & cultivars) is one of
the few plants with an edible flower head that is sold commercially as a
vegetable. It is related to the thistle and would make an interesting
addition to the flower garden.
Daylily (Hemerocallis species & cultivars). These perennial plants have a tuberous root system and fleshy roots. They form attractive clumps with arching sword shaped leaves. The lily-like flowers are produced in clusters on stems that stand well above the leafy foliage. The flavour tastes like a sweet lettuce. Use only the petals and remove the bitter white base of the flower. It is suitable a salad garnish or in stuffed flower recipes. Do not confuse with lilies, which may contain poisonous alkaloids.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus species and cultivars). These flowers have been described as having a 'cranberry-like flavour with citrus overtones'. They certainly are very colourful, coming in a range of brilliant hues. The petals should be used sparingly in salads. The Native Rosella (Hibiscus heterophyllus), found in the Nimbin area, may be utilised for its flowers, while the young leaves can be steamed as a spinach. The tart calyx may be cooked to produce sauces and jams. It should be harvested after the petals fall and the sepals form around the seed pod. (This seed pod is removed before use.)
Scented Geranium (Pelargonium species & cultivars). Geranium flowers usually come in reds, pinks and pastels. The plant also occurs in a large range of flavours - lime, thyme, mint, rose nutmeg, apple and many others. Usually the flower flavour corresponds to the variety. For example, lemon - scented geraniums produce lemon - scented flowers. Choose the flavour of the Geranium to compliment the food you are preparing. Sprinkle the flowers over salads or deserts. Caution: The Citronelle variety may be inedible.
(Rosa cultivars). Flavours depend very much on the variety, as some just
taste better than others. Harvest the darkest, most fragrant roses, as
they have the most flavour. Only the petals
are used in punches, sorbets, syrups, jellies and many other
recipes. It is probably much easier to buy rosewater for cooking, rather
than making your own. Rose hips (the fruit) may also be collected and
eaten, as they have a very high Vitamin C content.
These are just a few of the many flowers that can be eaten, adding a whole new dimension to your enjoyment of food.
Disclaimer: The author has thoroughly researched this article. Even so, people eating the flowers recommended in this listing do so entirely at their own risk. Neither the author or NGT can be held responsible for any adverse reaction to the flowers.