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More than Just a Pretty Face: The Many Uses of Edible Flowers

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The practice of eating flowers can be traced back to European, Asian, East Indian, Victorian English and Middle Eastern cuisines. It has fallen out of fashion over the years, but cooking with edible flowers has emerged again recently as a colorful, flavorful and fragrant way to complement dishes.

The uses for edible flowers are many. Aside from the popular use as a garnish, they can also be fried, candied, added to ice cubes, made into jam, brewed with teas, mixed into salads, chopped or pureed into herbal butters, cheese spreads, cake batter, marinades, and dressings.

Popular edible flowers include squash blossoms, roses, pansies, honeysuckle, dandelions, chamomile, and saffron--and more than just for their taste and color -- they boast health benefits as well! Here is a list of recipes that incorporate edible flowers:

Edible Flowers Salad

Fried Black Locust Flowers

Crystalized Edible Flowers

Floral Ice Cubes

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From the Organic Authority Files

Violet Jelly

Hibiscus Tea

Edible Flower Butter

Violet Herbed Cream Cheese

Edible Flower Simple Syrup and Cupcakes

Buying flowers from a florist or picking them from a park can be dangerous, because you have no control over the environment the flowers were grown in, which can include high levels of pesticides. Avoid eating flowers altogether, or consult a doctor beforehand, if you suffer from serious allergies or asthma.

The best flowers to eat are those you’ve researched and grown on your own terms or procured from a credible source. Growing edible flowers requires soil with a pH of about 6, a container or plot that allows soil to drain well, 2-3 inches of mulch to reduce weeds, and approximately one-inch of water per week. Avoid all chemicals for pest control. Lady bug beetles and praying mantis' are safe insects that can reduce the population of pest insects. Growing a variety of flowers together promotes a healthy environment that supports friendly insects to reduce pests.

Pick the flowers when they are at peak ripeness – completely open but not wilted or faded. The best time of the day to pick flowers is early in the morning, when the dew has dried from the petals. Because of environmental factors, sample a flower for taste before picking the bunch. Remove the sepals of all flowers, as pollen can cause an allergic reaction as well as distract from the flavor of the petals. Short-stem flowers should be placed into a plastic bag with a damp paper towel and put into the refrigerator. Long-stem flowers should be placed into a vase or large container with water. 

Be sure to check out this comprehensive list of safe flowers to consume. It also outlines those to avoid.

Photo Credit: bricolage 108

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