9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish

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9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
You can add edible flowers to salads, drinks, desserts, or charcuterie boards. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Edible flowers are great garnishes for desserts, drinks, and charcuterie boards.
  • It's important to confirm that a flower is actually edible before using it in a dish.
  • You can harvest edible flowers from your own garden.

While dishes and drinks can be dressed up with sprinkles, sauces, and citrus garnishes, there's another type of garnish that may be even prettier. Edible flowers are a beautiful addition to a variety of food and beverage options, immediately enhancing the look and sometimes even the flavor of a dish.

"Edible flowers are a wonderful way to bring the beauty of nature straight to your plate," says Alexandra Griffin, founder and CEO of Alma Kitchen. "When chosen properly, edible flowers bring their own unique flavor which can complement or add complexity to a dish."

According to Griffin, the uses and applications of edible flowers are seemingly endless. Some edible flowers can add robust flavor to a dish, while other blooms serve as fancy flourishes for desserts and cocktails to fit a color scheme or theme. "They can be dried, sugared, or used fresh depending on the application," she says.

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Uses for edible flowers

  • Garnish desserts
  • Dress up drinks
  • Add to ice cubes
  • Include in homemade popsicles
  • Complete a charcuterie board
  • Finish off a salad

Quick tip: Not all flowers are edible, so it's important to always confirm if a flower you hope to use can be safely consumed. If you're serving others, be cautious of using flowers that they are allergic or sensitive to. For those with pollen allergies or asthma, it's best to err on the side of caution.

Where to get edible flowers

Edible flowers can be picked straight from your garden, just be sure to prep them properly. Once picked, shake out the flowers to remove any bugs tucked away in the petals. If you can't grow them on your own, look to stores that offer organically grown flowers. Stay away from picking roadside flowers or flowers found in a park to avoid eating a flower that's been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.

Quick tip: To store edible flowers, Griffin suggests keeping them in the fridge in an airtight container with a damp paper towel.

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Types of edible flowers

It's important to remember that not all flowers, or parts of a flower, are edible. Each flower has different requirements to be prepared for eating, and each flower may also impart a different flavor to a dish. Before using edible flowers, gently immerse them in water to remove any dirt or hiding insects and pat them dry with a paper towel.

Hibiscus

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Hibiscus flowers can be eaten just as they are or added as a garnish to dishes. Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

Bright, bold hibiscus blooms are typically only grown in tropical climates, but it is possible to grow them at home with the right conditions. The flower - which offers a balanced, tart flavor, similar to a pomegranate - can be plucked right off the plant and eaten on its own, included in salads, used as a cocktail garnish, or made into a tea.

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Honeysuckle

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
While both the honeysuckle flower and the nectar they have are safe to eat, the berries are poisonous. Caroline Gauvin/Getty Images

Delicate honeysuckle blooms are incredibly fragrant, and they contain sweet nectar that can be enjoyed right from the flower. The flower and nectar are both safe to eat, but avoid the berries as they're poisonous. The flowers can be added to ice cubes, popsicles, or used as a garnish. In addition, the fresh flowers can be used to make a honeysuckle syrup by boiling them with water until the liquid reduces by half. Once reduced, strain the syrup and add sugar before bottling it.

Marigolds

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Marigold petals can add bold colors and flavors to a salad or dessert. schnuddel/Getty Images

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Marigolds bloom in bright yellow and orange citrus hues. The petals have a mild citrus flavor to them, but avoid using the leaves since they're quite spicy. To prepare marigolds, pull off the petals and trim the white ends which taste quite bitter. Use these large petals to add color and texture to a dish. The bold petals make a beautiful addition to ice cubes, a flavorful pop of color to a salad, and lovely garnishes for desserts.

Pansies

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Pansies can safely be eaten whole, and possess a grassy yet slightly spicy flavor. Images by Christina Kilgour/Getty Images

Pansies are large floppy flowers that start blooming in spring. They come in a variety of colors and have a mild grassy flavor with a touch of spice. The entire flower can be snipped and eaten whole, used as a garnish for many savory dishes, or sugared to dress up a dessert.

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Peonies

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Add some peony petals to cocktails or jams for a pop of color. Kriangkrai Thitimakorn/Getty Images

Peonies are one of the stars of springtime with their large fluffy petals and bold fragrance. The root and leaves shouldn't be eaten, but the petals can be plucked off to add a floral and fruity flavor to enhance cocktails or jams or used to add a pop of color to dress up confections.

Roses

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Different species of roses will have a different flavor. Genesis Delarosa / EyeEm/Getty Images

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Roses are a classic choice, with a variety of color options. The flavor of the leaves and stem isn't very appealing, however rose petals generally offer a slightly sweet, floral flavor. But remember: each species of rose will have a different flavor. Found in many gardens and stores, rose petals can be used in desserts, added to salads, muddled for beverages, or dried for teas.

Sweet alyssum

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Sweet alyssum can be added to cakes or cupcakes to add a peppery flavor. Catherine McQueen/Getty Images

Sweet alyssum is a flowering plant with dainty white blossoms. You can pick off sprigs and use them to decorate the top of cupcakes or a cake, or add whole sprigs to a salad. They have a gentle peppery flavor and can be grown in just about any type of soil.

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Tulips

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Be sure to remove the pistil and stamen, and only use the petals of tulips when prepping them for eating. Steve Satushek/Getty Images

A springtime bloom, tulips offer large, bright petals. The bulbs can be toxic to humans and animals, but the petals are edible. Once the pistil and stamen are removed, petals can be used whole and added to a salad - incorporating a crunchy texture and a slight peppery taste. The definitive flavor and texture will depend on the tulip variety. Tulips can also be stuffed with a cheese spread as an appetizer, or even filled with chocolate mousse for a unique dessert.

Violas

9 edible flowers to add a pop of color and flavor to any dish
Violas add a mild lettuce-like flavor with a little bit of sweetness. Kristyna Henkeova/Shutterstock

Violas are the beautiful, slightly smaller, cousin of pansies. They grow well in just about any environment, producing a bounty of flowers with a mild lettuce-like flavor with a hint of sweetness. You can eat the entire flower raw, add them to salads, or blend chopped petals into a dip or cheese spread. Violas are also a pretty garnish for drinks and desserts.

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Insider's takeaway

Edible flowers are a beautiful and unique option for garnishes, whether you're putting together a colorful dessert or serving a cocktail. Edible flowers can also add great texture and flavor to savory dishes such as soups, salads, and appetizers. Just remember that only certain types of flowers are edible and it's important to source homegrown or organically grown flowers to avoid consuming pesticides or herbicides.

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