With the current hysteria over crop shortages in the lettuce world, many people have been considering growing- and eating- other types of green stuff. But, have you considered trying some yellows, reds, blues and purples.. I’d like to welcome you to the hidden world of edible flowers! Here are my 5 favourites (you can click on the plant to buy it!)
ONE. Begonias. The citrussy crunch of a Begonia petal is really quite something. Choose one of the (quite hard to get hold of) fragrant varieties for the best, perfumed flavour. Although, just a sprinkling on your cakes and salads for fun is enough, too much and the oxalic acid might repeat on you…! (Treat with caution if you have any medical condition)
TWO. Tulips. Another petal with some bite! Tulip blooms come in every colour of the rainbow, and are edible, as are the bulbs (which were actually pickled in poorer times in the Netherlands!) It’s suggested that you can stuff them with either a sweet or savoury filling, the petal will add a punch of colour and a gentle pea-like flavour. As with begonias though, they may not be suitable for everyone, so don’t go overboard!
THREE. Pansies. Would you believe that a small Pansy actually contains Vitamins A and C? The texture is substantial, and they would make a nice colourful addition to a salad, so you don’t only have to rely on tomatoes for that these days! Pansy blooms can also be crystallised and used to top cupcakes, now that’s very Instagram! Pansies are also a well known edible bloom, so feel free to sprinkle them generously.
FOUR. English Marigolds. It’s time to cut back on your saffron budget, guys! English Marigolds (Calendula) are a tried and tested edible bloom, which can do exactly the same job as saffron, colouring up rice a treat! The vibrant petals have a spicy flavour and would work well in savoury or fruit salads, I reckon!
FIVE. Primroses. An excellent spring tonic, why not add Primrose florets to cakes, pancakes and the like! As with Pansies, they are a popular edible bloom and can be crystallised and used as ‘cake art’! The blooms taste slightly sweet and will certainly get your friends talking!
I hope I’ve inspired you to try some of these blooms during your next session in the kitchen! I love the subject of unusual edible flowers, so I’m sure it won’t be too long before I prepare another article on the matter. Just wait until I get started on Gladioli, Camellias and Peonies…!
The 5 flowers discussed above have numerous references in paper and online as to their edible qualities. However, although classed as ‘edible’, any unusual edible flower could cause adverse reaction in some people, so please do take care.
I wouldn’t recommend eating tulip flowers because, as you rightly state, they have been eaten for a while but do contain toxic glycosides. Like many things, some people are more susceptible than others & there’s well documented cases of irritation from handing tulips (bulbs & flowers) as well as poisoning from all parts of the plant, although the bulb is by far the most dangerous.
Similarly, the Oxalic Acid in begonias can react more in certain people, especially if they already have a high intake of it or have certain medical conditions. I would recommend to just stick to the petals we know are definitely safe (as long as organically grown & clean) like pansies, violas, roses, calendula (English pot marigolds), primroses (if not dermatologically sensitive to them) & nasturtiums. There’s more than enough colours there to be going on with!
I didn’t write this in an attempt to rubbish anything you’ve written as it’s not incorrect. However, I thought you might be interested in how even “accepted” edibles aren’t always as safe as we’ve always thought.
Mr Plant Geek
Absolutely. Thank you. There will be more articles to come on edible flowers, mentioning the common and less common. The first two are indeed blooms you would treat with caution and only test in very small quantities. Interestingly, tulip bulbs have been pickled in Dutch quarters for many years, and in fact I bought some recently..?! 😳
Pickling may break down the toxic compounds into safe ones, I genuinely don’t know. It’s a bit like certain fungi that will make you incredibly ill if eaten raw but are apparently heavenly when cooked correctly. The plant kingdom is fascinating & we still know relatively little about the potential for food use of so many things. It’s a minefield of conflicting information, even in scientific journals, as I’m sure you’ve discovered! 😰
Mr Plant Geek
For sure! I enjoy highlighting unusual edibles to people, whilst still making people aware of the potential, related risks.