Edible flowers are one of the most forgotten yet yummy garnishes that can be used to elevate a dish. Plenty of people just don’t know how versatile flowers can be in different meals, but they are often best in salads, desserts, or cocktails. Today, we’ll focus primarily on fresh spring salads because flowers are easily incorporated into other types of greenery, fruit, oils, and vegetables.
Tulips (French Sorrel, Oakleaf Lettuce)
Of all the flowers used in cooking, tulips are the most argued about because of the use of pesticides often found on the flower. Tulips are delicate and prone to disease, so it’s essential that you do your research before using them in a salad or other foods.
However, if you can find a pesticide-free tulip, you’ll be surprised at how versatile they are. Tulips are a cool, crisp, and colorful addition to the salad bowl because of it’s sweet taste with a peppery kickback. This flower is often compared with Romaine lettuce for its earthy and creamy texture, but its stunning color makes your everyday salad much more interesting.
Wild Bee Balm (Wild Bergamot)
Wild bee balms are incredibly attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds for their aroma and sweet pollen. Although they look bizarre, these large flowers add dimension to salads and are used by Indigenous groups to cure colds, stomach aches, and stuffy noses.
The wild bergamot leaves and flowers are all editable raw, or cooked; just make sure there are no bees in its pedals before chowing down. They are used as a flavoring in salads for their mixed flavor profile of citrusy, spicy, and sweet. To bring out the best in the wild bee balm, add fruit, arugula, and a bit of oil, so your salad doesn’t become overpowered by the wild bergamot.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
Native to Eurasia, this common weed wasn’t always thought of as a pest. Cultures around the world consider them a herb that’s both nutritious and delicious. In fact, dandelions are packed full of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C.
Dandelions are abundant and easy to harvest in North America, just don’t pick them from the side of the road or in a field if pesticides may be sprayed there. Its honey flavor when picked young and bitter taste when picked old can be used in salads, soups, and pesto. Both the flower on top, the leaves, and the stem can be added to a salad raw or cooked.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
Hibiscus has many benefits when consumed, like lowering blood pressure and aiding in weight loss. They’re packed with antioxidants that can boost liver health, potentially beat cancer, and fight bacteria all in one tiny yet tasty package.
These flowers have a mild citrusy and cranberry flavor and are great in salads that have a lot of sweet berries or oranges. Hibiscus tastes fantastic in teas and sauces, so if you have a few leaves left over, you could try it out for yourself. If you want to take a painkiller with acetaminophen (Tylenol) before eating hibiscus, be aware that this flower will lessen its effects.
Roses (Most Common Variants)
As far as we know, there aren’t any types of roses that could be poisonous to humans. However, the common rose found in North America and in most floral shops will be safe. You can consume the pedals and rose hips, but the rose hips are preferred.
Rose petals have a very bitter taste unless you remove the white base. Avoid adding the stem altogether unless you want to eat a few thorns accidentally. The rose hips taste great as a base for salad dressing either in a vinegar bath or oil. Roses are high in vitamin C and are popular additions to spring salads, but they also taste great in jams, teas, and candy.