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Edible flowers can be a fun, delicious addition to nearly any type of dish. They can add to the presentation of your meal as a striking, unusual garnish, and many flowers lend interesting flavors to a recipe as well. When cooking or preparing food with flowers, it is important to know which flowers are edible and which are not. While there are many edible flowers, many others are indigestible or poisonous.
One of the most popular edible flowers is the rose. Rosewater, a distillation of the petals, is used extensively in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisine, but fresh rose petals may be used in food preparation as well. Rose is used to flavor candy and other sweets in many parts of the world, although Americans often find the flavor odd. The rose hips, a portion below the petals, is sour, rich in vitamin C, and often used in infusions.
Some other edible flowers are used for parts besides the petals. The sunflower, for example, has edible seeds that are often salted and eaten as a snack similar to nuts or pumpkin seeds. The petals and buds of the sunflower are also edible.
A few other edible flowers include pansies, violets, orange blossom, daylilies, pot marigolds, daisies, and dandelions. In addition to being used fresh in salads or as a garnish, edible flowers may be candied or used to flavor jelly, vinegar, butter, or oil. These flower-flavored ingredients can be stored for moths and used in any recipe in place of non-flavored ingredients.
Take care when cooking with edible flowers to use plants that have not been treated with pesticide. Also, make sure to use only varieties of a particular flower that you know to be edible or that your recipe specifically calls for. Keep in mind that some edible flowers must be prepared in a certain way before they are eaten, and that others may have some parts that are edible and others that are not. For example, it is a good rule of thumb not to eat the reproductive organs, where the pollen is manufactured, of any edible flowers. One final warning: be aware that not all flowers used as garnish are edible. For example, orchids are often seen in tropical cocktails, but they should not be eaten.
Edible flowers can be a whimsical, colorful, healthy addition to your meal if used wisely. If you're in doubt about the safety of eating a particular plant, the Plants For A Future website features an extensive database of edible flowers and other useful plants.
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