Edible flowers are, quite simply, flowers that can be consumed by human beings. Most flowers should not be eaten by humans, but there are some that can be added to dishes. Most commonly edible flowers are added as garnishes to entrees and desserts. In some cases they are incorporated into a dish as an ingredient. Some flowers that are favorites for bouquets also happen to be edible. Examples, include roses, violets, and marigolds. Other edible flowers include nasturtiums, bean blossoms, and miniature pansies.
When cooking with edible flowers, it is key to make sure that the flowers are actually the edible variety. Although the plant kingdom is large and widely varied, there are some species that closely resemble one another. Just as it is always important to make sure that mushrooms are edible before ingesting them — especially if the mushrooms have been collected in the wild — it is very important to make sure that edible flowers are in fact edible before cooking with them or using them as garnishes.
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There are a number of helpful books and articles online that can help to identify edible flowers from non-edible varieties. Another way to make sure that flowers are edible is to purchase them from a florist. Another option is to purchase them from a specialty green grocer who sells edible flowers. Recipes that call for these kinds of flowers often give hints on where to find the flowers and how to identify the edible varieties from the inedible varieties.
There are a few edible flowers that are regularly used to make herbal teas. One of the most common flowers used in tea is chamomile. Chamomile flowers are harvest and dried before being used to make tea or tea blends. It is a caffeine-free drink that many people find helps them to relax and to fall asleep at night. Other flowers used in teas include lemon verbena and hibiscus.
Some edible flowers are actually made out of fruit. It has become popular in recent years to create baskets of fruit that are cut and displayed in such a way that they resemble baskets of flowers. Melon, for example, may be cut into the shape of a daisy. A strawberry or grape may be used to mimic the center of a flower. Although these are not actually flowers that happen to be edible, they are often marketed as edible flower baskets.