When used as an ingredient or simply a garnish, edible flowers can be a boon for innovative cooks. They'll add a fresh flourish of color and introduce unusual flavors to your dishes.
It may be trendy, but it's nothing new. For centuries, cultures around the world have brightened their recipes by adding flowers. In Roman times, for example, roses were used for cooking and flavoring food. Rosewater was also put in fountains and baths to help people freshen up. Flowers delight our senses in so many ways – sight, smell, touch – it's not surprising that some flowers can be treats for our taste buds as well.
It is important to proceed with caution because several flowers, such as azaleas, buttercups, daffodils, delphinium, and wisteria, just to name a few, are poisonous. One very important thing that you need to remember is that not every flower is edible. In fact, sampling some flowers can make you very, very sick. You also should never use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat. Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside. Identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers and edible parts of those flowers.
Follow recipes carefully or, if you are improvising, introduce these petals to your diet in small amounts so that you can gauge your body's reaction. If you have allergies, you should proceed with extra caution; you may want to check with your doctor first. (Also, when dining out, don't be afraid to ask if a flower used as a garnish is edible.)
A great place to start is with flowers from your own garden. That's because you know how they have been grown and you can be confident that they are entirely free of pesticides and chemicals. Do not eat flowers unless you are sure that they have been grown without the use of these substances.
Pick your flowers at a cool time of day; morning is often best. Remove the pistils and stamen, and be sure to wash petals carefully. Also, make sure there are no insects stuck inside your flowers.