If there’s one thing Moms appreciate more than flowers on Mother’s Day, it’s a home-cooked meal. Luckily, Mother Nature has a solution for combining both—celebrate your Mom by enlivening her plate and her palate using edible flowers this Mother’s Day. Here are five beautiful blooms as good in a dish as they are in a vase.
Important note: Commercial flower vendors don’t have to follow the same regulations as food crops, so only eat flowers grown organically that have not been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. That means, as a general rule, you should avoid eating any flower grown at a nursery, florist, or garden center. In addition, eat only flowers you can 100% verify are edible, being careful to wash them thoroughly and only consuming the edible parts of these flowers.
With a nickname tailor-made for Mother’s Day, chrysanthemums (or ‘mums’) offer a tangy bitterness to salads, stir-fries, and even soups. Native to East Asia, chrysanthemum greens (the leaves and stem, sometimes referred to as ‘crown daisy’) feature heavily in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine. The petals are used more sparingly and give a delightful pop of color when sprinkled over salads.
Unless you’re working with young greens (they are fresh enough to be eaten raw), prepare the flower by blanching or steaming it in its entirety. Stay alert and nearby—this process shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds. A good rule of thumb—if the greens start to lose their texture and turn mushy, it’s definitely time to take them out.
Once cooked, separate the petals from the flower and use them to garnish your salad. The greens can be paired with a sesame dressing, added to a shabu-shabu, or tossed in a stir-fry—use their grassy, herbaceous flavor of the greens to bring balance to your plate or bowl.
The culinary potential of these delicate, multi-colored blossoms lies beyond the petals—fuchsia plants produce edible berries in addition to flowers. When picking, look for ones that are plump, smooth, and dark purple. If they aren’t easy to twist off the steam, consider letting them ripen a bit longer. Use their tart-sweetness to make a refreshing jam, or toss them in a chutney for a dash of bright flavor.
The petals of the flowers themselves are edible as well and make for lovely garnishes, displaying slightly bitter, acidic flavor. Harvest the blossoms once they’ve fully opened and arrange them in salads, cocktails, or even freeze them in ice cubes to elevate any beverage.
These pungent, purple blooms are in season right now and excellent at lending a flowery aroma to a variety of different dishes. With lilacs, what you smell is also what you taste—a citrus-like flavor with floral overtones. Completely edible and best when fresh, there’s almost no prep required when working with lilacs, whose bright profile makes them perfect for desserts and sweet dishes. Cut a few blossoms and use them to garnish a cake, or snip the flower lower on the stem and place a mini bouquet in your next spring cocktail. If you really enjoy the taste, try using lilacs to flavor your sugar so that all your sweets can have a hint of their signature aroma.
When it comes to roses, the darker the color, the more pronounced the flavor. These classic symbols of amour vary quite a bit in taste, so it’s best to do your own experimenting to see what will pair best with the roses you’ve selected. As with lilacs, roses are primarily used for perfuming dishes—float the petals in a beverage or use them to create an aromatic rose butter, syrup, or sweet spread.
To prep your roses, simply pluck the petals and remove the bitter white portion from each. The rest of the petal should have a sweet, fresh, almost fruity flavor (some liken the taste to strawberries or green apples) and a strong flowery fragrance.
Both unplanted and fully bloomed sunflowers have their place in the kitchen, but it’s the middle stage of a sunflower’s life that offers the most culinary potential. As it turns out, everyone’s favorite sun-watching flower is a member of the same family as the artichoke, and sunflower buds, with a little preparation, can act as a direct replacement for these flower-like veggies. Watch this video to get step by step instructions on turning sunflower bud into a scrumptious bite.