Although the delicate use of flowers to embellish is relatively new, the general use of flowers in traditional cuisine is not. Rosewater and orange blossom water in the Middle-East and Northern Africa, Saffron in Persia and India and zucchini flowers in Italy have been popular in their respective areas for thousands of years.
There is no need to dine out to enjoy the enhanced look, flavours and fragrances that come with eating edible flowers – they can be planted and enjoyed at home. A word of caution before we begin- treat edible flowers as you would mushrooms you have found in the wood - with joy and excitement but also with a certain sense of caution. The only way to guarantee that they are edible and have not been touched by pesticides is to grow them yourself from seed. Research before making your choice and, most importantly, do so based on the plant’s scientific name (for example, you will soon discover that not all lavenders are good to eat but, on the positive side, the ones that are edible make delicious ice creams and baked desserts). A general rule of thumb is that a plant with an edible fruit will have an edible flower.
Most people are unknowingly eating edible flowers on a regular basis; broccoli heads, cauliflower heads, capers and globe artichokes are all, in fact, flowers. Finish a meal off with a nice cup of jasmine tea and, once again, you’ve enjoyed a flower. For the sake of adventure, let’s leave the everyday edible flowers behind and look more closely at some exciting choices that may not yet be part of your gardening or culinary repertoire.