Outdoors Survival Tips: Edible Plants And Flowers

Nasturtiums, pansies, tulips, dandelions. We know they're beautiful beside the roads and in gardens, here are nutritious ways eat.

Flowers are glorious things. They add beauty wherever they are, be it by the roadside, in a garden, in a vase or on you plate. Yes...your plate.

Using flowers as food is not something new. For centuries flowers have been used in Chinese cuisine, we read about it in Greek mythology, and there are centuries old recipes for dishes such as stewed primroses. But why would someone even want flowers in their food and what flowers make a great addition a meal?

To address the "why", flowers can make something dull look extavagant, even food. They add color and life to many dishes and those who partake know that great thought was given to the planning of the meal. For example, tossed salad is usually limited to a certain variety of vegetables and we have come to accept that. But, put out a bowl of tossed salad that has the deep gold of nasturtiums and the beautiful purple of violets and you have an entirely new take on an everyday dish. Flowers add color and excitement.

Not all flowers can be picked and tossed in a dish, however. Below is a list of edible flowers.

Begonia (stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb)

Borage (adds cucumber flavor)

Calendula (petals add a golden color to soups, eggs and breads)

Pink carnation (use petals only and cut off white part at bottom tip)


Dandelion (wine from flowers, greens can be cooked and eaten as spinach)










Violet (good in salads or crystalized)







This is by no means an extensive list of all edible flowers. Before using any others, however, it would be best to find a guide to flowers native to your area or get a list of poisonous flowers from a poison control center.

When using flowers in cuisine, be sure what you are using is free of pesticides or chemical sprays. Pick them early in the morning while they are still moist. The stem should be removed and in some cases, such as carnations, so should the pistil, stamen, and white part at the bottom of petals.

Flowers should be washed in a gentle, salt water bath. Dip them in cold water for one minute and then put them whole in a glass of cold water in the fridge until they are needed.

What are some ways to use these flowers? Many cookbooks today will give you recipes for flowers, but here are a few simple ideas in the meantime. Sunflowers can be picked when the heads are still small and left unopened. They can be steamed and served with butter. As mentioned previously, nasturtiums and violets make great additions to tossed sallad, but they should not be added until right before serving if dressing is already on the salad, as the petals will wilt. If dressing is on the side they may be added anytime.

Tulip cups are commonly used to hold mousse, dips or cut vegetables. Squash blossoms can be battered in egg and bread crumbs, fried on both sides and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

Petals, herbs and small whole flowers can be used to decorate blocks of cheese, while tiny flowers such as violas can be frozen in ice cubes to add zing to any drink. The next time you're at a wedding look at the cake. Chances are good you will see edible crystalized and fresh flowers on it.

The uses of edible flowers can be virtually unlimited. It only takes lots of experimentation and a little imagination.

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