We’ve all been there. You receive a lush salad or tasty dessert with gorgeous flower petals added and wonder if you’re meant to eat them or just enjoy the view.

Edible flowers are the new ‘in thing’ in cuisine – and we show you how they can add value and interest to your own culinary efforts…

Can I really eat flowers?

Yes, there are many flowers that can be used in cooking to add flavour and visual appeal. That doesn’t mean you should go munch your way through the garden, however! Always err on the side of safety, and make sure they’re on the edible list.

There is a staggering range of edible flowers, however, ranging from the floral parts of better-known herbs like chives, chamomile, horseradish and dandelion to veggie flowers (marrows, pumpkins and bananas) and even some common household flowers you’re more used to as display items. Roses, elderflowers, violets and lavender all have long histories in the kitchen.

What do they taste like and what can I use them for?

The taste of edible flower types is quite broad, giving fantastic scope for kitchen experimentation

  • Bitter: Herbs like dandelion can enhance the tone of salads and savoury dishes while lavender can lift sugars and desserts.
  • Onion-like: Chive flowers keep the same pungent onion taste as the herb, making them great for soups and heavy potato/egg dishes
  • Sweet: Rose, violet and elderflower all add a luxurious sweet taste for desserts and baked goods
  • Tart: Hibiscus makes a delectable tea as well as lifting baked goods

Some veggie flowers (marrows, pumpkin and banana) can even be dipped in batter for a tasty fried accompaniment to your meal!

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Flowers have a long history of use in cuisines from the Middle East, India and parts of Asia, so why not give them a chance in your own cooking too?