They're not just pretty—flowers can add flavor and nutrients to your morning meal
“What’s the best way to eat flowers for breakfast?” It’s a question that may not have occurred to you, unless you’ve been riding the Instagram wave of edible blossoms. But it turns out that flowers are a viable ingredient for all kinds of breakfast items. They add a fresh and vibrant pop of color and subtle, new flavors to everything from omelets to a plain old bowl of Cheerios. The problem? “Doing it properly” is a little more extensive than purchasing daffodils from the grocery store and throwing them onto buttered toast. But don’t fret: whether you’re looking to try out the social media craze or just dying to decorate your cereal with petals, making your breakfast a flower-y feast is totally possible. Here’s how.
Find Your Garden
How do we get our hands on a bouquet of ingredients? Do you just pick up a fistful of lilies from your local florist? No, not unless you’re trying to pepper your meal with the savory, subtle, chemical notes of pesticide.
Aside from the fact that not all flowers are edible (say it again with me: NOT ALL FLOWERS ARE EDIBLE), you can’t tell what weedkillers they may be have been treated with, and I won’t be charged for manslaughter via improper pansy consumption. So unless you’re growing your own, organic, preferably non-poisonous garden, that leaves you with two realistic options: You either hit the jackpot at your local farmer’s market, or you go through a reliable online edible flower distributor.
I turned to Kelly Sasuga, a chef and sales and marketing manager at Gourmet Sweet Botanicals. The California-based company houses both dessert-ready crystallized blossoms—flowers dipped in egg-free starch liquid, coated with sugar, and dried—and fresh edible florets galore. The quantity of edible flowers, Sasuga said, is mainly case-by-case, with some sold in “25, 50 or 100 counts” and others sold as “petals that are packaged by weight instead of by count.” It all makes a girl eager to harvest, but obviously a floral novice like myself doesn’t want to buy too little or too much.
While there’s no precise science to gauging the right amount for your dish, it definitely helps to look at what you’re buying in terms of size. “For example, the MicroFlowers are very tiny, so I would recommend using more than one flower per plate, as opposed to the roses which are large enough to just use one per plate,” Sasuga suggested.
Pick Your Best Buds
When it comes to selecting edible flowers, it helps to reframe your thinking about what a flower is. Blackberry Farm’s executive chef Cassidee Dabney was able to open the door wide open when it came to different options. While some of her favorite edible flowers include bouquet-worthy pieces like petal-rich Bachelor Buttons, violet-yellow Johnny Jump-Ups, and bitter-sour Marigolds, she was quick to point out that the blossoms the pre-empt a fully bloomed plant could really enhance a dish.
“Chive flowers would be great on an omelette, because chive and eggs go really well together,” Dabney suggested. “Chive or garlic flowers.” And for a less savory meal? Dabney recommends pea flowers for their sweetness.
Sasuga also noted that while a lot of edible flowers are mild enough to use in breakfast meals and drinks, there are a few that really work divinely. “Specifically, I've seen sweet Rose petals garnish waffles and peppery Nasturtium Flowers with eggs benedict,” Sasuga said.
Prep Your Blossoms
Once you receive your flowers, particularly if it’s through a distributor, you need to be careful about storing them: keep them in their sealed container, in a refrigerator drawer, between about 38 and 40 degrees. Freshness duration is, again, case by case, but typically you want use them within 5 days to a week of receiving them.
If you’re growing your own or getting one from a farmer’s market, Dabney urges that you check for bugs (oh my God, done). And no matter what, be sure to rinse thoroughly: “The more fragile the petal, the quicker the rinse, just kind of dip it and then take it out,” she said.
Cook Your Flowers (Or Not)
Though Dabney can vouch for some interesting ways to steep honeysuckles to make a vinaigrette, or grind sage flowers for a flavored salt, she’s of the conviction that edible flowers are best left as is. That is, don’t haphazardly throw some in the oven and hope for the best.
“You can cook with those things, but it’s kind of like, the flowers have the same flavor for the most part as the herbs and the things that they’re growing on,” she said.
Essentially, the flavor in flowers is fragile, and you don’t want to lose that. Therefore, edible flowers are most effective as a garnish, both in terms of taste and aesthetics. You want to find something that’ll compliment your frittatas on both levels.
Enjoy the Ultimate Edible Arrangement
OK, it might be tempting to stick to Fruity Pebbles when you take in these considerations. But I insist on perseverance: flowers exist to inject beauty into the world, so you can only imagine what it can do to your meal. Just keep a light hand, know your floral flavors, and be mindful of what flowers won’t literally kill you. Plus, blueberry-orchid pancakes would just look so, so good with an Amaro filter.