12 Edible Flowers That Are Our New Favorite Garnish for Everything
When we say edible flowers can garnish anything...we really mean it! Here are some of the best florals to brighten your cocktails, baked good and entrees.
Edible flowers are the prettiest way to garnish dishes and drinks. Nestling them in icing to dress up a grocery store cake will turn you into an amateur pastry decorator, and the tiny petals will delight all your guests as you serve botanical cocktails. You can even turn ice cubes into art and make elegant appetizers stand out among a table of regular hors d’oeuvres.
Editor’s Note: While beautiful, it is important to know that decorating with edible petals should be done with caution! After all, some flowers are poisonous. Our list only includes the popular ones you might have seen on restaurant plates or in craft cocktails, so make sure not to pluck just any old flower from your garden when looking for garnishes. This is also true because even some edible plants in your garden could be covered in harmful pesticides. If it helps you remember, follow the motto when in doubt, leave it out.
Lavender instantly soothes and calms when you light a candle with the scent, but have you ever tried adding it to your pastries, teas and lemonades?
This delicate purple plant offers intriguing floral flavors to otherwise regular recipes. Brew tea with edible lavender, sprinkle the buds into lavender and lemon biscochitos or boil the buds with sugar to make lavender simple syrup. Once bottled, pour the syrup into lemonades, mocktails or botanical aperitifs.
If you’ve ever cooked with rose water, then you know exactly how marvelous the light perfume hint of rose is. Because rose petals give off a similar scent (and taste) to apples, the edible petals work well in pastries or fruit-forward main dishes.
Take a Valentine’s Day or bridal shower spread to a new level of elegance by topping rose petals around the fresh raspberries on a chocolate raspberry cheesecake. For those who would rather sip on rosy sweetness, brew a rose latte and sprinkle dried petals over the top for a pretty presentation.
Calendula or Marigolds
Like their bright orange hue might convey, calendula flowers—also called marigolds—offer a slightly tangy and peppery flavor to dishes. Only their petals are edible, but that’s the only part you’d want to brighten your dishes anyway! The bold orange petals might work best in leafy green salads or sprinkle over soups since they lean more bitter, but you can also use them to decorate cakes or to freeze in fancy ice cube shapes for various cocktails.
While a lot of edible flowers are more for beauty than for taste, borage petals give us both. The stunning blue buds shaped like stars add visual appeal to appetizers and cocktails in addition to a light taste of cucumber.
Amp up a classic gin and tonic with a cucumber slice and a borage blossom instead of a lime wedge, or turn your garden party appetizer into a literal garden. Simply use a basic cucumber party sandwich recipe and garnish with borage tucked into the fresh dill sprigs.
Chamomile might be your go-to sleepy time tea, but the soft white buds can do so much more than flavor tea. Similar to roses, chamomile buds offer an apple-like flavor to dishes.
Use the tiny daisy look-alikes to dot vanilla-iced cupcakes, mix them into salad dressings or turn into a chamomile simple syrup you can drizzle over Greek yogurt with honey. You could even take the Greek yogurt a step further and make frozen yogurt to top with chamomile syrup and a sprinkling of flowers for an elevated dessert.
Take an aviation cocktail to new dimensions with violet blossoms. The purple-hued gin cocktail always turns heads, but you can make it even more artful by garnishing it with fresh violets. The leaves and flowers are edible, and foraging for the younger flowers will result in the best flavor.
Buy violets as seeds and plant in your garden to harvest whenever you need a fresh garnish (like growing fresh herbs!) or purchase dried violets. While fresh blooms work best in cocktails and violet jelly, the dried version can top cheesecakes, tarts and glazed doughnuts.
Editor’s Tip: When purchasing, don’t confuse sweet violets with African violets. Although African violets are considered non-toxic, they are not considered edible.
Like borage and violets, the blue hue of cornflowers will embellish baked goods and lattes beautifully. The buds have a flavor profile similar to cloves, so they would do well in fruit-based desserts, studded on spiced holiday cookies, sprinkled into the foam of vanilla lattes or even topping chai tea lattes.
Pretty pink hibiscus iced tea is one thing, hibiscus iced tea filled with hibiscus petal ice cubes are a whole new level of picturesque. The edible hibiscus flower used for culinary purposes is the roselle, also known as the Jamaican sorrel. Notes of citrus and cranberry come from hibiscus petals, making the flower ideal for drinks, salads and dessert garnishes. Scatter the petals over pink velvet cupcakes or citrusy iced orange cookies.
Arugula-based salads give us a slightly peppery flavor that not many other salad greens provide. Nasturtium flowers, also peppery in flavor, will pair well with arugula and liven up dishes with their golden and orange shades.
Because they’re a more savory bloom, nasturtium would do well decorating pasta dishes too. To spruce up a dip spread, top a bowl of arugula pesto (or any pesto for that matter) with the orange blossoms. Keep the blossoms in the shape of a crescent moon around half of the bowl so guests can still see the pesto underneath and the artful presentation to boot.
You might love a bright cilantro recipe, but have you ever tried cilantro blooms? The delicate blossoms look similar to baby’s breath and are a beautiful way to spruce up veggie dishes, dips and salads. Tuck the blooms into a crudités platter with sprigs of dill or basil leaves for the ultimate vegetable spread—it’ll be food art at its finest!
Note that when your cilantro plant flowers, it’s best to just use the flowers rather than the leaves, as they’ll probably be too bitter at this point of growth.
Want to make the most showstopping dessert ever? Colorful pansies will turn any baked good into edible art that you’ll get compliments on long after the desserts are devoured. This pineapple carrot cake is one of our favorite ways to present pansies, but you can add them to cupcakes, iced cookies, cheesecakes, tarts or ice cream dishes.
Looking for a more savory way to use pansies? Though time-consuming, some home chefs have been pressing these colorful petals into homemade pasta. Make sure your pasta sheets are super thin before pressing the pansies between two sheets. Then run it through your pasta maker again before cutting into your desired noodle shape.
Chive blossoms are bigger and bolder than lacey cilantro blooms and the purple hue looks fabulous on potato dishes, tucked into charcuterie boards or tossed in a salad. Though the lavender-colored pom-pom buds look sweet, they actually taste more like onion and garlic.