A guide to our favorite flowers to garnish drinks, salads and desserts
It's summertime, and as herbalists, it's our favorite time of year. Everyone moves at a slower, more relaxed pace, and we spend more time outside being active, enjoying the lush paradise of the outdoors. We're eating fresh food straight from our gardens, and local farms, and our favorites herbs, and flowers are blooming.
Edible flowers take an ordinary dish or drink, and enhance it with beauty, subtle flavors, and the pure joy of colors and flowers. We use them in salads, iced teas, cocktails and mocktails, and chilled wine. They are the perfect garnish on top of smoothies, on cakes, dips, and anything else we can think of that needs a little spark of beauty.
They are also an enjoyable reason to spend more time outside gardening, foraging, and learning about your local native plants, or growing them around your home.
Check out our favorites:
Flavor: The petals of roses have a delicate and subtle flavor that ranges from slightly fruity to an astringent sweet undertone.
Uses: Rose pairs exceptionally well with a sweetener like honey or sugar, so is a great one for desserts, syrups, cocktails, and mocktails.
Growing and harvesting: Roses flower mid-June - mid-July, and then the rosehips arrive by September. Never harvest rose petals from anywhere they might be sprayed or in the vicinity of car exhaust, train tracks, etc. They are easy to grow, and once you get the bushes going, they can be quite prolific over the years.
Cornflower, or bachelor’s buttons
Flavor: a slight spice/ clove-like flavor with a subtle sweetness.
Uses: We like to use them to add color to a dish; a garnish for desserts, soups, salads. Or in a glass of wine or a cocktail.
We also dry them throughout the season to use during the winter as decorative garnishes for color.
Growing and harvesting: These flower in spring and continue throughout the summer, and they grow quickly! They become prolific plants with continual harvest. You can find them in shades of blue, pink, purple, and white.
Flavor: Calendulas bright, striking flowers are mildly bitter and slightly spicy- like black pepper.
Uses: Can be used in a tea, as a zest to garnish dishes, or used on salads, cakes, and cocktails for a bright and vibrant color.
Growing and harvesting: Calendula will flower all summer if the seeds are started early enough and this plant grows like a weed if you let it! It grows and spreads quickly, and frequent picking results in more flowers. A great one for drying and using fresh throughout the summer months. If you let it go to seed, they are easy to collect save for the following year.
Flavor: Spicy, peppery and vanilla.
Uses: In mocktails, spritzers, fresh teas, desserts, floral ice cubes, or cocktails - like a Tulsi Margaritas! Sometimes we add a handful to fresh pesto or dips for an added herbal kick. This is a great plant to make an infused honey, as well as to dry throughout the season.
Growing and harvesting: Tulsi grows quickly and well in containers or garden beds. Harvest Tulsi the way you would basil to continue growth; harvesting the tops, and larger leaves.
Flavor: Sweet and refreshing, like cucumber.
Uses: We love this in salads, grain dishes, and as cocktail garnishes or candied for deserts. Its star-like flower makes any meal a little more magical and unique.
Growing and harvesting: Blooms mid-April to late September. A prevalent self-seeding herb that will return year after year. Borage loves the sun and well-watered soils.
Hibiscus and Mallows- the malva family.
Flavor: Tart and sweet, with a cranberry-like flavor.
Uses: Iced teas, in champagne or prosecco, in spritzers with fruit, or on fruit salads.
Growing and harvesting: We grow ours as houseplants, so they bloom all year round- especially if they are in a warm sunny window and get plenty of water. They can also be grown outdoors in pots or containers.
Flavor: Slightly peppery & tangy
Use: We use them fresh and all summer long in salads, grain dishes, spring rolls, or as a decorative addition to any meal.
Growing and harvesting: These will take over a garden if you let them and produce blooms throughout the spring and summer. They love full sun and will do well in pots.
Flavor: Floral, sweet and vanilla
Uses: We make elderflower cordial or syrup, or use fresh in tea. They make a beautiful and magical garnish for desserts or drinks.
Growing and harvesting: Flowers mid-July. Loves bright sunny patches in farm fields, wooded trails, or in your home garden. To harvest, you can cut the flower cluster off and rake the flowers off the stem.
Flavor: Young dandelions have a sweet flavor to the flowers, while older plants have a nuttier, more classic bitter taste to them.
Uses: We love the petals as a garnish in desserts, on salads or savory dishes, and we add them to drinks for color.
Growing and harvesting: These flower throughout the spring and summer and are easy to harvest from fields and wild lawns. Just make sure that you aren't collecting from anywhere they spray pesticides, or public places near the road, or where dogs frequent. To use, we remove the base of the flower head and use only the delicate petals.
Flavor: Slightly sweet, and buttery flavor.
Uses: We use Chamomile in teas, in baked goods, to decorate desserts, in syrups and honey infusions, as a garnish for drinks.
Growing and harvesting: if planted in early spring, they will flower by mid-June into early fall. Continual harvest of the flower heads will result in more growth. We pluck off the flower heads and use them as is.