Every fresh edible flower has a unique taste.
Look out for wild garlic, society garlic and chive flowers, which exude a mild, sweet onion and garlic flavour – a perfect partner to steak, sprinkled over a nicoise salad, sautéed with asparagus or simply stirred through scrambled eggs or omelette.
Begonia flowers boast a crunchy, acidic flavour, reminiscent of sorrel leaves, while yellow wood sorrel flowers enjoy a similar sour taste – pair with a side of salmon for a taste sensation.
Versatile viola flowers come in a plethora of shapes, colours and sizes. Their mild, delicate flavour makes them perfect for savoury or sweet dishes - experiment with ice blocks, appetisers and desserts or include them in summer roll wrappers. They also make a pretty addition to summer drinks.
Seasonal mix of fresh, edible flowers:
Alyssum / Angelica / Anise hyssop / Apple blossoms / Bean flowers / Begonia / Bergamot Bee / Balm / Bergamot lemon / Borage / Broad bean flowers / Broccoli flowers / Calendula / Carnation / Chamomile / Chervil / Chicory / Chive flowers / Chrysanthemum / Citrus blossom / Clover / Coriander / Cornflower / Dandelion / Day Lily / Dianthus / Elderflower / English daisy / Evening primrose / Feijoa flowers / Fennel / Fuchsia / Garlic chives / Geranium / Gladiolas / Hyssop / Hibiscus / Honeysuckle / Hollyhock / Hyacinth / Jasmine / Lavender / Lemon verbena / Marigold / Mexican tarragon / Nasturtium / Okra / Pansy / Pak choi / Pea / Pineapple sage / Primrose / Polyanthus / Queen Anne's lace / Rocket / Rose / Society garlic / Squash blossoms / Sunflower / Tulip / Viola / Wild garlic flowers / Wood sorrel
Flower petals are edible. Carefully trim green leaves, stems and the sometimes bitter base of the petals to ensure everything on the plate is edible, or alternatively use whole flower heads for divine cake decoration or to adorn a buffet, remembering to push to one side before serving.
If sourcing flowers from your garden or elsewhere, remember there are some flowers in particular to be avoided including azalea, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, oleander, rhododendron, jack-in-the-pulpit, lily of the valley, fairy primrose and wisteria.
How should I store edible flowers?
Edible flowers are fresh, so they like to stay cool. To help prolong their life, transport them home in an insulated chiller grocery bag, store them in the fridge – ideally between 2-7°C - with the lid firmly closed and use creatively just before serving.
How long will edible flowers last?
Your edible flowers are fresh, so to ensure they continue to look their best, keep them chilled and use as soon as possible. As a guide, they typically maintain their good looks for up to 3 days if stored in the fridge.
How should I use edible flowers?
Sprinkle the petals for subtle elegance or use whole flower heads (remembering to trim the green non-edible stalks and foliage to ensure they are edible or use purely for decoration and remove before serving) for impressive wow-factor. Just add your imagination....
Can I use them in savoury dishes as well as sweet?
Absolutely! Most edible flowers are extremely versatile meaning they work equally well in savoury and sweet dishes. Think homemade pasta pepped up with a scattering of intense yellow, purple, pink and blue petals or an elegant cheesecake adorned with jewel coloured edible blooms and petals.
Can I freeze, heat or crystalise edible flowers?
Edible flowers are best used fresh as nature intended, although you can experiment if you dare....
Freezing: Once defrosted, frozen flowers turn limp and their colours darken, so you'll lose the beauty that you bought them for in the first place. But, you can create cool floral ice-cubes...simply freeze single edible flowers (violas, pansies, calendula and borage work well) in ice-cube trays and use for stylish drinks. Or try experimenting with decorative ice bowls for a unique way to serve home-made ice-cream and sorbet.
Heating: edible flowers can be heated – they do lose some intensity of colour, but still look pretty. Try baking on biscuits or in pancakes and check out Pinterest for more inspiration
Crystallising: Crystallised edible flowers make beautiful decorations for desserts. Not only do they taste amazing, but they add elegance and a touch of romance. Crystalising takes a little patience, but the rewards are well worth it!
How to: You'll need egg white, water and caster sugar...
Mix the egg white with a tiny splash of water (approx 1 - 2 teaspoons).
With a soft paintbrush or basting brush, paint a thin layer of egg white onto the petals (make sure you completely cover them).
Sprinkle each flower with caster sugar.
Leave to dry on a baking tray for 1 - 2 hours.
Reapply the egg white and sprinkle over more sugar. Check for any uncovered areas and reapply where necessary.
Leave to dry for 2 days.
Prep time:20 minsMakes:Over 20 depending on petal size
1 egg white
½ tsp water
rose petals and whole violets
¼ cup caster/superfine sugar
Beat egg white and water until fluffy and loose. Use a fine paintbrush to brush all over flowers or petals. Shake off excess, then dip into caster/superfine sugar to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a wire rack and set aside to dry. They will keep for 2 days in an airtight container.
Everywhere you walk, you are probably surrounded by wild edible weeds. These plants likely have among them some great edible as well as medicinal species. It is truly amazing how many useful weeds are pulled or poisoned in peoples gardens everyday throughout the world, yet so many of those could go to better use.
To gain a better understanding of edible weeds, let us look at what makes a weed, a weed.
What is a Weed?
Two definitions given for a weed by dictionary.com are:
a valueless plant growing wild, esp. one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.
any undesirable or troublesome plant, esp. one that grows profusely where it is not wanted: The vacant lot was covered with weeds.
These two definitions capture the feeling most people harbor towards species commonly referred to as "weeds." Given the great many benefits of edible weeds, it might be helpful to look at these wonderful plants in a new light.
A Different Perspective
Working with these plants can help change your perspective on such notoriously misunderstood plants as dandelion, chickweed, stinging nettle, plantain, white clover and many others. Besides providing many necessary biological functions in the environment, these plants can also be a source of great enjoyment in the kitchen.
Below you will find details of how these plants can be worked with and utilized. For identification purposes, see the resources section at the end of the article.
Here is a list of a few you are likely to find around your neighborhood paths, gardens and empty lots or waste places.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):
Young dandelion leaves and flower heads are great in salads or even in sandwiches as a garnish. Older leaves although still edible, tend to be bitter in taste. Dandelions can be turned into a wine. The flowers can also be dipped in batter and fried as fritters. Leaves can also be used in place of basil in a good pesto recipe. Dandelion is rich in vitamins A, C,E and B-complex as well as containing iron, protein and trace minerals.
Chickweed (Stellaria media):
The entire plant can be eaten raw in salads or sandwiches. It is one of the most enjoyable salad greens. It is occasionally even sold at restaurants and wild food markets.
Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus):
The leaves and stems, especially those of younger plants are tasty in salad or cooked like spinach. Members of this family have been used for thousands of years by Native peoples of Central and South America. Multiple forms of this plant are grown commercially for greens or for the seed (grain).
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica):
This surprising plant might seem like an unlikely edible weed, but it is one of the best. The entire young shoots (8-14 inches tall) can be harvested and cooked like spinach. If collected in excess, nettle can be frozen and used later for stir-fries, soups, and many other meals. Also, stinging nettle can be dried and used as an excellent tea and infusion. This edible weed is high in iron, calcium, potassium, manganese and vitamins, A, C and D.
Burdock (Arctium minus):
This plant is known to provide an excellent root vegetable, one that is even sold in health food markets. It can be baked, stir-fried or added to soups. The key is to gather this edible weed when it is young (first year roots are less bitter).
Shepard's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris):
This member of the mustard family packs a lot of flavor in little packages. The seeds of all mustard species can be dried or used fresh as a substitute for black pepper. The green, heart-shaped seed capsules of this species can make a nice addition to a salad. Also, greens of many mustard species, including shepard's purse, can be cooked and used as are commercially available mustard greens.
Wild Rose (Rosa sp.):
A variety of different species of wild rose grow many places, including in many abandoned lots. The flower petals can be collected and dried for tea. Also, the rosehips have an edible flesh and are rich in vitamin C. They can be made into jellies or added to honey for an amazing tasting treat. Be careful to clean out all seeds and fuzz from inside the hips, as these can irritate the digestive track.
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella): This little weed has a big, sour taste that is great mixed into salads and soups. This edible weed is rich in vitamin C, A, and Beta-carotene. Consume it in moderation, as the oxalic acid that gives it that great sour taste can upset the stomach in large quantities.
Some Considerations Before and After Harvesting
Here are some things to think about when going out to harvest and consume those wonderful, edible weeds.
First, consider these questions about location:
Is the location you are gathering from free of obvious signs of pollution or chemical pesticides or herbicides?
Is it right next to a busy road and accumulating car exhaust?
What other hazards might be found in your area when gathering edible weeds?
It is unsafe to harvest in areas where pollutants, pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals are present.
Second, consider these questions about ethics:
What function are the plants providing where they are growing and how will harvesting them effect that location?
How many plants of that variety are there in the location you are intending to collect from? It is important to collect from abundant stands of plants so as to allow them to thrive well into the future.
Don't collect plants that are growing alone, without any other species of its kind around it.
How might you help grow them in your yard or garden? Be open to setting aside an area of your yard, garden or nearby open space for growing edible weeds. A little bit of care-taking can go a long way for these species. For example, dandelions grown in a prepared bed will grow much larger, less bitter and overall more palatable.
With these ideas in mind, you will be on your way to collecting some tasty wild edible weeds in no time! In time, your thoughts on exactly what can be called a "weed" may take on a dramatic transformation.
Mixing and matching flavours for a salad:
When making a wild salad, always choose the luchious and healthiest bits of the plant.
When mixing a wild salad it works best if you think about the individual flavours that you are picking. Below is a list of plants in groups. It works best if you choose a couple of herbs from each group. You can also check out the dressings recipes and add one or more of these to accompany your salad.
Tip: Its best if the bitters do not make up more than 1/3 of the salad. You can however manage the bitters by adding something crsip, salty or fatty like a dressing or some seeds or nuts.
NOTE: Bitterness comes from alkaline chemicals which can be nutralised with sour or acidic ingredients like lemon, lime juice or vingar.
Bitters are good for digestive functio. They improve bile flow and increase digestive acid and saliva secretion to help breakdown and digest the things we eat.
MILD GREENS AND FLOWERS
Borage leaves and flowers
Chickweed leaves and stems
Cover flowers, broken up.
Brassicaceae leaves, and flowers and sprouts
Nasturtium leaves flowers buds and seedpods.
BITTER GREENS AND FLOWERS
Brassicaceae leaves, and flowers
Doc leaves (yellow)
Fushia flowers, well chopped
New zealand spinach
AROMATIC GREENS AND FLOWERS
Fennel leaves and seeds
Kawakawa leaves, well chopped used sparingly.
New zealand mint
Scented pelargonium flowers
Sweet william petals
Tue koau leaves
wild celery leaves
wild jasmine flowers
wild parsley leaves
Honey suckle petals
CRUNCHY JUICY GREENS
ONIONY GREENS AND FLOWERS
Onion weed leaves and flowers
Spring onion and flowers
There are many different kinds of seaweeds which are considered edible, and only a few to avoid. Many of us, even those who have not eaten seaweed in its regular form have consumed it in the form of carrageenan. This is a food additive, most commonly used as a thickener, and is added to beers, ice cream, vegetarian hotdogs, soy milk and many other products, even toothpaste!
What are seaweeds?
Seaweeds are a type of complex algae, and most of them grow from an attachment on rocks or the sea floor. One of the exceptions to this is Sargasso seaweed, a ubiquitous floating seaweed found especially in the Sargasso sea. Some grow as thin, sheet-like mats covering rocks. Others form hair-like filaments that wave with the movement of the water. The most famous are the giant seaweeds such as giant kelp and bull kelp, which can grow to well over 100 feet long!
Where to start?
Edible seaweeds are most abundant along temperate coastlines, especially on rocky shorelines. Do some research in a local field guide to find out what some of the most common species are in your area. Learn about and sample one at a time. Take it slow, eat a very small amount at first, and watch how your body responds to this new wild food.
But before you even harvest any remember to verify the following things:
First, is this area relatively pristine? You don't want to eat seaweeds from polluted areas. Second, what are the local laws regarding harvesting seaweeds? In some places, harvesting is highly regulated and likely rightfully so in order to protect them from over-harvesting. Respect laws and only harvest where permitted or acquire the appropriate permits and permission to do so.
When harvesting, cut seaweeds so that you leave the base/attachment intact. This will allow it to regrow.
Common Edible Seaweeds
Here are some of the best species to start with as you learn more about seaweeds:
Porphyra - Also called "nori" or "laver." This is a common, purple-green, sheet-forming seaweed that grows from attachments on exposed rocks. It contains high levels of vitamin B12.
Fucus - Also known as "bladderwrack" for the little pods present on their fronds. Species in this group have been shown to contain a wide-variety of minerals and essential proteins. Some have argued this is one of the few "complete foods" on the planet. These seaweeds contain iodine, which can cause allergic reactions in those sensitive to iodine.
Egreria menziesii - Also called "feather boa kelp." This aptly named seaweed looks like a brownish version of the more familiar feather boas.
Nereocystis luetkeana - More commonly known as "bull kelp" or "bullwhip kelp." This giant kelp species has one long stalk with a singly, bulbous bladder filled with gas to help it float. From this bladder, there is a series of soft, elongated fronds. This species can be turned into kelp pickles.
The only seaweeds to avoid are those belonging to the "acid kelp" group, especially the Desmarestia genus. These seaweeds contain sulfuric acid, which they release when damaged. It may be enough to cause upset stomach at the very least.
Do not eat any seaweed you haven't positively identified with the help of an expert or multiple field guides. Also, be cautious when trying positively identified edible seaweeds for the first time. This is true for any new wild edible, as everyone's body is different, so all wild edibles must be approached with care and eaten in moderation.