There's undeniable wildness in the energy of spring. The birds are courting, the flowers are beckoning and the bees are burrowing to tuck into reservoirs of nectar. Makes one want to jump in, no? Well, we may not have the equipment for drinking from flowers, but we can certainly indulge in their petals. Cross our hearts, there's no mealtime occurrence that can make one feel quite so perfectly, cleanly untamed as eating flowers, and many of the ones emerging now are safely consumable! Read on to discover 5 edible spring flowers you may want to pop into salad or atop a cake this spring season.
**Before we get started, remember that you should never ingest flowers that have been treated with fungicide or pesticide. This means that for the most part you should not ingest flowers that have come from florists, garden centers or nurseries, and you should not eat flowers that you pick on the side of the road. If you are unsure about whether or not a flower has been treated with chemicals, do not eat it. Your best bet is to grow edible, organic blossoms yourself or find some at a local farmer's market.**
1. Violas, vIOLETS & pansies (Viola spp.)
Some of the first flowers we see (they abound in spring containers), the hardiness and friendly "faces" of pansies and violas make them favorites for brightening up cool weather spring gardens. Violets are also prolific reproducers (often treated like weeds) and they love to pop up in the lawn. Look out your window, you may see some!
Flavor: Sweet, perfumed
Notable Recipe: Pansy Shortbread Cookies
2. tULIPS (Tulipa spp.)
Tulips are one of the joys of spring, with their elegant stem, upright habit and graceful blossom. Eat only the petals and discard the stamens. Some are allergic to tulips, so if contact with the flower causes a rash or numbness, don't put it in your mouth (generally a good rule for anything that causes a rash or numbness). However, for those who are lucky not to be allergic, organic tulip petals can be used as a garnish or in salads.
Flavor: Ranging - vegetal, like sweet lettuce, sometimes with a peppery endnote
Notable Recipe: Goat's Cheese Dip in Tulip Petals
3. Eastern rEDbUD (Cercis Canadensis)
Redbuds are trees that make you feel bad for forgetting about them all year long. In the spring, their pink-purple blossoms coat the branches so that they look positively electric and seem to vibrate with color. Fascinatingly, the redbud is actually a member of the Leguminosae, or Pea family. Don't believe us? Just wait until you taste the blossoms. Be patient and wait past the bud stage, but don't nod off! It's best to eat the flowers when they're freshly opened.
Flavor: Pea-like, pleasantly sour aftertaste
Notable Recipe: Redbud Syrup
4. LILACS (Syringa spp.)
Like the Eastern Redbud, the Lilac is another tree of an unexpected lineage: it is part of Oleaceae, the Olive family! Lilac is one of the most highly anticipated scents of spring. The fragrant purple flower towers are olfactory powerhouses, with an intoxicating aroma that carries a significant distance. Their flavor is also strong, and can leave a feeling of astringency (drying out) in the mouth, so small portions are the best way to go.
Flavor: Lemony with floral pungent overtones, bitter
Notable recipe: Raw Lilac Cheesecake (dairy free)
5. aPPLE bLOSSOMS (Malus pumila)
Apple blossoms are beautiful for their modest form and their gentle fade from sweet pink bud to white-petaled blossom. Eat these in moderation as they contain amygdalin, a compound that degrades into hydrogen cyanide when metabolized. Lucky for us, the body can detoxify cyanide in small doses - a process your body has likely already performed if you have ever eaten an apple seed or two. Amygdalin is also found in the pits of apricots, peaches and plums.
Flavor: Delicate and floral
Notable Recipe: Apple Blossom Jelly
Forage on, bold forager! And if none of the above recipes are appealing, remember that you can always just make crystallized sugar flowers out of any bloom you like (here's a vegan version).
Do you have any experiences eating edible flowers? Has this post inspired a foray into flower-based cuisine? Let us know in the comments!
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