Edible flowers are the ultimate luxury ingredient – delicate, transient and expensive. As social media drives ever more creative and unusual applications, we look at some of the most beautiful ways to enhance your dishes.
Perhaps the ultimate expression of plant-based diets, edible flowers are the culinary trend that continues to grow. Propelled by the rise in veganism, seasonal eating and local produce, floral garnishes are increasingly found adorning everything from signature cocktails and designer cakes to Michelin-starred meals. It’s not hard to see why: painters and poets have been inspired by the beauty of flowers for centuries, and now professional chefs are capitalising on them too.
It only takes a handful of flowers, a few minutes and a bit of imagination to create picture-perfect toasts which can be scaled from bite-sized appetisers to brunch-sized meals. Micro sorrel leaves, which have a lemony flavour and come in a range of beautiful colours, go well with caviar. Or try dark, velvety flowers like violas with autumn berries and goat’s cheese on sourdough.
Flowers don’t have to be used fresh – you can extend their life by drying, crystallising, pressing, pickling or freezing them. Make floral salts and sugars by mixing dried organic petals – like rose or jasmine – with pink Himalayan salt or good quality sugar, then dip the rims of your cocktail glasses in them to enhance your drinks with a delicately floral scent. Or just float a single flower on the surface of a finished cocktail – the fleshy ‘apple blossom’ begonia flower sits well in liquid and adds a fresh green-apple tang.
Nasturtium is a brilliant edible plant because the flowers, leaves and seedpods all have a vividly peppery flavour. Try infusing it into a fresh summer soup like tomato consommé for an extra kick. Courgette flowers are delicious fried and the perfect accompaniment to garden pea and courgette soup. Or make a chilled cucumber and herb gazpacho even more appealing with a scattering of lacy coriander flowers.
Toss almost any edible flower into a salad of baby leaves and micro herbs and you’ll instantly transform it into a thing of beauty. If you are low on blooms, just one flowerhead of something big like a dahlia will do – simply pull it apart into separate petals, sprinkle them over your leaves and pair the salad with a creamy burrata.
Scented pelargoniums come in a variety of flavours from citrus and rose to cola. For beginners you can’t go wrong with Attar of Roses, which is used across the world both as an ingredient and in perfume. The leaves make a heavenly rose-scented jelly, but it’s even easier to use them to infuse double cream, sugar and gelatine for a simple set cream that makes the perfect conclusion to a summer supper.
3 of the Best Online Edible Flower Suppliers
Founded by Michelin-trained chef Drogo Montagu, Fine Food Specialist dispatches a wide variety of culinary micro-herbs and flowers across the country from its base in New Covent Garden Market.
Westlands UKare suppliers to the country’s leading chefs and food stylists. Their range includes sea herbs and vegetables, all grown in specially designed glasshouses on the edge of the Cotswolds.
For an unbeatable selection of dried and pressed edible flowers – including beautifully coloured gladioli petals – try Aweside Farm, an organic smallholding run by Londoners Sinead and Adam.
3 of the Best Restaurants for Floral Creativity
Michelin-starred restaurant Carters of Moseley has moved its entire operation to its edible flower supplier Westlands UK (see above) for the summer, so their fresh produce reaches your plate in peak condition.
Peruvian-inspired Floral, in the heart of Covent Garden, is the sister restaurant of award-winning Lima London. Expect beautiful dishes and dramatic floral installations as well as some stunning cocktails.
Michelin-starred restaurants aren’t difficult to come by in France, but Allium in Quimper is particularly famous for its nouveau cuisine, which features a range of edible flowers and herbs in its presentations.
One of our highly recommended restaurants for Cantonese fare is MOTT 32. With global outposts in Las Vegas, Vancouver, Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Cebu and Seoul, we sampled their tasting menu at their original restaurant in Hong Kong, and it did not disappoint.
"Our cuisine is all about making the best use of seasonal ingredients. Because of this, we always strive to find the best ingredients according to the time of year,” explains Daisuke Hayashi, chef and owner of the first Kaiseki restaurant in London, Roketsu.
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