Big, showy flowers are nice. They make great table decorations, but when it comes to edible blooms, I prefer the smaller, more modest flowers of certain herbs. They make excellent teas and work well in desserts and cocktails. Some of my favorite edible herb flowers are lavender, sage, and chives.
Using Herbal Flowers
Most people grow herbs for their leaves, but I also enjoy many of the flowers. They offer a unique flavor and also have some medicinal properties. One of my absolute favorite cups of tea is chamomile, which not only relaxes me before bed but also soothes an upset stomach. Here are some of my other top herbal flower uses in the kitchen:
- Lavender. Collect and dry lavender buds before they fully open. I use them to make a light, relaxing tea, but also in cocktails and cookies. Simmer a cup of water with two cups of sugar and three tablespoons of dried flowers to make a syrup for cocktails. For cookies, I love to throw the dried blooms in a sugar cookie recipe with some lemon zest.
- Chives. Chive stalks are tasty and versatile with a light onion flavor, but don’t neglect the flowers. The round, purple blooms are great in salads when they’ve just started to bloom. When in full bloom, these flowers have a strong flavor, so use sparingly.
- Basil. I used to simply pinch off basil flowers to keep the leaves coming, but now I use them too. They are great in desserts with fruits, like poached pears or apple crisp.
- Sage. The unique flavor of sage flowers is tasty fresh in salads, although strong and pungent. They are also tasty in fruit desserts, including fresh fruit salad, and in marinades for savory dishes.
- Calendula. The bright, orange-yellow petals of calendula are tasty in savory dishes and impart their color, much like pricier saffron. I add them to cooking rice for color and flavor, and fresh over the top of a stir fry.
- Dill. Dill is one of my most favorite herbs, but I only recently tried the flowers. They were delicious in a cold vegetable soup I made and a cucumber salad.
Picking and Storing Herb Flowers
Most edible herb flowers are best harvested and used before they have opened all the way, with some exceptions like calendula. Experiment with blossom stage to decide how you prefer the flowers. You may like the more intense taste you get with open blooms.
Some of these you will want to use fresh, but dried flowers are often preferable when using herbal flowers. For instance, tea and simple syrups are best made from the dried blooms. Simply pick off individual flowers and let them dry fully in a paper bag before storing in airtight containers. They’ll last a long time this way.