At the farmer's markets in San Francisco right now, we're seeing a lot of the salad vendors selling edible flowers mixed in the salad bags. Edible flowers are not only colorful and pretty to look at, but they also taste good.
Edible flowers can be purchased in the salad and herb section of many supermarkets and specialty stores. You can also grow your own. Proper identification is important when dealing with flowers. If you don't know if it's edible or not, don't eat it until you've looked it up or confirmed it with someone knowledgeable. Select flowers that have been grown without pesticides, pick them early in the day, and use them at their peak for best flavor. Flowers grown at nurseries or sold in florist shops are not for human consumption.
Some people may develop upset stomachs or allergies to edible flowers, particularly people with pollen allergies. New flowers should be introduced to your diet in small amounts to see how your body reacts to them. Remove the stems, pistils, and anthers as they may have a bitter taste. The petals are fine to eat.
Edible flowers are high in vitamins A & C. They can be used in salads, soups, or as garnishes; candied, or preserved in jams, jellies,syrups, and infusions.
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(Images: Kathryn Hill)