Although edible flowers have become common garnishes in restaurants, it's important to know what you're putting into your mouth. Not all flowers are edible, and not all food purveyors are aware of the potential toxicity of some. The most common (and safest edible flowers) are nasturtium, pansy, violet, Johnny-jump-up, calendula, chive, and sage. These flowers are easily grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Many roses are delicious, but you need to be sure they are grown organically. A good rule of thumb is: If you cannot positively identify a flower as edible, don't eat it.
Pansies span every color of the rainbow, so you can have fun decorating food. Plan a party months ahead and grow pansies to match your decor, best outfit, or favorite color. Their flavor is slightly minty.
Nasturtiums may be vivid yellow, orange, or red as well as muted tones and bicolors. Both the leaves and the flowers have a peppery flavor and are best eaten uncooked. Toss petals into salads.
Roses may be tasteless, sweet, perfumed, or slightly spicy. Chop the petals and mix with sugar. Let them infuse for a week and use for baking and desserts.
Continued on page 2: Colorful Alternatives