Edible flowers are as pretty as can be in the garden, and they add both flavor and color to any dish served up in the kitchen.
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. Also, if you have asthma, hayfever, or other allergies, do not eat flowers.
Never eat flowers from a nursery, garden center, or florist; they are likely to have chemical residues that concentrate in the flowers.
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. Try this flower baked into a cookie, as a salad additive, or as a wintergreen-tasting dessert garnish.
Nasturtiums are one of the most commonly eaten flowers. The flower 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, top a sandwich, or make a spicy appetizer.
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Roses not only look beautiful in a bouquet, but pair well in some delicious dishes. 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.
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Tulips have a wonderful crunch, especially at the base of the petals. The flavor ranges from pea- to beanlike. Use tulip petals as a low-calorie substitute for chips with dip. Be cautious, though—the bulbs on this lovely flower are NOT edible.
Pinks and other dianthus have a sweet, clovelike taste. Do not eat whole—remove individual petals. Infuse petals in water for tea, or top a cracker and cheese with several petals. This flower also makes a delectable sorbet.