How to Use Edible Flowers in Salads, Cocktails, and More

Normally, this is where we’d write something clever about April showers bringing May flowers, but honestly, we’re so entranced by the incredible array of edible blooms available at farmers’ markets these days that we can’t come up with suitable wordplay.

Instead, we’re just hungry: We’re gazing at these treasure troves of riotous colors and shapes– saffron petals bursting from knobbly centers; fat, foppish blossoms in vibrant crimson; long stems dripping with tawny blooms–and finding ourselves deeply curious about their distinctive flavors. I mean, we’ve eaten plenty of fried zucchini blossoms and the occasional sugared rose, but what to do with arugula flowers and Sichuan buttons?

We’ve rounded up a selection of 8 flowers that you can find at your local market or gourmet store right now, and we asked David Kinch, chef-owner of Manresa in Los Gatos, CA, and Dan Kluger, executive chef at ABC Kitchen in New York, to share their insights on cooking with each variety.

Nasturtiums

Scientific name: Tropaeolum

Flavor profile: Slight sweetness, pepper, spice, bitterness

Growing in an array of flirtatious hues, the exotic-looking nasturtium packs an equally vibrant flavor that starts out slightly sweet before developing into a peppery, spicy finish. It’s been Kluger’s favorite flower to work with, ever since a chef at Jean-Georges introduced him to a simple nasturtium vinaigrette made with shallots, vinegar, and oil poured over a halibut dish. “You get a little bitterness from it, which really works with the vinegar,” he says. “The flavor isn’t incredibly strong, but it kind of infuses the vinegar with that beautiful orange color and specks of flowers.”

Szechuan Buttons

Scientific name: Acmella oleracea

Flavor profile:Electric!

Known as “buzz buttons”, these sunny Brazilian buds can play tricks on unsuspecting eaters. The flavor quickly turns from an initial grassiness to, well, not a flavor at all: just pure, electric tingling akin to “licking a car battery,” as Kinch puts it. Kluger says, “We played around with them on a couple of dishes, but we found that, for our food, they’re too strong.” Although the flowers do impart a slight acidic taste, they’re more often used as an effect, for the sensations they induce–or as a home remedy for toothaches.

Mustard Flowers

Scientific name: Of the Brassicaceae family

Flavor profile: Spice, bitterness, mustard

With a flavor and texture similar to broccoli rabe, mustard florets are an approachable gateway bud for those first experimenting with edible flowers. Use them whenever you want to zest up a dish with some, well, mustard notes. “They add a nice bitterness and punch without adding a vinaigrette,” Kluger explains. “Right now, we do an asparagus salad with a mustard vinaigrette, and I think sprinkling those in and making the vinaigrette less mustard-y would complement the salad really well.” Plus, they look really pretty.

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How to Use Edible Flowers in Salads, Cocktails, and More