While edible flowers may be growing in popularity, we’ve actually been eating flowers for hundreds of years in the forms of broccoli and cauliflower florets. The eating and preparation of flowers can be traced back to Roman times, and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. Today, they are a common plate garnish at restaurants and addition of elegance to simple dishes.
Flower petals are a pretty and adventurous way to expand your culinary sights, and while not all flowers are edible, the ever popular carnation will elevate the look and taste of almost any dish. Carnations have a peppery flavor profile, almost on the verge of spicy without going all the way there. The miniature version of carnations, called dianthus, is akin to clove or nutmeg. Dianthus is one of the ingredients in the cinnamon-flavored French liqueur Chartreuse, a 17th-century alcohol made by Carthusian Monks.
Where to Buy Edible Flowers (& How to Prep Them)
It is important to remember that not all flowers are edible, and even sampling petals can make you very sick. So if you’re curious about a bloom, be sure to do your research before taste testing! Bouquets and boutonnieres from florists aren’t approved for human consumption unless labeled as such, so you’ll have to get your edible carnations from a speciality grocery store or grow your own. The risk is that they’ve been sprayed with a pesticide or herbicide, so it’s smart to stick with an organic petal if you’re eating it!
When you have the carnations you would like to cook with, you should first shake the petals out to remove any dirt or insects trapped inside. Remove the stamen, sepal, and style from the flower— these will be the opaque white and green stalky parts that attach the petals to the stem. They will make your dish bitter, along with the pollen found inside the stamen. Place the petals in a strainer submerged in a bowl of cool water, drain them, then lay them on a paper towel to dry. Sample a petal from each flower before adding to a recipe to ensure it is not too bitter. When storing, be sure to keep your carnations at the perfect temperature by sticking them in the fridge.
How and Where to Use Edible Carnations
Carnations have a lot of culinary applications; they can be steeped in wine, candied, pickled, or used as a syrup base for cocktails. They can be simply washed and dried, then added to a plate as an alone garnish. Carnations, because of their sweet-but-spicy flavor are great with rice dishes and beautiful additions to salads.
For a salad, chop baby butter lettuce, arugula, and spinach along with mandarin oranges and finish with a sprinkling of carnation petals to brighten the dish for a colorful summer spread. To candy petals and add them to desserts, such as cakes or cupcakes, brush with egg whites and douse in superfine sugar. Allow to dry on wax paper prior to use. Petals may also be sautéed and eaten with meats and veggies, a fairly easy task to accomplish. Chop the petals along with other herbs and mix into softened butter in a saucepan on low heat. Once warm, pour over cooked meat or vegetables.
Carnations also make a wonderful base for syrups which can be great for elevating ice cream sundaes or cocktails. To create this concoction, you’ll have to steep the flowers in sugar water. One cup of sugar to one cup of water over a medium-low flame, stir the sugar until it dissolves. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer then remove it from the heat. For a thicker syrup, use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. Add the carnation petals to a bowl and pour the hot syrup on top. Let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes; you’ll want to use about one cup of carnation petals. Let the mixture cool down and then strain. To get the mixture into a jar for safe keeping, it is easiest to use a funnel. Then, vioalá! A perfect simple syrup.
While edible carnations are versatile and surprisingly sweet, perfect in salads or aspics, they are far from the only edible flower. Clover, dandelions, hibiscus, lilacs, and beyond all have edible possibilities, limited only by your imagination. With the right research, your dished can become wild, colorful creations flavored by nature itself.
Buy Carnations at Bouqs
Although we don’t recommend eating the carnations in our Bouqs (remember what we said above!), a beautiful carnation bouquet would add the finishing touch to your romantic candlelit dinner, wouldn’t it? Well, you’re in luck–we have tons of options, and all are guaranteed to be freshly cut. Check out our selection and find the carnation Bouq that speaks to you.Shop All