These days, everyone can be a food photographer thanks to Instagram. In this social media-crazed era, it may seem like arranging everything you eat into aesthetically pleasing meals might be a lot of work for nothing. Or, maybe you are one of them in, which case we don’t judge you at all (seriously, all we have for you is admiration!).
If you have a busy life and making your salad pretty isn’t a top priority, then don’t worry! It’s totally possible to have the best of both worlds. You can have a salad that’s pretty on the eyes and the time to actually eat it. The key is edible flowers.
Not only are edible flowers a quick fix to making ordinary salads turn into appetizing culinary masterpieces that will impress guests and Instagram followers alike, they are also a nutrition powerhouse. Studies show that edible flowers contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc, as well as antioxidants like flavonoids, anthocyanins, and phenolic acids. All of which may contribute to preventing cancer and providing our bodies with inflammation-fighting fuel.
If you’re not convinced yet that adding edible flowers to your salads is worth the time and effort, know this: eating pretty food may actually make it taste better. Studies show that the way we perceive flavors is influenced by all five of our senses, including sight. This means that if you’ve been struggling with healthy eating, making your next salad look more appetizing might actually make it easier for you!
The good news is that you may have edible flowers in your garden already! Here are five flowers that you should definitely try to include in your next salad:
1. Squash Blossoms
Those delicate flowers also named “zucchini blossoms” originate from plants of the Cucurbita family which —you’ve guessed it—is comprised of squashes, zucchinis, and gourds. The blossoms, whose colors can range from soft yellow to pale orange, have a mild taste reminiscent of the vegetable they come from, although a bit sweeter. They make a perfect addition to any salad but they can also be cooked like in this amazing Simple Squash Blossom, Zucchini, and Cashew Cheese Toast recipe. However, you will reap more benefits if you enjoy them raw as these beauties are packed with vitamin A and vitamin C as well as minerals like calcium and iron.
The best way to find squash blossoms for your next salad is either in your garden (or a friend’s garden) or at your local farmer’s market. Their fragile nature makes them a delicacy best enjoyed the day of their picking. If you’re lucky enough to have them in your garden, pay attention to picking only the male blossoms as the female flowers will turn into a beautiful squash. The trick is to look for blossoms that grow on the outside of the plant as the female blossoms tend to stay at the center.
Whether you pick them out of your garden or not, always make sure to wash them gently and to look for any bugs that could have stayed inside the blossom. Then, try recipes like these Lemon Basil Cashew Cream Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, Okra and Corn Stuffed Squash Blossoms, and this Garlic Scape Pesto Potato Crust Pizza topped with squash blossoms.
Nasturtiums are an annual variety of garden flowers who range in color from yellow and orange to dark reds. Their bright hues are just what you need to make your salads pop with color. Nasturtiums make a good addition to any salad with their distinct peppery taste that may remind you of radishes or watercress. Although their beauty and unique taste are reasons enough to give them a chance, their nutritional content can’t be ignored either. Nasturtiums are a great source of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. They will also give you a nice dose of vitamin C and help you fight off infections as they have strong anti-bacterial properties.
If you want to add nasturtiums to your salads, you can find them in health food stores or at your local farmer’s market. They are an easy plant to take care of so you might want to include them in your garden if you don’t already have them. There’s nothing better than picking your garnishes off of your own garden, is there?
You probably remember this flower from your childhood games of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ but it turns out that daisies had a greater purpose than fortune telling all along! The flower buds and petals of this simple weed are not only great as a salad garnish, they’re also really nutritious. Daisies are packed with potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc! Who would’ve have thought?
You can find daisies at your local farmer’s market or health food shop but you can also pick them off in the wild. They grow easily and usually populate grassy places, meadows, and banks. You could also even have them growing on your lawn! They are considered a weed, after all. If you forage some wild daisies, just make sure that they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. Daisies from gardening centers or flower shops may also have been exposed to nasty chemicals, so keep that in mind.
This flower is great eaten raw but you can also put it in soups or sandwiches. Some people even pickle them to use as a substitute for capers.
Pansies come in many different colors, ranging from white, blueish, and purple tones to all sorts of yellow, orange and red hues. Their beauty lends itself well to salads, cakes, and desserts of all sorts. Adding them raw to your salads will without a doubt produce an aesthetically pleasing experience that is sure to impress your guests and stimulate everyone’s taste buds. Pansies have a slightly sweet flavor with a bit of tartness. Some say they have a taste reminiscent of mild wintergreen.
Not only are pansies beautiful, but they also provide quite a lot of nutrition. They are high in minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. Pansies were also found to contain a high amount of flavonoid which is a powerful antioxidant. Flavonoids amongst other things, help prevent heart disease and hypertension.
If you want to get your hands on those pretty, tasty, and healthy flowers, your best bet is in your own garden or at your local farmer’s market.
Sunflowers always catch our eyes with their tall stalks and big bright heads so it can only make sense that they would make a great addition to salads. You can use their leaves as greens, their yellow petals as a burst of sunshine in your salad, and their heads to have their seeds as a snack later. Talk about win, win, win! Their young stalks who taste a bit like celery can even be chopped up and added to your dish for some extra crunch. The petals on their hand bring a nice bittersweet taste that goes well with most salads.
As their seeds are a well known nutritious snack, it is no surprise that other parts of the plant have a great deal of health benefits. Sunflower petals are a good source of fiber, fatty acids, as well as phenolic acids which are a type of phytochemical. Including them in your next salad is a good idea if you want to get their antioxidant properties. You could even add some petals to this Butter Lettuce Wedges With Sunflower Seed Dressing, Pears and Tempeh Bacon salad recipe and get double the benefits.
You can find sunflowers at your local farmer’s market or you can also grow them in your own garden. They are beautiful, healthy, and tasty so you might want to plant them next year!
Want more information on edible flowers and gardening? Here are a few articles to get you started:
- From Backyard to Table: 4 Nutritious and Edible Weeds!
- A Quick Guide to Edible Flowers
- Here are the 5 Easiest Flowers to Plant
- A Beginners Guide to Conscious Gardening
- Why Vertical Gardening is Awesome and How to Do It for Next to Nothing
Looking for more recipes that use flowers? Try any of these!
This Maple and Lavender Cashew Ice Cream is made from a base of cashews and canned coconut cream that have sweetened with dark maple syrup. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try this Raw Chocolate Bark With Pistachios and Edible Flowers. Simply melt the base ingredients together, then top with edible flowers.
For breakfast, try something simple like this Simple Squash Blossom, Zucchini, and Cashew Cheese Toast — pro-tip, there are a lot of vegan cream cheeses on the market nowadays if you don’t have the time to make your own. For a light lunch or appetizer, squash blossoms are perfect! Try these Okra and Corn Stuffed Squash Blossoms or these Lemon Basil Cashew Cream Stuffed Squash Blossoms, a cheese-free take on goat cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms. For even more ideas on what to do with edible flowers, check out our vegan edible flowers recipes.
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Lead image source: Spring Salad With Carrots, Beets, and Flowers
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