As it turns out, flowers aren’t just a one-trick peony — they can be enjoyed both on and off the stem, especially in food and drinks.
While the concept of edible flowers is certainly trending, the practice is by no means new and has deep roots throughout history. Consumed by ancient herbalists and used by many civilizations during religious rituals, edible flowers have both a fascinating backstory and many practical (and yummy) uses to this day.
Amanda and Steven Harrell, the owners of Zephyr Family Farm in Apex, grow edible flowers as pollinators, pest deterrents, and to simply eat, sell, and enjoy.
“Roses, lavender, chamomile, and hibiscus are all flowers you might be familiar with in teas, but they are also super yummy fresh,” said Amanda Harrell. “Typically, a flower is going to taste a bit like it smells — so roses are sweet, whereas something like a marigold has more of a kick to it. And flowers don’t just have to be eaten raw; they can be smoked, fried, stuffed, or boiled into all sorts of tasty dishes. Plus, they’re good for you!”
According to Harrell, many traditional crops (collards and broccoli, for example) produce edible flowers as well, with unique flavors that are “reminiscent of their vegetable form, but a little softer and sweeter.”
“Right now we’re just about to start harvesting squash blossoms!” said Harrell. “These are amazing stuffed with cheese, or breaded and fried. There are a ton of ways to enjoy them.”
Harrell also recommends borage, an herb that produces small, bluish-purple flowers with a light cucumberish flavor that’s perfect for drinks, fruit salads, and desserts.
“Flowers from your grocery store floral section are not intended for consumption and are sprayed with pesticides that make them dangerous to eat,” advised Harrell. “So, when looking to eat flowers, make sure you’re sourcing them carefully. Since local farmers are your best chance of finding fresh, edible flowers, you should absolutely check out some of the area’s farmers markets! We sell at the Western Wake Farmers Market in Morrisville and the Moore Square Market in downtown Raleigh. The Cary Downtown Farmers Market is also lovely.”
To purchase edible flowers and other produce online from the Zephyr Family Farm, visit zf.farm.
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