Food in Bloom: Edible Flower Season Winds Down

Categories: Chow Bella

​As the Average Joe and Jane become more interested in the culinary arts, gourmet trends like edible flowers are increasing in popularity. Just look at the number of lavender desserts that popped up in Phoenix last year: blueberry-lavender ice cream at Roy's, lavender streusel at Bourbon Steak, strawberry-lavender jelly sandwich cookies from Sweet Pea Bakery.

But if you think it's as simple as plucking a bud from the garden and throwing it into your cheesecake batter, you'd better be prepared for a mouthful of perfume. "Not all lavender is equal," says Desert Botanical Garden horticulturist Kirti Mathura. 

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Edible flowers and plants at this year's Devoured Culinary Festival.
​Certain hybrids and stronger wild lavenders are better suited to potpourri, while Mathura recommends English lavender for cooking. "I have friends who use [it] for tea or lemonade," she says. "One friend of mine makes shortbread cookies from lavender."

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A grab bag of local wildflowers from Arizona Homegrown Solutions.

​Of course, lavender isn't the only bloom you can use in cooking. Some of Mathura's favorites include Johnny jump-ups, calendula flowers and nasturtiums, which she describes as having a strong, spicy flavor.

As Curator of Shrubs and creator of the Steele Herb Garden exhibit, Mathura has also discovered some more unusual edibles like chuparosa and basil flowers. "Depending on the type of basil, you'll get a different taste," she tells New Times. "Cinnamon basil has flowers with a lot of nectar, which makes it very sweet."

​Where exactly do you find edible flowers if you aren't lucky enough to have some growing on your property or in your windowsill? 

Upscale grocery stores such as AJ's Fine Foods and Whole Foods sometimes stock edible flowers. Last week, Arizona Homegrown Solutions still had bags of edible wildflowers for $3 at the Phoenix Downtown Public Market.

Desert Botanical Garden also offers edible plants and flowers at their annual Spring and Fall plant sales (though you'll have to wait until November for the next one).

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