There are few things more appealing than having a multisensory food experience. When flavor, texture, appearance, fragrance, and beauty come together on your plate—the result is sheer culinary delight. One fantastic way to elevate the loveliness of a dish is with edible flowers, which are used in various cultures worldwide.
Beyond adding a dash of whimsy to the plate, edible flowers have also been traditionally used for their potential health benefits. “Flowers that you can eat—like nasturtiums, hibiscus, lavender, and dandelions, among others—often have some therapeutic benefit,” says nutritionist Ginger Hultin, M.S., RDN, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep. “They contain vitamins, minerals, and are a source of fiber.”
Edible flowers, or flowers that are grown in a food-safe, pesticide-free manner, can be a nutritious complement to your meal (usually, the more intensely colored flowers, the better). “They boast beneficial plant-derived compounds, like phytonutrients, that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN.
When it comes to gut-friendly blooms, “studies on edible flowers’ direct impact on human health are lacking, but some flowers have compounds that may offer some digestive relief,” says Knudsen. Time-honored herbal remedies such as chamomile, chicory, fennel, and lavender have been used to relieve indigestion and soothe other gastrointestinal-related issues. “All of these edible flowers are commonly consumed as herbal teas, or dried flowers steeped in hot water, which can also be a way to reap their digestive benefits,” Knudsen adds.
Whether you are a seasoned gardener or an innovative cook, these healthful blooms can add a touch of brightness to any dish or drink—and they may offer some perks for your belly, too: