Top 10: Flowers & Herbs Used in Desserts

After falling out of favor for a long time, flowers are back in the kitchen! While edible flowers have been used for years in cooking or as decorations for various dishes, incorporating herbs to create sweet and savory

Eat Your Garden: Gourmet Flowers & Savory Herbs in Sweets!

After falling out of favor for a long time, flowers are back in the kitchen! While edible flowers have been used for years in cooking or as decorations for various dishes, incorporating herbs to create sweet and savory recipes is a top trend in 2015. Today, many restaurant chefs and innovative home cooks are using edible flowers and herbs to enhance dishes with color, texture and intriguing flavors, as well as decoration for cakes and other desserts. The secret to success when using such ingredients is to keep it simple so that other flavors do not overpower the subtle tastes these flowers offer.

Because they are easy to grow, many edible flowers and herbs can be picked straight from the garden. Here is a list of the most popular ones to keep in mind for mouth-watering dessert recipes:

1. Lavender

Flavor: Lavender has a distinctive floral taste with hints of its botanic relatives, mint and rosemary. It is a great spring flavoring and tastes excellent with lemon or honey.

Uses: While lavender sugar is a great ingredient for biscuits, sorbets, jams or jellies, its flower is commonly used for baking or to serve as a decoration with desserts. Lavender tastes and smells best in chocolate cakes, cookies and brownies.

Recipe to Try: Chocolate Lavender Gelato Sandwiches

2. Dianthus

Flavor: Most Dianthus have a pleasant spicy, floral, clove-like taste, especially the more fragrant varieties.

Uses: The petals will add zest to ice cream, sorbets, fruit salad and dessert sauces. Remove the white heel at the base of the petal to avoid a bitter taste. They are ideal for decorating or adding to cake finishes.

Recipe to Try: Strawberry Dianthus Sorbet

3. Thyme

Flavor: Spicy with a minty edge, thyme has the ability to neutralize overpowering ingredients or heighten their sweetness.

Uses: Pairs well with fruits and adds a savory touch to tarts, mousses and semifreddo.

Recipe to Try: Apricot-Thyme Semifreddo

edible flowers4. Basil

Flavor: Basil holds a mildly peppery flavor with hints of mint and clove, and offers many healthy attributes while making tasty treats.

Uses: When infused in custards or paired with mint, basil is great for flavoring refreshing summer desserts, as well as granite, and fresh or frozen Greek yogurt.

Recipe to Try: Peach-Basil Granita

5. Citrus Trees

Flavor: Citrus flowers offer an aromatic scent and irresistible flavor, and are an appetizing complement to many different foods such as stir-fries and puddings.

Uses: They are ideal for crystallizing and decorating desserts, and for flavoring tea or coffee cakes.

Recipe to Try: Orange Blossom Madeleines

6. Rosemary

Flavor: A member of the mint family, rosemary has an earthy, pine-like flavor with flowers that taste like a milder version of the herb.

Uses: Mix with fruits such as apple or ingredients for compotes and sorbetto recipes. Rosemary also enhances the flavor of ganache and cakes. When used as a garnish, rosemary is an attractive choice to add more pizazz to finished desserts.

Recipe to Try: Lemon and Rosemary Tart

7. Anise Hyssop

Flavor: Also from the mint family, the edible flowers of the Anise Hyssop possess a fennel-like flavor with lighter anise accents than its leaves.

Uses: Great for infusions, frozen desserts, drinks and for tea-flavored dessert recipes.

Recipe to Try: Blueberry-Hyssop Ice Cream

8. Rose

Flavor: Rose petals have a delicate flavor that changes depending on its color. While lighter shades of roses have a sweeter taste, the darker ones offer a bitter flavor.

Uses: Roses are used primarily for fruit dishes, jams or drinks. They are also great for brewing tea. When crystallized, they make attractive cake decorations.

Recipe to Try: Rosewater Marshmallows

9. Violet

Flavor: Violet offers a powerful floral essence and sweet aromatic scent, and has earned esteem as one of nature’s greatest culinary assets. Another famous edible flower, violet is great for decorating.

Uses: Perfect for cooking and baking, violet also lends its zest to drinks as a syrup flavoring, and is used in jellies, puddings and tea cupcakes. The flowers are a refreshing inclusion for salads and wonderful garnish on desserts.

Recipe to Try: Earl Grey Violet Pannacotta

10. Pansy

Flavor: Though pansy petals are somewhat plain, the whole flower provides a lettuce, spearmint-like flavor.

Uses: The sweet miniature flowers can be crystallized and used to decorate cakes, cookies or creamy desserts. They are also commonly used in Jell-O or water-based frozen pops.

Recipe to Try: Bellini Pansy Frozen Pops

Growing edible flowers and herbs will ensure that they are clean, fresh and free from pests and disease. Keep in mind that not all flowers are edible. In fact, some flowers can cause illness, including variations such as Daffodil, Hydrangea, Tulip, Morning Glory, Primrose, Iris, Sweet Pea, and Lily of the Valley. Use garden-grown flowers and herbs as fresh ingredients that can then be sprinkled on desserts or added to sweet preparations to offer a classy-looking touch.