Though most people think of flowers as ornaments for the home or garden, many of them are in fact edible. Lavender buds can be pressed into cookies, the essence of roses is used to make Turkish Delight, and Nasturtiums brighten up a summer salad with their peppery orange blossoms. There are dozens of edible flowers to choose from and when used fresh they add a beautiful and colourful element to both sweet and savoury dishes. But if you’d like to preserve the flowers for longer, one of the prettiest ways to do so is to crystallise them in sugar.
Primroses are one of the most common and beautiful spring flowers and they also happen to fall into the edible category. Though personally I don’t think they taste like much on their own, when coated with sugar they transform into a beautifully sweet and natural decoration that can be used on desserts and cakes.
Primroses are low-growing plants with rough, tongue-like leaves. The colour of the flowers may vary but they’ll likely be a creamy yellow with a darker yellow centre if you find them growing wild in the countryside. You may well have them growing in your garden as well and in that case they can be pink, purple, white, or a range of other colours. All colours of primrose are edible.
How to Crystallise Flowers Egg wash – lightly beat the white of one egg with a teaspoon of cold water Edible flowers and leaves – I’m using Primrose flowers and Peppermint leaves Sugar – fine textured white or brown granulated sugar will do. Icing/powdered sugar is not suitable. 1. If you’re sure the flowers are clean don’t bother washing them. If you do wash them then you must let the flowers dry completely before continuing. 2. Using a clean paintbrush that has never been in contact with potentially toxic substances (think oil paint), paint the egg wash on a flower. Make sure to coat the entire surface, both front and back.
3. Pour 1/4 cup of sugar into a bowl and once the flower is coated in egg wash, place the flower in with the sugar. Coat as much of the flower’s surface as you can then take it out and place the flower face-down on a tray lined with baking/kitchen paper. Leave to try for between 1-2 days; primroses take about a day to stiffen up but some of the thicker flowers and leaves will take longer.
4. Once hardened, use the flowers to decorate cakes, cupcakes, and desserts. You can also crystalise Primroses well in advance since they can last for up to a year if stored in a dark, dry place. These flowers are also so pretty that they’re perfect for decorating a spring cake or even being packaged up in tissue paper and given to a friend as a gift.
If you’ve used light coloured icing, like I have on my cake, edible leaves, such as Peppermint, create a nice backdrop for the flowers. You could even use them to recreate a rosette of Primroses like you’d find growing outside in the spring sunshine.
Other Edible Flowers
This is not a comprehensive list and if you have experience with another flower please let us know about it in the comments section below
Angelica – celery flavoured
Borage (Starflower) – cucumber flavoured
Burnet – lightly flavoured like cucumber
Calendula (Pot marigold) – lightly peppery
Carnation (Pink) – spicy and anise-like
Chamomile – light apple flavour. Use only the flowers.
Chives – onion flavour
Gladioli – lettuce flavour
Hollyhock – no definable flavour
Impatiens – no definable flavour
Jasmine – sweet and floral
Lavender – fragrant and floral
Lilac – lemony and floral
Nasturtium – peppery
Pansy – lightly sweet to tart
Primrose – lightly sweet to no flavour
Rose – sweet and aromatic. Use only the coloured parts of the petals
Runner and Climbing Beans – crisp and bean-like
Scented Geraniums – faintly citrusy
Snapdragon – no flavour to bitter
Squash & Pumpkin Flowers – sweet
Sunflower – may be slightly bitter but adds a lot of colour
Violet – sweet and floral
Sources for edible flower information: