Finding flowers on a dining table is not not surprising, but maybe you'd find yourself a bit curious if they were part of the meal.
Besides providing a wow factor for guests, edible flowers can add color and flavor to dishes.
"They're very nice just to spruce up a salad. But I've also seen where people will put them in a pancake mix or you can candy them and put them on top of a baked good or a pie," said Katherine Forsht of Flower Child Florals in Bakers Summit, Bedford County. "And some of them have more flavor than others do. Some of them are more just aesthetic, and some of them do have their own special flavor they add to it."
This photo of a dish of baby squash with blossoms on the end was submitted by Dawn Custer.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Katherine Forsht poses with some of the edible plants she sells at her Flower Child Florals in Bakers Summit.
Because some flowers and plants are poisonous, do your research before using any flower to prepare a dish.
Only eat flowers and plants recognized as edible, said Dawn Custer of Goodness Grows, a USDA-certified organic whole system farm in Bedford.
Also consider what has come into contact with a flower.
"When you do grow them, make sure it's an area that doesn't get sprayed, like if you're going to harvest the little violets from your yard, make sure you don't have a lawn service come in and spray your yard or anything like that," Forsht said.
A good resource for edible flowers is Johnny's seed company, www.johnnyseeds.com, Forsht said.
Rusty Baumgartel, emeritus master gardener, said many "excellent books" are available on the subject, including "Edible Wild Plants of Pennsylvania and Neighboring States," by Richard and Mary Lee Medve. The book includes sketches and recipes, she said.
Edible flowers are "delicious" and the majority "have a very delicate flavor," Custer said.
Okra flowers, nasturtium, red clover and violas are edible, she said.
Goodness Grows offers edible flowers year round, too, in the winter growing violas in a greenhouse.
"The nasturtium remind me of a spicy radish. In preparing (edible flowers) I don't typically cook them, Unless the squash blossoms I'm frying them, but I usually eat them fresh, uncooked in salads," she said. "The violas have a very delicate floral taste, and I would not say perfumy You can eat lavender flowers, those are edible, and again they have a very delicate floral flavor. ... And of course the squash blossoms they taste like squash only they're much more delicate. They're a delicate flavor of squash."
Squash blossoms are probably the most popular edible flower they sell, Custer said. She suggested checking the blossoms for bees in case one is still inside the blossom.
Another edible is the dandelion.
The dandelion plant is full of nutrients, and its roots make a "great coffee substitute," Baumgartel said.
"There's quite a variety of them," Forsht said of edible flowers.
Bachelor's Button is a "nice" edible flower, she said. "And lots of the herb flowers are edible, like chives. Chives have a very onion flavor to them. And sage flowers and mint flowers."
Flower Child Florals and Goodness Grows can be found at local farmers markets.
Baumgartel helps run her husband's handmade utensil business, Blueberry Hill Treenware, which has a Facebook page.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030. Follow her on Twitter (@Amanda Gabeletto), on Facebook (Amanda Gabeletto Altoona Mirror) or on her Mirror blog, "House of Gab," at www.altoonamirror.com.