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Top Five Edible Flowers

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Let's get something out of the way: this post is not about fruit. Yes, I understand that much of what we consider to be fruit develops from the flowering part of the plant. But I'm talking about those botanical bits that people associate more with bouquets than with burritos. Here are five that I think deserve a more prominent place on our plates.

5. Dandelions. Dandelion greens have become more popular in the past decade, but I have yet to see the flower make a strong appearance in mainstream restaurants. The yellow blossoms can be made into a light-bodied wine, incorporated into salads, or battered and fried into fritters.

4. Pansies. Bright and multi-colored pansies are often relegated to mere garnishes, but the flower in its entirety can be the main event on hors d'oeuvres like canapes (e.g., atop a soft cheese or spread). Choose your flowers carefully, however, as the taste can range from bitter to tart to very sweet.

3. Roses. Although the hips are used more frequently in Western cuisine, I prefer the taste of fragrant petals in Indian food and drinks like Galub Jamun and rose milk. Houston bakers: I'll keep you in business if you offer lemon cupcakes with rose petal icing on a regular basis...

2. Marigolds. Also called "poor man's saffron," marigolds add a deep sunshine hue to food as well as reduce inflammation and improve digestion. Petals from the flower can be mixed into stir-fries and rice dishes to add spice, tanginess, or sweetness depending on the variety.

1. Violets. Candied violets are lovely edible decorations for cakes and pastries, and the French have done wonders with syrup made from the petals. I like sweet violet scones for afternoon tea and violet marshmallows in milky chai = liquid heaven.

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