Carnation petals add a pleasant sweetness to many dishes. They have a sweet, mildly peppery, and tangy flavor. Learn how to choose and prepare edible carnations.
Can Carnations Be Eaten?
Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) flower petals are edible, sweet, and have a mild nutmeg and clove flavor. Some people describe the flavor as peppery and tangy. Carnation stems are poisonous.
Carnation petals have been distilled for use in the French liqueur chartreuse since the seventeenth century. Carnation petals can be sautéed or candyed and used as a garnish for a variety of dishes and desserts, including soups, cupcakes, sorbets, and ice creams.
How to Identify Edible Carnation Petals
Carnation flowers in garden centers and florist bouquets have most likely been treated with pesticides and herbicides that render them unfit for human consumption. Instead, look for a specialty grower who labels their plants as edible flowers.
How to Prepare Carnation Petals
The carnation petals are the only edible part of the plant. Cut the petals away from the white base of the flower and discard the stamen and sepals before using edible carnations in cooking. The petals should be washed in cool water and dried with paper towels.
4 Culinary Uses for Carnation Petals
Here are a few ideas for using carnation petals in your cooking:
1. Sprinkle the petals on salads. After you've prepared the carnation petals, combine them with chopped butter lettuce, arugula, thinly sliced fennel, mandarin slices, and dried cranberries in a salad. Before chilling aspics (savory gelatins), cooks frequently add edible carnations to the bases.
2. Decorate ice cream. Carnation flowers, candied or plain, add visual interest to frozen dairy desserts like ice creams and sorbets. Sprinkle the petals on top and serve.
3. Make candy carnation petals. Candied flower petals enhance the sweetness and color of pastries, desserts, syrups, and jellies. To candy the petals, apply a whisked egg white with a pastry brush, then sprinkle with superfine confectioners' sugar. Let them dry on a piece of parchment paper.
4. Combine the petals with the petals of other edible flowers. Mix carnation petals with rose petals and the edible parts of borage, anise, bachelor's button, coriander, chicory, honeysuckle, marigolds, nasturtiums, snapdragons, dandelions, lilacs, hibiscus, pansies, and violets when decorating baked goods or garnishing a plate.