Are edible flowers a foodservice trend to watch?

Jasmine Lee-Zogbessou 21st September 2018 (Last Updated September 21st, 2018 11:02)

One trend expected to be fully included in organic products and restaurants this year is edible flowers. However, is this aesthetic addition to the menu something that diners actually want?

Are edible flowers a foodservice trend to watch?
Edible flowers served in restaurants is a growing, organic trend. Credit: Pixabay.

Organic September has shone a light on a range of emerging trends, from root to stem vegetable use to grass-fed meat. One of the trends expected to be fully included in organic products and restaurants this year is edible flowers. However, is this aesthetic addition to the menu something that diners actually want?

A survey conducted by GlobalData last year found that 45% of consumers globally like to experiment with new and unusual flavours. In addition, 60% of consumers globally believe that botanicals and plant extracts have a positive impact on their health. However, this belief is more prominent among younger participants – 62% of millennials compared to 41% of seniors.

GlobalData associate consumer analyst Charles Sissens says: “Consumers are drawn to edible flowers as they are a way to make their home meals appear more beautiful. This also sparks more creativity – something high end restaurants continuously strive to achieve – it’s all about standing out.”

“TV shows such as MasterChef and Great British Bake Off have been the primary driver for this success, as well as instagrammable food where online chefs are using flowers to garnish food, thus making it more appealing to the eye and more inspiring. This is definitely tailored towards high end, premium and Michelin starred [restaurants].

“It’s all about making [dishes] more beautiful, for restaurants, this is something they can use. Some of the flowers are really sweet in flavour, edible flowers is both a flavour thing and a colour thing. The increased availability of edible flowers will surely encourage more restaurants across the food space to adopt the same tactic,” says Sissens.

How useful are edible flowers?

There are multiple edible flower variants including monkey flowers, viola, lavender, pansies and dianthus. One particular dish highlighted for the use of edible flowers within restaurants is salads. While often a side dish, the addition of flowers turns this meal into the centrepiece.

Joint managing director at ingredients supplier EHL Ingredients Tasneem Backhouse said: “Edible flowers are appearing with increasing frequency on restaurant menus and beauty, fragrance and taste all play a role in their popularity as an ingredient. Edible flowers make a perfect decoration for food photos for the Instagram generation and bring powerful flavours to dishes.

“Eye-catching, colourful flower petals and buds including lavender, elderflower, rose, and violets, make a great addition to cakes, biscuits and bakery items, as well as on vibrant salads, side dishes and fruit desserts. They also enhance cocktails, smoothies and tea drinks.

“It’s certainly a trend to watch and while it may be more suited to the spring and summer months, we see it as something that will be popular all year round in restaurants.”

Not everyone is as positive about the trend though. Drogo Montagu founder of online distributor Fine Food Specialists, which provides edible flowers to premium food outlets, believes the edible flowers trend isn’t substantial.

“From what I’ve heard in the industry, a lot of mid-end restaurants are garnishing every dish with flowers thinking they are enhancing dishes when in fact good food does not need pretty things to elevate it. So I’ve heard a lot of customers are not impressed rather than impressed by this,” says Montagu.

Where can diners experience the edible flowers trend?

Diners can look to experience the trend for themselves in South American and Mexican-inspired restaurant Breddo’s Tacos, Peruvian cuisine Lima Floral, London-based fine dining restaurant, Sketch and Carousel, a restaurant in London that changes its chefs and cuisine frequently.

Lima Floral incorporates pansies with braised octopus on its menu, Sketch offers gardens of flowers inside its restaurant and hibiscus flower baba, which is cake soaked in rum and flower syrup. Carousel serves dandelion ice cream in a waffle cone.

Breddo’s chef Nud Dudhia told the Evening Standard that the edible flowers addition is all about flavour rather than aesthetics.

He said: “Flowers are used less as garnishes in the Americas and more as a means of extracting as much out of what produce you have to hand.”

The US state of California features multiple restaurants, which grow their own edible flowers on site. These restaurants include Single Thread Farms, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, Barndiva, Zazu Kitchen & Farm, Healdsburg Shed and Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant.