10 Ways to Eat Zinnias1
Zinnias are a beautiful flower. They’re super easy to start from seeds. Aaaaand (drum roll) they’re edible! On top of that, zinnias are a cut-and-come-again variety of flower, which means the more blossoms you cut, the more it grows and re-blooms. That means blossoms all season long – if that’s not sustainable harvesting, I don’t know what is!
I’ve known that zinnias are edible for a while now. I’m not sure how, but somehow I managed to get through all of last year without actually tasting a zinnia. I guess maybe I was feeling a bit nervous about eating a flower… which is strange, because I’m the girl who ate half a chili-covered grasshopper in middle school. (Don’t judge me… there was a triple-dog dare involved…)
This year I summoned all my curious courage and got right to tasting them. Turns out that eating zinnias is more about the “fun” than the “flavor” which is a tad bitter. After tasting them I was eager to find recipes to share with our members before distributing flowers. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any. None. At all. Not one zinnia recipe. There are plenty of websites that tout the fact that zinnias are edible, but none of them actually tell you how to cook with them!
So in response to the zinnia recipe crisis, our family has been busily testing recipes for over a month now. Before we get to the recipes (below) here are some tips for cooking with zinnias:
- Rinse the zinnias prior to use by running them under cool water from your faucet and then shaking them dry.
- Check for bugs when you pull the petals out. I know, it sounds gross. But they are flowers, after all.
- In most cases, the recipe is best if you remove the seed from the petal. When you pull the petals out, you’ll see the seeds attached to the end. More mature seeds are dark (black) and immature seeds are light (white). We tried these recipes both with and without seeds. The only recipe where it seemed to make a significant difference was the Zinnia Tea recipe. (Do not make the tea with seeds.) However in general, we preferred to eat them without the seeds, which can be easily separated from the petals by hand.
Of all ten recipes, hopefully your family will find a favorite! We love the garden tacos and zinnia limeade. I also really enjoyed the cheese ball. If you try any of them, please come back and leave us a comment about what you thought.
Remember – cooking with zinnias is more about the “fun” than the “flavor.” In several of these recipes the zinnias play a supporting role since they don’t add much flavor. What they do add is a little something different and unexpected. If you’re looking for something unique to bring to the next party or potluck, give these recipes a try!
10 Ways to Cook with Zinnias
You can track all of these recipes on Pinterest by clicking here.
Theses tacos have a practically-Hawaiian flavor to them. We really really (really) like them. A great way to try new veggies! And depending on the vegetables you serve as toppings, they’re almost as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat!
Zinnia Cheese Spread
Warning: This pretty cheese ball is no pansy – it’s got some kick to it! To mitigate or increase the spiciness try experimenting with the amount of onion and crushed red pepper flakes.
This tea has a mild flavor that reminds me of chamomile.
I made this one evening when my husband was working late (got home after I went to bed). In the morning I awoke to a letter that said “The limeade is so good… freaking good. I almost woke you up to tell you how freaking good it is.” I momentarily considered calling it “Katie’s Freaking Good Zinnia Limeade” but thought better of it.
I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but I think you may be able to re-use the strained lime zest, petals and mint for a second batch. I froze mine after straining and will let you know how it goes once I have a chance to try it.
Garden Stir Fry
The flowers can be a little bitter in this recipe, but the ginger compliments the taste. We eat this stir fry over rice with soy sauce. Practically any garden vegetable can be added or substituted.
Deep Fried Zinnias
These have almost a nutty taste that reminds me of sesame seeds. My guess is that the flavor comes from the seeds. But mostly, it’s fried salty goodness.
Zinnia as Salad Garnish
This is the simplest way to “cook” with zinnias. And, after finding the deep void of zinnia recipes online, this is probably the way most aspiring zinnia connoisseurs eat the flower: As a garnish. Or maybe they don’t eat it at all… its awfully pretty sitting there at the top of any salad, but here’s a salad we really like.
Local Fruit Salad
Guess what? You can make this fruit salad with a variety of in-season, local fruit. Substitute the fruits you find in your neck of the woods.
In the movies, breakfast in bed always comes with a tiny vase of flowers. Why not skip the vase and put the flowers in the breakfast? We had fun using the petals to make a new flower shape in the pancake. Berries or bananas make excellent “centers” for your flowers. Write your name, make patterns… or just sprinkle them on.
Pasta de Zinnia
Disclaimer: I did not create this recipe. I tried several times to create an amazing pasta dish but never quite came up with something that tasted… amazing. However, I did enjoy the texture of the zinnia petals in each dish. So I’ve thrown in the white petals, er, flag. Here is a recipe that would be excellent with zinnia petals sprinkled on top: Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter. Try zinnia petals – especially white ones – on any of your favorite pasta dishes.
On a side note, Ryan said he liked one of the recipes I tried. Maybe if I perfect it, I’ll amend this post with a true Pasta de Zinnia recipe. Stay tuned!