The history, culture and use of edible flowers is explored in a fragrant new tome from Phaidon, Edible Flowers: How, Why, and When We Eat Flowers. Author Monica Nelson has joined forces with photographer Adrianna Glaviano on the definitive guide, which pairs recipes with personal essays and striking imagery of flowers, in environments from urban gardens to wild meadows.
‘The research was really nothing but a delightful journey of surprise,’ says Nelson. ‘Every flower I wrote about had a fact that revealed something new, either about the history of a place or the people that ate it or a herbal property. My favorite flowers to write about were ones that gave me a view into the indigenous culture of the Americas, like dahlia, sunflower, marigold – flowers that made the ‘old to new world’ trade routes and became iconic to other cultures; like sunflowers to Arles/Van Gogh, or marigold to Diwali in India.’
Catching her favourite flowers in bloom proved a challenge that took Nelson around the world. To capture okra’s single-day of bloom, she travelled to a Savannah, Georgia, community garden, for example.
Chefs, artists and writers, including Fanny Singer, Julia Sherman, Loria Stern and Laila Gohar, have contributed personal essays to the book, which takes a close look at 100 different flowers, organised alphabetically. ‘The proposal was written to include “flower eater” essays and recipes from contributors,’ Nelson adds. ‘The book would not function without them. The contributors are from a variety of disciplines and from around the world. I learned about so many new flowers from them and also let some of the contributions function as the flower entry itself, like for banana flower and mahua.
‘For the “flower eaters”, I left the call to writers very open-ended, and there are moments that range from political to cultural to very sweet and personal. The recipes are very accessible and written in casual paragraph form and often in the first person. The tone of these makes flowers seem really easy to bring into your life.’
As well as reference notes, the book gives an insight into each flower’s taste as well as its traditional and suggested uses. With such a wealth of information, where does Nelson think we should begin? ‘A beginner should always start with curiosity! Search every flower you come across with the added search term “edible?”. There are also pre-packaged flowers shelved near the fresh herbs at some stores.
‘You can start by treating edible flowers as you would cilantro or parsley – just sort of tossing over a cooked dish like rice, pasta, a cheese board, or in a salad as a bit of garnish. By eating them this way you’ll start to understand the flavour profiles and how they mix with other flavours, and then you’ll start thinking about the peppery quality of nasturtium and how to incorporate it into cooking.’
Edible Flowers: How, Why, and When We Eat Flowers is published by Monacelli
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.
Learn sustainable life skills at Common Knowledge’s County Clare retreat
The Common Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Living is a workshop retreat from the social enterprise team behind the Tigín tiny home project
By Lizzie Gore-Grimes Published
The Houses at 8899 Beverly offer options, sustainability and modernist nods
The Houses at 8899 Beverly by Olson Kundig is a collection of sustainable townhouses framing a midcentury area landmark in the West Hollywood Design District
By Carole Dixon Published
Schofield unveils its Light watch, typical of its cool, subtle design
British watch brand Schofield unveils the Light watch in two iterations, each with monochrome contrast dials
By James Gurney Published
René Redzepi, Mette Søberg and Junichi Takahashi on Noma’s new cookbook
Lifting the lid on Noma’s secrets, a new cookbook celebrates the pioneering restaurant’s season menus, and offers a deep dive behind the scenes
By Jeni Porter Last updated
60-Second Cocktails book shakes up summer happy hour at home
This 60-Second Cocktails book brings summer happy hour into your home with easy but sophisticated cocktail recipes and tips to guide even novice shakers
By Martha Elliott Last updated
New cookbook transforms horror movies into terrifying food art
Horror Caviar, the first cookbook from A24, features recipes inspired by horror movies, from creatives including Laila Gohar and Chloe Wise, alongside essays by Carmen Maria Machado, Stephanie LaCava, and more
By Mary Cleary Last updated
Match point: learn how to properly pair food and wine
Learn a thing or two about fine cooking and wine selection with this new book from the London Club
By Melina Keays Last updated
Fragile Self’s multi-platform debut album is a fervent fusion of sound and vision
The designer behind David Bowie's album covers has released a multimedia album exploring the history of psychology and the definition of ‘normality'
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith Last updated
The art of love: creative couples making it work in romance and business
Creative Couples: Collaborations That Changed History explores the unique bond between 15 creative couples
By Katie Meston Last updated
Chic peas: new art cookbook charts a history of hummus
On the Hummus Route traces a utopian track between cities, people, markets and dinner tables. It documents street food in nine Middle Eastern cities, including Cairo, Jerusalem, Gaza, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Damascus, and in doing so, offers a fascinating insight into the area's design, food, and culture
By Elly Parsons Last updated
Bauhaus bound: coffee table books that celebrate the school’s centenary
Publishers have spread themselves thin over the Bauhaus centenary – concrete-like, covering new ground. Everyone has found an innovative way to approach the subject, all the while republishing editions with updated introductions. It's been a big old year for Bauhaus – here are some of our favourite printed celebrations
By Melina Keays Last updated