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Impress Your Guests With Easy, Colorful Edible Flower Tartlets

Sprouting from a tart shell, Jacobo’s garden salads are embellished with pumpernickel “dirt” and goat cheese “snow.”

Dress up your dishes with the floral flavors of edible blooms.

By Christina Barrueta | Photography by Grace Stufkosky

Flowers have long been admired for their beauty and fragrance, but home gardeners are increasingly turning to edible varieties in their landscapes. Pansies, their vibrant hues ranging from deep purples to soft yellows, are not only visually appealing but also possess a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Violas, close relatives of pansies, offer a similar taste profile and come in an array of colors. Alyssum adds a subtle honey note; nasturtiums contribute a peppery zest; and calendula’s bright orange petals bring a hint of spice to the table. 

“Zinnias, bachelor buttons and dianthus are also pretty and make great decorations,” says Suzanne Vilardi, owner of Vilardi Gardens, a plant nursery that supplies local garden shops, retail nurseries, chef gardens and farmers markets. “Edible flowers make food beautiful, and that visual reaction affects our experience. Arizona’s halcyon season for the most popular flowers is about October to April, but many people don’t realize that a lot of the native plants in Arizona also have edible flowers, such as mesquite, palo verde and yucca.”

When growing or picking edible flowers for your kitchen, avoid herbicides or pesticides. Choose blooms at their peak, preferably in the morning before temperatures rise. Use scissors or garden shears for a clean cut and handle the flowers gently to avoid bruising. Depending on the variety, blossoms may be carefully wiped off or rinsed, patted dry and stored loosely wrapped in paper towels in the refrigerator for a short time. Finally, consult a reliable reference source to identify whether the entire flower or only the petals provide the best flavor.

Chef Ivan Jacobo, owner of Anhelo and Flour & Thyme, adds a sprig of alyssum to his Garden Salad Tartlet.

Incorporating edible flora into your culinary repertoire not only enhances the visual appeal but also introduces dimension and flavor. Use them to gussy up appetizers, main courses and side dishes to turn a simple plate into a work of art. Flowers can be dried, pickled or infused into oils, vinegars and syrups, imparting their unique essence to dressings and sauces. Consider creative options, such as making cordials, freezing blossoms in ice cubes to embellish chilled drinks and cocktails, and candying the blooms to add a touch of elegance to confections and baked goods.

“They add texture and a colorful visual aspect to any dish,” notes Ivan Jacobo, chef-owner of Anhelo in downtown Phoenix and Flour & Thyme in Tempe. “I like using herb blossoms, such as basil and chive, to add subtle flavor. For example, you can sprinkle garlic blossoms on savory dishes to boost the flavor without the harsh intensity of garlic itself. Coriander blossoms are another personal favorite, because you can pick them while the seed is still attached to the flower. Something like that adds multiple dimensions to a dish because you get the taste of coriander, the flavor of the flower and the distinct bite and texture of the seeds.“

“Most people will use flowers as a garnish,” he continues, “but try featuring them as a coursed dish, like this salad presentation.” For these Garden Salad Tartlets, Jacobo chose alyssum and violas, which come in colors with mouthwatering names such as Banana Cream, Blueberry Cheesecake, Lemon Meringue and Orange Marmalade.

The chef also encourages experimentation. “Use the recipe as a guideline and make it your own,” he recommends. “You can make the tarts any size with any combination of herbs and flowers. If you don’t like pumpernickel, leave it out. If you can’t find speckled lettuce, use your favorite, or try endive or frisee.”


Chef: Ivan Jacobo, Anhelo, Phoenix, Flower supplier: Suzanne Vilardi, Vilardi Gardens, Phoenix,

Recipe by Chef Ivan Jacobo

Jacobo decorates his Garden Salad Tartlets with micro carrots, speckled and crystal sea lettuces, shaved radish, lemon balm, alyssum, violas and coriander blossoms.

Garden Salad Tartlets

Jacobo uses 2-inch nonstick tartlet molds. If you don’t have molds or tart pans, mini-muffin tins also work well.

Tart Shells

Start with your favorite store-bought or homemade pastry dough (you can also use prepared tart shells or phyllo cups).

Preheat oven to temperature specified on package or in recipe. On a lightly floured surface, roll out chilled dough to ⅛”-¼”thickness. Press into tart molds or muffin tins. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until light golden brown. (Note: If using rising pastry dough, blind bake with another tart mold on top to prevent dough from puffing up.) Cool to room temperature and unmold.


2 cups unflavored Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
Whisk together yogurt and honey until smooth, adding more honey to taste. 


4 slices pumpernickel bread, dried in an oven on low heat and finely crumbled
1/4 head speckled lettuce, leaves torn into small pieces
1/2 cup micro vegetables, optional
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup edible flowers and fresh herbs, such as alyssum, violas and lemon verbena
1 4-ounce goat cheese log, frozen

Fill tartlet shells with yogurt and cover with a layer of pumpernickel crumbs. Season lettuce (and vegetables, if using) with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil; add to tart. Garnish with herbs and flowers, and grate frozen goat cheese over the top with a zester.

Serve immediately.

Makes: Approximately 15 tartlets



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