Our love affair with edible flowers is back! Last summer we looked at marigolds and gardenias. With the spring showers pouring and blossoms blooming, we're already seeing the world get a whole lot brighter, both outdoors and on our plates. Huzzah!

When I was a kid, I ate like a goat—attempting to stick bugs and inedible things in my mouth and passing over a bunch of carrots for a bundle of dandelions. I quickly learned that both bugs and flowers belong in the ground—not the plate—but now I’m not so sure (though bugs are still foreign to my palate …).

Flowers have been enjoyed for their flavors and nutritional qualities for centuries. And now we see them appear in delicate liquors and carefully crafted cakes. As a believer in having fun with your food and bringing the whimsy of cooking into the kitchen, I tackled the task of cooking with a few edible flowers from our Cooking Light Garden.

Today, we have chive flowers. When I think of chive, I think of those skinny green leaves that give an onion-y punch and pops of freshness on top of baked potatoes, soups, and blended into sauces. These small chive blooms are true to their name. Similarly, they deliver a strong flavor in tiny doses.

Because I wanted to preserve the delicate flowers, I used the blossoms to top a simple summer pasta. Al dente rigatoni noodles (out of well-salted pasta water), vibrant green peas (for earthy sweetness and color), freshly shaved Parmesan cheese (for that salty, briny bite and textural contrast), and generous grinds of black pepper make a beautiful and easy bed for the chive flowers to shine.

Try some out yourself, and don't be afraid to get creative. Just remember that these edible petals are fragile, so they're best used as toppers. (I'm imagining these beauties on top of cool summer soups, open-faced grilled veggie sandwiches, and maybe even dressing up a simple salad with lemon vinaigrette.)


*** When picking flowers to be eaten, make sure they were grown in a pesticide-free environment (meaning that most florists won’t be a suitable source). Talk to people who sell flowers and even restaurants who use edible flowers, get to know your floral foods, and get creative!

Flowers are best eaten at their peak. Avoid wilted or unopened blossoms. And, as always with new ingredients,  introduce them into your diet slowly to prevent possible allergic reactions.