Glorious Magnolia which flower late Winter & early Spring are stunning, majestic trees, with giant pink & white blooms. They take up a lot of space so don't get any crazy ideas about planting that cute little tree from the garden centre in your small urban plot!
Most Magnolia flowers are edible, and have a subtle sweet, floral and dreamy flavor. There are about 220 species in the Magnolia family, & apparently none have known toxicity. If you're not sure if your Magnolia variety is edible, (& want to be 100% sure, which you should be before eating wild food...) you could look it up at PFAF.org or eatweeds.co.uk which has a list of known edible varieties.
I've been asked about Star Magnolia, it appears that the petals are not edible, however the leaves were supposedly eaten during famine....not sure that I'm that desperate to try them, mine look really hard & chewy, and even during lockdown I had enough delicious weeds to not need to eat my Star Magnolia leaves!
There are so many ways to cook, preserve & eat your luscious Magnolia petals: fry them, infuse in vinegar or honey, pickle, ferment, make a syrup (next on my to do list!!). The way I've preserved Magnlia petals is by pickling them, and they work perfectly served on top of sushi or alongside fresh wild salads.
There are also many ways to pickle, this is how I pickle Magnolia petals:
Gather Magnolia flowers when in their prime (healthy and blemish free, no bruises or markings). You'll need to pickle immediately so don't pick the flowers unless you're going to head straight into the kitchen. They wilt and turn brown extremely quickly, so this is really important or you'll just have a jar of brown goo. Gather the flowers in an open basket and do not squash or bruise in anyway.
In the kitchen, sterlise glass jars and pack full of petals (just the petals not the whole flower). A good tip to prevent the petals floating to the top (like has happened in my picture here), is to first stack all the petals on top of each other, roll into a roll of petals, and then slide into the jar so that they are all packed in vertically.
Cover the petals completely with your pickling solution - this can be as simple or creative as you like. You can use any vinegar that you have, I usually use Raw Apple Cider Vinegar because it's my favorite, but Rice Wine Vinegar is also highly reccomended for this recipe.
Simple: 1 cup vinegar + 1 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp salt (mix and tip over petals).
Sweet: 1 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp salt (mix and tip over petals).
Ginger: 1 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup sugar + 1 tbsp salt + 1 cm finely sliced ginger (mix and tip over petals. You can use more ginger but I later found the ginger overpowered the magnolia).
Cardamom: any recipe above + a couple of cardamom pods.
Once the petals are completely covered in pickling solution, put on a tight fitting lid and leave in a dark cupboard for a few months for flavors to develop before opening. Once open store in the fridge. Something I love about preserving in vinegar is that it has a verrrry long shelf life, I've yet to preserve something in vinegar and have it go bad. So whilst all recipes will say consume within 12 months, this will likely last a lot longer!