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I've recently asked in Biology SE What makes cherry blossoms so delicious? Does this delicious molecule (or molecules) have some function in the blossom? Does saliva activate it? It begins

My friend showed me a news item about a monkey (or macaque) recently (early February) seen in Taiwan eating cherry blossoms. I assumed it must have been eating caterpillars or other insects that eat the blossoms, but a quick search in google found a related video shot in Japan Monkey Eating Cherry Blossoms in Slow Motion.

So a few days ago I tried a few. I pulled off the petals (since the monkey also seemed uninterested in them) and when I first started chewing I tasted nothing but inert vegetable matter.

But then over about 15 to 20 seconds of chewing the little blossom bodies I noticed it first became bitter, then slowly increasing taste of what I describe as "Black Cherry" flavor, but without any sweetness. It continued to get stronger and more delicious, and I did not want to stop!

That day I'd chewed (and eventually swallowed) about a dozen blossoms and felt absolutely wonderful; like I had been treated to a real delicacy.

note: The cherry trees planted and cultiated for their decorative blossoms in the early spring are not the same as the trees that yield commercial cherries. I'm told their fruit is quite sour.

Question: Are cherry blossoms ever used in cooking for their flavor? Is there a preference between ornamental (those valued for their blossoms) and agricultural (valued for their fruit) varieties?


decorative cherry blossoms in Taipei in early February

decorative cherry blossoms in Taipei in early February

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    I saw a travel TV show where someone had gone to a distillery that had made a Sakura vodka. (They said a nearby place spread out tarps to catch the falling blossoms overnight, and they had to use them immediately each morning). Searching online suggests that more than one distillery is producing something similar
    – Joe
    Feb 23 at 17:09
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    @Joe there's gin as well
    – Chris H
    Feb 23 at 19:43

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It seems to be quite widely used as a flavouring.

Cherry blossom extract is certainly sold, as is syrup for cocktails (not that I've tried either). I suspected that the blossom might be used in a similar way to rosewater or orange blossom water, which led me to finding liquid extracts, but under the name Sakura* powder it's also sold in powdered form (apparently that's actually powdered petals).

If you're in the US, you can buy cherry blossom flavoured sparkling water in Target (naturally flavoured apparently).

The whole blossoms are sometimes used as a cocktail garnish as well, either candied or salted, according to a bartender's recipe guide, which has plenty of further suggestions for use.

Note that not all cherry-like prunus species have edible flowers, but those cultivated for their blossom tend to, as do varieties cultivated for fruit (but if you pick the blossom you won't get any fruit). Even ornamental cherries are known to contain a rather mild toxin, coumarin, which is also found in cassia cinnamon, and is reduced by the traditional processing of sakura.

Plum blossom (also prunus species) is also used in making tea and flavouring food. Some related species also have toxic parts, including the cherry laurels.


* Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom.

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    I wish this had come up about 20 years ago, when I had a cherry tree but always lost the fruit to the birds. I've just planted a rose in the hopes of making rosewater again, so I'd give it a try.
    – Chris H
    Feb 23 at 16:04
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    @uhoh I didn't get anything much clearer than that from anything I read, except a hint that cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus and closely related species) are probably to be avoided - but their flowers look quite different. The common edible cherries as well as most ornamental ones seem to be in Prunus subgenus Cerasus.
    – Chris H
    Feb 23 at 19:55
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    ... I've found something worthy of an edit
    – Chris H
    Feb 23 at 19:56
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    Uups, I suddenly feel we may be unexpectedly busy so that the planned pruning of our ornamental cherry gets mysteriously delayed a bit longer. Probably until April. (Don‘t tell hubby!)
    – Stephie
    Feb 23 at 19:56
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    @Stephie you might want to read the links I just added to the answer before deciding whether you'd like to
    – Chris H
    Feb 23 at 20:01

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