Purple Kale and Pansy Salad

Spring Kale and Herb Salad with edible flowers

Purple Kale and Pansy Salad ~ edible flowers like colorful pansies can turn a salad from so-so to sensational. Use them as a garnish on all kinds of dishes this spring!

Spring Kale and Herb Salad with edible flowers

Spring has sprung! And that calls for a celebration. It’s been a such a long tough winter for so many of us, we deserve some sun, some fresh greens, and some pretty flowers. I tossed all that together in a salad bowl for us, let’s eat!

Purple kale with herbs and pansies

I bought the purple kale at one of our local farmer’s markets. In Los Angeles the markets run year round, but even in cold parts of the country farmer’s markets are surprisingly hardy, going late into the season and starting early. When we last lived in new Hampshire the minute the summer market ended, the winter market started up, in the gymnasium of a local high school. My daughter lives in Madison Wisconsin, and they have the largest farmer’s market in the country. She still gets her csa boxes (‘community supported agriculture’ boxes of produce from local farmers) every week. So cold weather doesn’t necessarily mean you have to forgo the luxury of local produce – do a little digging around and find out where yours is.

purple kale

I’m trying to get more deep leafy greens in my diet, and this purple kale called to me. Every single leaf has a different purple and green pattern, it’s just unbelievable.

purple kale salad

I’m pretty persnickety when it comes to salads. Unless they’re serving as a main course, I like to focus on the greens themselves. I don’t like to add nuts, or cheese, or lots of heavy stuff like that. For me, the whole purpose of a salad is to refresh, and it’s just not refreshing if it’s loaded with candied nuts, blue cheese, and croutons. But that’s just me. My husband loads his salads down with so much ‘stuff’ there’s no room for the lettuce! I did make one exception in this salad, I threw in some sunflower seeds or pepitas. I like the little bit of crunch they give, and I think they work really well with kale.

purple kale and pansy salad

This is more of an inspiration than a recipe, but the takeaway is this: you can make a simple green salad extra special by adding in lots of fresh herbs. And I mean lots, not just a sprinkle… I’m talking about a about a ratio of about 4 to 1 lettuce to herbs. I used thyme, mint, and fresh basil, in both the green and the purple ‘Amethyst’ varieties. If you garnish it all with a few edible flowers, even better.

The herbs add a burst of flavor in every bite, and the flowers make it special.

kale and herb salad with pansies

Freshness counts!

  • Lots of herbs and even edible flowers come in those little plastic clam-shell containers, and that’s great, but it’s even better if you have a backyard or a patio to grow a few herbs and edible flowers there, so you can snip them fresh. Even if you have a black thumb and they don’t survive that long, it will be more than cost effective. If you can’t grow it yourself, try the basil that comes rooted in soil, it lasts so much longer that way and it’s worth the little bit of extra cost. There is no point in garnishing a dish with a wilted herb or a less than perfect blossom, it kind of defeats the whole purpose.
  • I snip them, give them a quick rinse, and pop them on the salad at the last minute. I have been known to resort to a walk around the block to gather a few choice blossoms for garnishing a special dish. Even nice fresh dandelions will do in a pinch! (Just make sure you pick them from a spot where you know they are clean and un-sprayed.)
  • And just to be clear, I’m not claiming that edible flowers are the most fantastic tasting things in the world…I use them mostly for their looks, and to be perfectly honest I usually end up setting them aside on my plate. There’s nothing wrong with that.

tangerine poppy seed dressing

The nice thing about kale, besides the fact that it’s so healthy, is that it stands up to dressings. It keeps its crunch a good long while. I made a fresh tangerine poppy seed vinaigrette which I think is appropriate for the first day of spring, it adds a fresh juicy ‘tang’ and a little extra crunch!

spring salad


  • If you want to bring your salad to the table fresh and pretty, put the dressing in the bottom of the bowl before you add the greens. When you are ready to serve, toss well.
  • Kale can be a little tough. Be sure to remove the entire stem and spine from your leaves, and I like to cut or shred them fairly finely. For the photos here I left my leaves a little larger than I would ordinarily do. Some people like to ‘massage’ their kale, which is just what it sounds like, you put it in a bowl with some dressing and rub it around to soften it and encourage it to absorb some of the dressing.
  • For more ideas on how to create gorgeous salads, see my 7 TIPS FOR SHOW STOPPING SALADS.

kale and herb salad with edible flowers

3.40 from 5 votes

Purple Kale and Pansy Salad

Author Sue Moran


  • 1 bunch kale I used purple kale
  • fresh basil leaves both green and purple varieties
  • fresh sprigs of thyme
  • fresh mint leaves
  • fresh parsley
  • 1/2 small red onion halved and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 Tbsp sunflower or pepita seeds
  • edible flowers like pansies for garnish

tangerine poppy seed vinaigrette

  • juice of 1 big tangerine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • salt to taste


  • Wash your kale really well, and then trim the tough stems off. Remove the spines of each leaf, too. Chop or shred the kale and add it to a large wide salad bowl.
  • Toss the herbs, onions, and seeds in, I like to keep to about a 4 to 1 ratio of greens to herbs. Go heavy on the basil.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing, and then scatter the flowers on top for garnish.
  • To make the dressing, put the ingredients in a jar, screw on the cap, and give a good shake. Taste it before using to adjust any of the ingredients.

Cook's notes

The dressing is slightly adapted from my friend Mary at Barefeet in the Kitchen
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.


Thanks for pinning this pretty Purple Kale and Pansy Salad!

Purple Kale and Pansy Salad ~ edible flowers like colorful pansies can turn a salad from so-s0 to sensational. Use them as a garnish on all kinds of dishes this spring! #edilbleflowers #flowers #pansies #kalesalad #springsalad #easter #mothersday #healthy #kale #purplekale #rainbow


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  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    March 20, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful glimpse of spring! That kale is gorgeous – and can’t wait until our spring farmers market is open! Yeah~!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Spring in a bowl. Looking forward to checking out the Farmers Markets when we get back to NC. Your salad is an ode to Spring.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Those colors really are unbelievable. GREG

  • Reply
    Shari Kelley
    March 20, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    This is the prettiest salad I’ve ever seen! I didn’t even know there was purple kale. Thank you for posting this!

  • Reply
    [email protected]+This+is+How+I+Cook
    March 20, 2015 at 11:11 am

    I knew this was going to be gorgeous so I had to pop right over. You did not let me down! I am going to be planting pansies this weekend and they are my favorite flower. In Colorado, they don’t bloom when it gets warm so they have a short season. The dressing sounds great, too!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2015 at 9:22 am

    Oh Sue, what a glorious salad. What color! This would lift anyone out of the winter doldrums. And it is a treat to see that dressing. I do not know if you are old enough to remember, but poppy seed dressings were all the rage back in the sixties. So just like the song says – everything old is new again. I just love this post. Brava!

    • Reply
      March 20, 2015 at 9:36 am

      I am old enough, but I didn’t know that about poppy seed dressings, my mom was a Wishbone kind of gal 🙂 Thanks Adri!

      • Reply
        March 20, 2015 at 9:45 am

        Oh yeah – there were all kinds of cool dressings. There were ones made with papaya seeds too. It was a trip, and these were not hippie foods. It was the moms who were putting these things together. I love seeing them again. Thanks again for these beautiful photos. They just made my day,

        • Reply
          March 20, 2015 at 10:15 am

          I love salad dressings, I think they really make eating salad so much more exciting. I’d love to do a cookbook all about them sometime, I’ve got to look up that papaya seed recipe!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Most.beautiful.salad.ever!! I have yet to try edible flowers, and yours are absolutely gorgeous! And that purple kale?! I’ve never seen anything like it. Just like your hubby, I’m all about adding nuts and cheese to my salads, but I can definitely see why you’d let the greens shine in this recipe! And that tangerine poppy seed dressing sounds phenomenal. To summarize: I’m in love 😉 Have a great weekend, Sue!

    • Reply
      March 20, 2015 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Julia — that kale was a masterpiece, I could have done a post all about that!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2015 at 8:47 am

    PS I’ll be growing that sweet purple basil this summer now:)..and my pansies..Hope I can find Borage..you would like that.

    • Reply
      March 20, 2015 at 9:01 am

      Borage is something I’ve never tried, but I know they have it at my local garden center, I’m going to try it!

      • Reply
        March 20, 2015 at 11:23 am

        It’s the edible flower that is exquisite!

  • Reply
    March 20, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Oh just the title got me..on Blogger ..and then the salad.
    I find salads like these works of art.
    This one is outstanding.
    Look..just nature.. and you placing it in a bowl.

  • Reply
    March 20, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Your salad is beautiful, Sue, just like Springtime in a bowl. The colors of the kale are stunning with the pretty pansies. Our farmers’ market opens tomorrow and I’m hoping to find some wonderful salad fixings there. Lovely photos.

    • Reply
      March 20, 2015 at 8:03 am

      Thanks Cathy. I get a little jaded with so many year round farmer’s markets, but I remember the thrill of that first market in spring, enjoy!

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