Edible Flowers

Posted by on Mon, Aug 13 2012 16:08:00

Blooms you can eat make a decorative, tasty addition to any meal. Add flowers to salads and stir fries and use them to make a wide variety of foods such as herbal tea, jellies, spreads, vinegars and marinades. 

Using edible flowers is easy. Pick the blooms right before eating and gently rinse.   Don't apply pesticides to flowers intended for consumption, and be absolutely certain that a flower is edible before eating it . There are a wide variety of edible flowers. 

For example:

  • Angelica (Angelica archangelica) - Good on fish, in salads or with egg dishes.
  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) - Nice in fresh garden salad
  • Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) - Market artichokes are actually the flowering portion of the artichoke plant.
  • Arugula (Eruca Sativa) -This slightly bitter salad green bolts easily when temps soar, but that's a good thing.  The hidden surprise about arugula is that its cross shaped flowers taste almost better than its spicy leaves.  Take it from Baia Nicchia, who made me aware of omitting this tasty flower in the first draft of my list.
  • Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) - Use as a tea or sprinkled on fresh salad or steamed peas.
  • Borage (Borago officinalis) - Sugar and use as a decoration on baked goods. Borage flowers taste like cucumber.
  • Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) - Like artichokes, broccoli florets are flowers.
  • Burnet (Sanquisorba minor) - Has a mild cucumber flavor.
  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis) - Use on rice, pasta, egg dishes and salad.
  • Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus - Dianthus) - Remove the bitter white base of the petal and use the rest in desserts.  Carnation petals are aromatic, spicy and mildly sweet. Nice.
  • Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) - White flowers that have an anise flavor.
  • Cilantro (Coriander sativum) - Sprinkle flowers on salads, tacos and bean dishes.
  • Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium) - Blanch and use in place of bitter greens (like arugula) in salad.
  • Citrus Blossoms (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit) - Toss in fruit salads.
  • Cornflower (Centaurea cynaus) - Use as a garnish.
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) - Pick young blossoms and steam them as a side dish.
  • Dill (Anethum) - Very nice sprinkled on broiled salmon or served with shellfish.
  • English Daisy (Bellis perennis) - Use sparingly as a salad garnish.
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - Has a mild anise flavor, and makes an effective garnish. I like sprinkling it on white sauce pizza.
  • Fuchsia (Fuchsia X hybrida) - Another wonderful garnish that's also edible.
  • Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) - Sorrel flowers are tart and lemony. Use like lemon: on steamed veggies, as a salad topping or in sauces (add at the last minute).
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - Eat the petals raw for a mild gingery flavor that's very refreshing.
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) - A few petals can take the place of bitter greens in salad for a very attractive presentation.  Hibiscus makes a tasty tea additive, too.
  • Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) - The flowers have a sweet flavor. They can be used as a garnish in salads or in sangria or other chilled drinks.
  • Johnny-Jump-Up (Viola tricolor) - Can be used as a garnish or as a flavoring in salads.
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - This one has a floral flavor that's sweet and peppery.  It's one my favorites. It's appealing in sweet as well as savory dishes. You can also flavor sugar with it and use it as a seasoning in baked goods.  Yum.
  • Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) - Lemony taste. Good in egg dishes and salads.
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) - Sweet, spicy and peppery.  The flavor of nasturtium flowers have been compared to watercress. Wonderful in salads and simple sandwiches. The attractive flowers are delicately fragrant, and often attract butterflies to the garden.
  • Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) - An exotic flower with little flavor but lots of drama. It has real presence as a large garnish.
  • Pansy (Viola X wittrockiana) - Very attractive sugared on baked goods.  Pansy is also colorful in salads. It has a rather mild flavor but may be in bloom in autumn when other flowers have finished for the season. Check the introductory photo for an idea of how to use pansy as a decorative garnish. Wow.
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) - Passionflower has an interesting aroma and a mild flavor. Its exotic appearance makes it another flower that can be used to make a big statement on a serving platter.
  • Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) - Petals are tasty in salad, tea, punch and lemonade.Just make sure you get all the ants off.
  • Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) - The bright red flowers are very pretty in salads and have a faint, sweet pineapple aroma.
  • Primrose (Primula vulgaris) - A good flower to try first in recipes like fruit and vegetable salads.  It looks pretty but has a very mild, sweet flavor. It integrates easily in many dishes.  Experiment.
  • Rose (R. gallica officinalis - Rosa rugosa) - Remove the white section at the base of the petal before eating. Rose petals taste like a cross between apples and berries with a hint of black peppery punch. Good raw in salad, frozen in desserts or cooked in jelly.
  • Savory (Satureja hortensis) - Peppery with a little heat.
  • Squash Blossom (Curcubita pepo) - Zucchini and pumpkins produce prolific blossoms that are delicious fried in an egg and flour batter. It may sound silly, but these are a delicacy.  I have a recipe for fried squash flowers if you're interested. Check the recipe section in the sidebar on the left of this page.
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annus) - Steam unopened buds as you would an artichoke. Once open, sunflowers taste slightly bitter but work well in salads. Choose miniature varieties for whole-flower garnishes.
  • Thyme (Thymus) - If you think thyme has a moldy flavor, try using the small flowers in egg dishes.  Delish. Like woodruff, the flowers are so-so tiny but worth a nibble.
  • Tulip Petals (Tulipa) - Tulip petals taste a bit like cucumber. Some folks are allergic, so test before eating. (Eat the petals only.)
  • Violet (Viola) - Sweet flavor. Freeze them in ice cubes or sugar them as a cake or cupcake decoration. Also good in ice cream and sorbet.
  • Yucca petals (Yucca) - Slightly sweet. Tasty in salad.

Special note:  Many herb flowers have a more subdued flavor than the herbs themselves.  If you think a particular herb is a bit overpowering in your recipes, try using the flowers petals instead.  Some good examples are: 

    Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

    Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

    Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

    Mint (Mentha)

    Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

    Sage (Salvia officinalis)

    Savory (Satureja hortensis)

    Thyme (Thymus)

Always be careful when eating edible flowers. Some flowers can make you very sick if not identified properly, have some edible parts only or have been treated with pesticides.  If you're not absolutely sure about a flower, DON'T EAT IT! 

Sources: Recipes also available here.