Edible Flowers

Edible flowers can be a lot of fun. You can add them to dishes like pasta, salads, desserts, and kids love them. Adding flowers can be a great way to add color to your meals.

Edible flowers can be a lot of fun. You can add them to dishes like pasta, salads, desserts, and kids love them. Adding flowers can be a great way to add color to your meals.

DO’S:

Only eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible. If unsure, consult a good reference book on edible flowers before eating.

No flowers are safe to eat unless it was produced organically.

Wash all flowers entirely before you eat them.

Introduce flowers into your diet in modest quantities one species at a time. Overdoing it may cause difficulties for the digestive system.

Remove the pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Divide the flower petals from the rest of the flower just before use to prevent wilting.

Eating only the flower petals for most flowers except for pansies violas, and Johnny-jump-ups, as a general rule.

If you have allergies, include edible flowers slowly, as they may aggravate some allergies.

Follow the same safety and harvesting guidelines as you would when harvesting and using herbs. Allergens can occur; some may not be safe for you.

DON’TS:

Do not consume flowers from florists, nurseries, or garden centers. These are not safe to eat. Nine times out of ten, these flowers have been treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops. Staff may not know at the shop if they are safe or not, so it is just best not to do it.

Do not eat flowers harvested from the side of the road, factory sites, etc.… Follow the same rules as you would wildcrafting herbs.

Do not assume that a restaurant knows what flowers are safe if they are used as a garnish. 

Edible Flowers

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – An excellent edible flower. The flavor ranges from spicy to bitter, tangy to sharp. Their distinctive taste resembles saffron. Only the petals are edible.

Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) – Carnations can be used in many applications, often they are steeped in wine, candy, or used as cake decorations. To use the sweet petals in desserts, remove the bitter white part of the petal.

Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Have a tangy, slightly bitter taste, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow, and orange. They differ in taste from soft peppery to mild cauliflower flavors. They should be blanched first and then spread the petals on a salad. Use the petals only. 

Clover (Trifolium species) – Sweet, anise-like, licorice taste. This herb is valued for its many good fortification qualities. Indigenous Americans used whole clover plants in salads and made a white clover leaf infusion for coughs and colds.

Cornflower (Centaurea cynaus) – These flowers have a slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor. The bloom is a natural food dye. They are often used as a garnish.

Dandelions (Taraxacum Officinalis) – The flowers are most delicious when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. The dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very near the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. 

Day Lilies (Hemerocallis species) – Mildly sweet with a moderate vegetable-like flavor, like lettuce or melons. Their taste is a blend of asparagus and zucchini. To use the fresh petals in desserts, remove the petals from the bitter white base of the flower. You can stuff them like squash blossoms. The flowers look gorgeous on salad platters or desserts. In the spring, harvest the shoots two or three inches tall and use as a substitute for asparagus. 

Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) – The sorrel flowers are tart and lemony tasting. 

Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-Sinensis) – Cranberry tart-like flavor with citrus overtones.   

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) – Edible, but often considered a blander tasting flower.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) – Sweet honey characteristics. Only the flowers are edible. DO NOT EAT THE BERRIES; they are not safe to eat.

Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) – These flowers have a delightful flavor. Use the flowers as a garnish for salads or floated in drinks and cocktails.

Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor) – These beautiful yellow, white, and purple blossoms have a mild wintergreen taste. They can be added to salads, to decorate cakes, or served with a sift cheese plate. They are also an excellent supplement to drinks, soups, desserts, or salads.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – The taste of lilacs varies from plant to plant. Very fragrant to slightly bitter. The flower has a definite lemony flavor with floral, pungent, sometimes overwhelming overtones. Great in salads and sugared.

Linden (Tilla spp.) – Small delicate flowers, white to yellow was are delightfully fragrant and have a honey-like flavor.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) – These flowers come in varieties ranging from trailing to upright and in bright sunset colors with peppery flavors. Nasturtiums rate among most popular edible flowers. Blossoms have a sweet, spicy, peppery, pungent taste similar to watercress. Stuff whole flowers with savory mousse. Leaves add a sharp tang to salads. Pickled seed pods are a less pricey replacement for capers. 

Pansy (Viola X wittrockiana) – Pansy flowers have a mildly sweet green or grassy flavor. When only eating the petals, the taste is remarkably mild. Still, when eating the whole flower, there is a winter, green overtone. 

Primrose (Primula vulgaris) – This flower is colorful with a lightly sweet, with a slightly bland taste. It can be added to salads, pickle the flower buds, cook as a vegetable, or ferment into wine.

Roses (Rosa rugosa or canina) – The flavors are dependent on soil conditions, water, or type of soil. The character is evocative of strawberries and tart apples. Sweet, with complex undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, and the flavor is more noticeable in the darker varieties. NOTE: Make sure to separate the bitter white portion of the petals before using it.

Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium species) – The flower flavors often corresponds to the variety. For instance, a lemon-scented geranium would have lemon-scented flowers. This plant can be found in scents like citrus and spice to fruits and flowers. They are also found in a variety of colors like pinks and pastels. Use them with desserts and in refreshing drinks or freeze in ice cubes. NOTE: Citronelle variety may not be edible.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) – Delicate garden variety can be bland to bitter. The flavor is conditioned by the type, color, and soil and water conditions. 

Sunflower (Helianthus annus) – This flower is best consumed in the bud stage when it tastes like artichokes. Once the flower unfolds, the petals may be used like chrysanthemums; the flavor is clearly bittersweet. Steam the unopened buds like artichokes.

Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) – The flower’s flavor is sweet and grassy with a hint of nutty, vanilla essence. 

Violets (Viola species) – Sweet, aromatic flavor. Related flowers, Johnny-jump-ups or violas, and pansies. These come in a variety of colors like purples and yellows to a variety of pastel hues. Eat the young leaves and flowers in salads. Use the flowers to embellish desserts and iced drinks elegantly. The heart-shaped leaves are edible and can be cooked and used like spinach or other mild greens.

Yucca Petals (Yucca species) – The Yucca flower has a crunchy texture with a mildly sweet taste. These flowers can be used in salads and as a garnish.

Herb Flowers

Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives) – These are also called “Flowering Onions.” There are about four hundred species that include the familiar onion, garlic, chives, shallots, and ramps. All members of this species are edible. Their characteristics vary from mild onions and leeks right into the sharp onion and garlic flavor profile. All components of the plants are consumable. The flowers often have a more robust flavor than the leaves, and the young developing seed-heads are even more robust. People often eat leaves and flowers chiefly in salads. The leaves can also be prepared as a seasoning with other vegetables in soups, etc.

Calendula- Listed in the last section.

Chive Blossoms (Allium schoenoprasum) – Use where a lighter onion flavor and aroma is fancied. Separate the florets and appreciate the mild, onion flavor in a medley of dishes.

Garlic Blossoms (Allium sativum) – The flowers are often white or pink, and the stems are flat rather than round. The character is garlicky that brings out the essence of your favorite meals. Milder than the garlic bulb. Wonderful in salads.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) – Depending on the type, flowers range from pale lavender-blue to dark rose color. It has a taste comparable to licorice. Angelica is appreciated culinarily from the seeds and stems, which are candied and used in liqueurs. The young leaves and shoots are added to a green salad. 

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) -Both the flowers and leaves have pure anise or licorice flavor. The blossoms make beautiful garnishes and are often used in Asian dishes and salads. 

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – These flowers depending on the variety is either bright white, pale pink, or light lavender. The flavor of the flower is similar to the leaves of the plant but milder. Basil also has several varieties that have different flavor profiles like citrus or the mint family. Sprinkle them over salads or pasta for a rich flavor and a flash of color that gives any dish a fresh taste and a beautiful presentation.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – Is also known by a few names; some depend on where you are located. I grew up calling it Oswego tea. Some other names are Wild Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda. Bee balm tastes like oregano and mints. It is one of my favorite fresh herb smells. The taste of bee balm is evocative of citrus with soft over and undertones of lemon and orange. The red flowers have a mint flavor. This flower can be used just like oregano. The leaves and flower petals are great in fruited or savory salads and vegetables.

Borage (Borago officinalis) – You will find small cornflower blue star-shaped flowers. Blossoms and leaves have a refreshing, mild cucumber taste. Wonderful in punches, lemon or limeades, gin, and tonics or vodka tonics, sorbets, summer soups, cheese quiches, cheese spreads, and dips.

Burnet (Sanquisorba minor) – The taste generally is compared to that of cucumbers, and burnet can be used in foods interchangeably with borage.

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) – Chervil flowers are white, delicate flowers with an anise flavor. Chervil should be used fresh; the flavor dissipates quickly when dried or cooked.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) – Earthy, deep, flavor, eat either the petals or the buds. Chicory has a pleasant, mildly-bitter taste that has been compared to endive. You will find chickory in coffee in the south. The flower buds can be pickled.

Cilantro/Coriander (Coriander sativum) – Just like the leaves and seeds, the flowers also have a strong herbal flavor. Use leaves and flowers fresh as the flavor dissipates when cooked. 

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – It has star-burst yellow flowers that have a mild anise flavor. 

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – These flowers have a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus tones. The flowers are beautiful. They taste good champagne or cocktails, with chocolate desserts, or in sorbets and ice creams, in frostings on cakes. Lavender is great in savory dishes, too, and lends its flavors well to wine reductions and sauces. The blossoms are also yummy in custard-based desserts and fillings.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) – These tiny cream-colored citrus-scented blossoms can be used to flavor ice creams, custards, and flans. The leaves and flowers can be made as an infusion.

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) – The flowers are a milder variant of the plant’s leaf. Use the flower as you would the herb.

Mints (Mentha spp) – The flowers are minty in flavor, but with several overtones depending on the variety. Peppermint and Spearmint flowers are great in Middle Eastern dishes, as are the leaves.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) – Offers a milder version of the plant’s leaf. Use as you would the herb.

Rosemary ( Salvia rosmarinus)/ (Rosmarinus officinalis) – The flower is a milder version of leaf. The fresh or dried herb and flowers improve the flavor of Mediterranean dishes. It can be used in meats and seafood dishes, sorbets, or dressings. 

Sage (Salvia officinalis) – The flowers vary violet-blue, pink or white up to 1 3/8 inches long, little, tubelike, gathered together in whorls along the stem tops. Flowers have a more delightful sage taste than the leaves and can be used in salads and as a garnish. The flowers are a delicious partner to many foods.

Savory (Satureja hortensis) – The flowers have a moderately spicy and peppery and comparable to thyme.

Thyme (Thymus spp.) – Offers a milder version of leaf. Use the sprigs as a garnish or remove flowers and sprinkle over soups, cheeses, and salads, etc. Use thyme flowers wherever the herb might be used.

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