Edible Flowering Beauties
I love gardening and using what I grow in the dishes I make. It’s so much fun! It’s even more exciting to learn that more or all parts of a flowers/plant are edible and can be incorporated into the dishes to add color and/or flavor.
I’ve compiled this non-comprehensive list by scouring my gardening books, magazines, and some websites. I may or may not be updating this list as I find more information. I will update the post and send out a new notification if a lot gets added.
Next time you are creating a culinary work of art, try to add another dimension to your dish! 🙂
These are guidelines acquired from many different reputable sources, but should NOT be considered professional advice. A good general rule of thumb, if you are NOT 100% certain about a flower, do NOT eat it. If you have hayfever or pollen allergies, do NOT eat flowers.
- Best Time to Harvest/Gather: early mornings
- Most Common and Safest Edible Flowers: nasturtium, pansy, violet, Johnny-jump-up, calendula, chive, sage
- Do NOT Eat Flowers if You Have Allergies: If you have asthma, hayfever, or other allergies, do NOT eat flowers.
- When in Doubt, Do NOT Eat IT: A good rule of thumb to live by: if you cannot positively identify a flower as edible, do NOT eat it.
- ALWAYS Avoid Nightshade Flowers: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers and asparagus.
- Beware of Pesticides: Never eat flowers from the side of a road, a lawn, or field known to have been treated, a nursery, garden center, or florist (they may have chemical residues that concentrate in the flowers).
- Flower Prepping Tips: Gently wash them gently in a large bowl of cold water and let them air dry on a towel.
- Storage: Store them in the refrigerator for up to a week in an airtight container lined with a damp paper towel.
NONCOMPREHENSITVE LIST OF EDIBLES
- Alliums – Known as the “flowering onions.” All members of this genus are edible. All parts of the plants are edible. There are approximately four hundred species that includes the familiar onion, garlic, chives, ramps, shallots and leeks. Their flavors range from mild onions and leeks right through to strong onion and garlic. The flowers tend to have a stronger flavor than the leaves and the young developing seed-heads are even stronger. We eat the leaves and flowers mainly in salads. The leaves can also be cooked as a flavoring with other vegetables in soups, etc.
- Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) – Also called garden rocket, roquette, rocket-salad, Oruga, rocketsalad, rocket-gentle; raukenkohl (German); rouquelle (French); rucola (Italian). The flowers are small, white with dark centers, and can be used in the salad for a light piquant flavor. The flowers taste very similar to the leaves and range in color from white to yellowish with dark purple veins. Arugula resembles radish leaves in both appearance and taste. Leaves are compound and have a spicy, peppery flavor that starts mild in young leaves and intensifies as they mature.
- Banana Blossoms (Musa paradisiaca) – Also know as banana hearts. The flowers are a purple-maroon torpedo shaped. Banana blossoms are used in Southeast Asian cuisines. The blossoms can be cooked or eaten raw. The tough covering is usually removed until you get to the almost white tender parts of the blossom. It should be sliced and let it sit in water until most of the sap are gone. If you eat it raw, make sure the blossom comes from a variety that isn’t bitter. Most of the Southeast Asian varieties are not bitter.
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – Depending on the type, the flowers are either bright white, pale pink, or a delicate lavender. The flavor of the flower is milder, but similar to the leaves of the same plant. Basil also has different varieties that have different milder flavors like lemon and mint.
- Borage – Blue star-shaped blossoms practically fall off the plant when they are ready to eat. They have a mild cucumber flavor that is delicious in lemonade
- Broccoli Florets (Brassica oleracea) – The top portion of broccoli is actually a cluster of flower buds. As the flower buds mature, each will open into a bright yellow flower, which is why they are called florets. Small yellow flowers have a mild spiciness (mild broccoli flavor), and are delicious in salads or in a stir-fry or steamer.
- Calendula – Petals known as the “poor man’s saffron,” the sunset-hued marigold flower really does taste like saffron when it’s sautéedin olive oil to release its flavor.
- Caper Buds
- Chive Blossoms (Allium schoenoprasum) – Delicate, oniony flavor. Use whole flowers or separate the individual petals. Use whenever a light onion flavor and aroma is desired. Separate the florets and enjoy the mild, onion flavor in a variety of dishes. Also see #1.
- Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange. They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. They should be blanched first and then scatter the petals on a salad. The leaves can also be used to flavor vinegar. Always remove the bitter flower base and use petals only. Young leaves and stems of the crown daisy, also known as chop suey greens or shingiku in Japan, are widely used in oriental stir-fries and as salad seasoning.
- Cilantro/Coriander (Coriander sativum) – Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers have a strong herbal flavor. Use leaves and flowers raw as the flavor fades quickly when cooked.
- Dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) – Member of the daisy family. Flowers are sweetest, with a honey-like flavor, when picked young. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball.
- Day Lilies (Hemerocallis species) – Slightly sweet with a mild vegetable flavor, like sweet lettuce or melon. Their flavor is a combination of asparagus and zucchini. Chewable consistency. Some people think that different colored blossoms have different flavors. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Also great to stuff like squash blossoms. Flowers look beautiful on composed salad platters or crowning a frosted cake. Sprinkle the large petals in a spring salad. In the spring, gather shoots two or three inches tall and use as a substitute for asparagus.
NOTE: Many Lilies contain alkaloids and are NOT edible. Day lilies may act as a diuretic or laxative; eat in moderation.
- Florence Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – It has a star-burst yellow flowers that have a mild anise flavor. Use with desserts or cold soups, or as a garnish with your entrees.
- Garlic Blossoms (Allium sativum) – The flowers can be white or pink, and the stems are flat instead of round. The flavor has a garlicky zing that brings out the flavor of your favorite food. Milder than the garlic bulb. Wonderful in salads. Also see #1.
- Hibiscus – Tart and sweet with a cranberry-like flavor. Often used in teas, cocktails, and salads.
- Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) – Sweet honey flavor. Only the flowers are edible.
NOTE: Berries are highly poisonous – Do not eat them!
- Jasmine (NOT Jessamine) – Very sweet, floral fragrance and flavor. Use in teas or desserts.Jasmine (jasmine officinale) – The flowers are intensely fragrant and are traditionally used for scenting tea. True Jasmine has oval, shiny leaves and tubular, waxy-white flowers. NOTE: The false Jasmine is in a completely different genus, “Gelsemium”, and family, “Loganiaceae”, is considered too poisonous for human consumption. This flower has a number of common names including yellow jessamine or jasmine, Carolina jasmine or jessamine, evening trumpet flower, gelsemium, and woodbine.
- Johnny-Jump-Ups – Minty, almost bubblegum-y flavor. Serve on cakes or with soft mild cheese, like goat cheese.
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – Sweet, slightly perfume-tasting, with lemon and citrus notes. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets.
NOTE: Do not consume lavender oil unless you absolutely know that it has not be sprayed and is culinary safe.
- Lemon Verbena – Light lemon flavor that’s well-suited for sweet or savory cooking.
- Marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia) – The marigold can be used as a substitute for saffron. Also great in salads as they have a citrus flavor.
- Mint (Mentha spp) – The flavor of the flowers are minty, but with different overtones depending on the variety. Mint flowers and leaves are great in Middle Eastern dishes.
- Nasturtiums – One of the most commonly eaten flowers. The flower may be vivid yellow, orange, or red as well as muted tones and bicolors. Both the leaves and the flowers have a peppery flavor, almost like watercress, and are best eaten uncooked. Toss petals into salads, top a sandwich, or make a spicy appetizer.
- Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) – Also known as ochro, okoro, quimgombo, quingumbo, ladies fingers and gumbo. It has hibiscus-like flowers and seed pods that, when picked tender, produce a delicious vegetable dish when stewed or fried. When cooked it resembles asparagus yet it may be left raw and served in a cold salad. The ripe seeds have been used as a substitute for coffee; the seed can be dried and powdered for storage and future use.
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare) – Milder version of plant’s leaf. Use as you would the herb.
- Pansy/Viola (Viola X wittrockiana) – Slightly sweet green and faint grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals, the flavor is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a winter, green overtone. Use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or in soups.
- Radish (Raphanus sativus) – Depending on the variety, flowers may be pink, white or yellow, and will have a distinctive, spicy bite (has a radish flavor). Best used in salads. The Radish shoots with their bright red or white tender stalks are very tasty and are great sauteed or in salads. Piquant pods can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Red Clover (Trifolium species) – Sweet, anise-like, licorice. White and red clover blossoms were used in folk medicine against gout, rheumatism, and leucorrhea. It was also believed that the texture of fingernails and toenails would improve after drinking clover blossom tea. Native Americans used whole clover plants in salads, and made a white clover leaf tea for coughs and colds. Avoid bitter flowers that are turning brown, and choose those with the brightest color, which are tastiest. Raw flower heads can be difficult to digest.
- Rose – While roses have a strong floral scent, their flavor is quite subtle and fruity. Roses lend themselves well to everything from soups and salads to teas, jams and desserts like this delicious strawberry, pomegranate, and rose petal treat. Roses only look beautiful in a bouquet, but pair well in some delicious dishes. Roses may be tasteless, sweet, perfumed, or slightly spicy. Chop the petals and mix with sugar. Let them infuse for a week and use for baking and desserts.
- Rosemary – Milder version of leaf. Fresh or dried herb and blossoms enhance flavor of Mediterranean dishes. Use with meats, seafoods, sorbets or dressings. Lemon Rosemary Chicken
- Sage – With their soft, yet sweet-savory flavor and beautiful color, sage flowers add dimension to a variety of dishes.
- Scented Geraniums (Pelargonium species) – The flower flavor generally corresponds to the variety. For example, a lemon-scented geranium would have lemon-scented flowers. They come in fragrances from citrus and spice to fruits and flowers, and usually in colors of pinks and pastels. Sprinkle them over desserts and in refreshing drinks or freeze in ice cubes. NOTE: Citronelle variety may not be edible.
- Snap Dragon (Antirrhinum majus) – Delicate garden variety can be bland to bitter. Flavors depend on type, color, and soil conditions. Probably not the best flower to eat.
- Snow Pea Blossoms (Pisum species) – Edible garden peas bloom mostly in white, but may have other pale coloring. The blossoms are slightly sweet and crunchy and they taste like peas. The shoots and vine tendrils are edible, with a delicate, pea-like flavor. Here again, remember that harvesting blooms will diminish your pea harvest, so you may want to plant extra. NOTE: Flowering ornamental sweet peas are poisonous – do not eat.
- Squash Blossoms – Mild raw squash taste. Usually cooked before eaten. Lightly dust with cornstarch and deep fry.
- Sunflower (Helianthus annus) – The flower is best eaten in the bud stage when it tastes similar to artichokes. Once the flower opens, the petals may be used like chrysanthemums, the flavor is distinctly bittersweet. The unopened flower buds can also be steamed like artichokes.
- Violets – Sweet and floral. Use in dessert or freeze into ice cubes for decorative drinking. Violets, which come in a range of pastel and vibrant colors,have a sweet and floral taste, making them a perfect companion for everything from salads to iced drinks. They are particularly beautiful when crystallized and used to top frosted cakes and other desserts.
- Zucchini Flowers – The bright yellow flowers of the courgette or zucchini plant have a delicate and slightly sweet taste
- BHG Better Homes and Gardens
- Chef’s Garden
- Good housekeeping
- Marx Foods
- Southern Living
- What’s Cooking America