What could be more fun than eating flowers? There are many varieties that are not only edible, but they add an interesting flavor to teas, fresh salads, and other dishes. Some flowers stand up well to cooking, stuffing, drying, freezing, or steeping. Many of these flowers could be great additions to your garden, or they may already be there and you never realized you could eat them. You may also be able to find some in the wild. Going on a nature hunt for edible flowers could be a great activity to do as a family.
Some of the flowers listed below vary as to how much of the flower is edible, so make careful note of those whose petals are the only part you can eat. Even when the other parts such as the pistils, anthers, and stamen are not poisonous, they can impart a bitter taste, so it is best to remove them as a rule.
Another very important consideration is the use of pesticides. Never, ever eat flowers that have been treated. Because ingesting pesticides could be very harmful, you should never eat a flower that comes from a florist, a nursery, a roadside stand, or a gardening center. An edible flower from such a location could likely have been treated with chemicals. To be safe, only eat wild flowers (although not those from roadsides) or those you grow yourself.
Also potentially dangerous is misidentification. Only eat a flower when you are absolutely sure of its identity. There are several flowers that are poisonous to eat. If you or your children have allergies, eating flowers could also be problematic. Eat a very small amount initially to gauge your body’s reaction to a particular type of flower.
As long as you take care to identify your flowers properly, avoid pesticides, and take allergies into consideration, you should be able to enhance your meals with any of the beautiful and tasty flowers listed below.
Lavender is a classic. The smell of lavender in bloom is one of the most delightful aromas in the botanical world. If you have only ever thought of lavender as an ingredient for soaps and perfumes, prepare to be surprised. Lavender flowers make a surprising but delicious and beautiful addition to many recipes.
Most recipes with lavender call for dried flowers. Harvest lavender when in full bloom and hang the stalks of flowers to dry them thoroughly. They are especially lovely in baked goods like cookies and scones and are complemented by lemon zest. The leaves of the lavender can also be eaten. Use them as you would use rosemary.
This is a nice plant to have in the garden. As the name suggests, it attracts bees and also butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers may be white, pink, red, or lavender and have a sweet, perfume-like scent. When dried and steeped, the flowers are reminiscent of tea and add a bergamot flavor to black tea.
These cheerful cool-weather annuals are actually edible. If you cultivate your own specimens of these purple, white, and yellow blooms, you can eat them after enjoying them in the garden or in containers. They have a sweet flavor, similar to violets, but stronger. Pansies make nice accompaniments to salads and add a fresh, colorful appearance. They may be toxic in large amounts, so enjoy pansies sparingly. The related wildflower, the violet, has a similar flavor and appearance. They are easy to find, but be sure not to harvest them from a lawn that has been fertilized or treated with pesticides.
Nasturtium is another great choice for your garden and for your kitchen. This trailing and climbing plant grows well in containers and is a real showstopper when the vines start producing the brightly colored flowers. They have a peppery yet sweet flavor and are wonderful when eaten fresh in a salad. They are also pretty enough to be an edible garnish on any dish. The buds of the nasturtium can be pickled and used in the same way as capers.
Hibiscus flowers have a tart, acidic flavor. You can eat them raw, dried, or candied with sugar. The flowers are very showy and look nice in a warm-weather garden or in indoor containers if your climate gets too cold in the winter. Perhaps the most popular way to consume hibiscus is as a beverage. You can steep hibiscus flowers in water to make a hot or cold tea that has a tart and refreshing flavor. The drink is also good for you and is very high in vitamin C. Hibiscus tea is a traditional drink, and sometimes a medicinal one, in many parts of the world.
Zucchini and Squash
If you have a vegetable garden, you probably have zucchini or summer squash plants or both. And you probably end up with way more of the vegetables than you can eat. You can get another use out of these plants, by picking and eating the flowers. The long tube shape of zucchini and summer squash blossoms and their sturdy nature makes them perfect for stuffing and cooking. You can find an infinite number of recipes for stuffed and then roasted, grilled, baked, or fried blossoms. Try some for your next dinner.
Borage is a rather ordinary looking groundcover—that is, until the flowers appear. Sometimes called starflower, borage produces beautiful, star-shaped little flowers in a lovely shade of bluish purple. The light, refreshing flavor of both the flowers and the leaves is reminiscent of cucumber. You probably want to stick with the flowers, though, as the leaves and stems are prickly. Also be sure to remove the back of the flower, which is also a bit tough to swallow. Use the blossoms fresh for flavor and for a stunning garnish. Anywhere you would use raw cucumbers is a great dish for borage.
If you live with cooler weather and have rich, loamy soil, this brightly colored flower will grow well in your garden. Only eat the yellow-to-orange-hued petals of this flower. The rest is inedible, but fortunately the petals are easy to pluck. The tangy, spicy, slightly peppery flavor is a nice flavor for salads, but the color of the petals is the real prize with calendula. Play around with the petals to make designs as a special garnish.
Your rose bushes produce beautiful blooms and potent, perfumed aromas, but they also provide you with a food source. The petals should be removed when eaten so that you do not eat the base of the flower. Also remove the white portion at the bottom of the petal because of its bitter taste. You can eat the petals raw for a sweet, flowery flavor. You can also steep them in water to create a fragrant tea. The darker the color of the rose and the stronger its scent, the more flavorful the petals will be. When the blooms are gone on your rose bush, look for the small berries left behind. These are called rose hips, and they are edible and chock full of vitamin C. The flavor is somewhat like cranberry, and rose hips can be prepared in a similar manner. Be sure to remove the hairy seeds before using them, as they can cause digestive upset later.
Common Toxic Flowers
Here are some common plants whose flowers you will want to avoid. When searching for wild flowers to eat, make sure you understand what these toxic plants are and how to identify them.
- Bleeding heart
- Lily of the valley
- Calla lily
- Morning glory