You may be surprised to know that many flowers that you’ve seen or grown yourself are edible. Perhaps you’ve seen cooking shows in which squash blossoms are stuffed and fried. But Italians aren’t the only people who have used flowers in their dishes. Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indian cuisine all feature flowers in their traditional foods. Flowers have been used in cooking for thousands of years. Flowers not only add color to your cooking but flavor as well.
And don’t think of just the petals sprinkled on salads or as garnish. Flowers add much more to your flavor profiles. Some flowers have a fragrant, floral taste but others are more herbaceous and still others lend spiciness to your cooking.
Before adding flowers to your culinary creations be sure you follow these simple rules:
- Always be certain the flower is edible. If you’re unsure, consult your county extension service or a reference book. Never simply assume a flower is edible. While many are, many are poisonous.
- Don’t eat flowers you’ve found by the roadside or in a park. In addition to having been treated with pesticides, the flowers growing near roads are polluted with engine exhaust.
- Don’t eat flowers from a nursery or a flower shop. Commercially grown flowers have likely been treated with pesticides.
- Introduce edible flowers to your diet gradually. You may have an unknown allergy or they may exacerbate a known allergy.
- Remove pistils and stamens before consuming the flowers. Eat the petals only. Of course other parts of the plant may be edible but, again, be certain of its edibility before eating any other plant parts.
An added bonus to these edible flowers is that you may already grow them in your vegetable garden to attract bees or deter pests!
Allium is the scientific name for the onion family including chives, garlic, garlic chives, leeks, and, of course, onions. Every part of the allium family of plants is edible, including the flowers.
Angelica blossoms have a licorice flavor.
Anise hyssop have a anise flavor which is subtle. The leaves and the flowers both have this licorice flavor.
Arugula just like the leaves you use in salads the blossoms have a peppery flavor.
Bachelor’s button lend a grassy note to you dishes. The calyx is bitter so you won’t want to include it.
Basil flowers have a taste that, while similar to the leaves, is milder.
Bee balm blossoms have a minty flavor.
Borage flowers taste like cucumber. I snack on the blossoms while working in my garden.
Calendula / marigold these blossoms have a spicy, peppery tang.
Carnations / dianthus the petals have a sweet taste that mimics their scent.
Chamomile has been used for centuries to sooth babies. The blossoms have a sweet taste. If you’re allergic to ragweed, be aware you may also be allergic to chamomile.
Chervil is another lightly anise flavored flower.
Chicory petals and buds can be pickled for the mildly bitter, earthy flavor.
Chrysanthemum blossoms can range in flavor from peppery to downright pungent. The flowers can be a little bitter. Use the petals only.
Cilantro petals have the grassy flavor of the leaves. They should be eaten fresh, not heated.
Citrus (orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit,) blossoms are sweet and add both flavor and scent to your cooking. But don’t overuse or your dish will smell of nothing else.
Clover in addition to providing bees with a favorite nectar, the flowers are sweet and have a light licorice flavor.
Dandelion flowers can be fried, used to make cookies, jelly, and wine. The leaves, harvested before the flower blooms, can also be eaten.
Dill the flowers of this herb taste like the leaves.
Fennel flowers have the same subtle licorice flavor as the herb. The yellow flowers add a pretty flair to your dish.
Fuchsia is one of my favorite flowers and the blossoms are tangy and great for garnish.
Gladiolus can be stuffed like squash blossoms. The flower itself is pretty bland but the petals can make a distinct garnish.
Hibiscus has a cranberry flavor. The vibrant, tart flavor can be overpowering, so use sparingly. And, of course, you can make Hibiscus tea.
Hollyhock makes a showy garnish but it’s bland in taste.
Impatiens can be candied or used as an edible garnish but the flowers actually don’t have much flavor.
Jasmine can be used in sweet dishes but the blossoms are highly fragrant so use them sparingly. Jasmine is also used to make a fragrant tea.
Johnny Jump-Up has a subtle mint flavor that is a great addition to fruit dishes, salads, pasta, and drinks.
Lavender can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. The flavor is sweet and spicy and it lends its perfume to your dishes.
Lemon verbena tastes, as the name implies, of lemon. Use it in desserts and to make tea.
Lilac has a citrusy, floral scent that is copied in its flavor.
Mint flowers are minty. No shock there. The intensity of the flavor depends on the variety.
Nasturtium flowers have a spicy, peppery taste preceded by its sweet, floral taste. The seed pod is both sweet and spicy. The flowers can be stuffed, the leaves added to salads, and the buds pickled. And the petals make a lovely garnish..
Oregano flowers have a subtle version of the flavor of the leaf.
Pansy is fairly bland so eat the entire flower for more taste.
Radish flowers have the peppery bite of the vegetable.
Rose petals have a very strongly perfumed flavor. Scatter the petals over desserts and in drinks. The petals can also be sugared and used to dress up baked goods. Roses can also be made into jams. Remove the bitter white base before using. Darker roses have a more pronounced taste.
Rosemary flowers can be used as garnish on dishes that use the herb. The flavor of the flower is a mild version of the herb itself.
Sage blossoms also have a flavor similar to the leaves, in a more subtle way.
Squash blossoms can be stuffed making you look like an Iron Chef. It takes a little practice but it’s worth it. The blossoms have a slight squash flavor. Remove the stamens before using the blossoms.
Sunflower buds can be steamed like artichokes and the petals can be eaten.
Violet flowers are one of the most well-known edible flowers, along with nasturtiums. The flowers are sweet, floral and make lovely garnishes. Use in salads, desserts, and floating in drinks.