Mother Nature has gifted us with more natural and wild food than most of us realize. Even our beautiful flower beds are filled with plenty to eat. Below is a list of edible flowers ( or plants) that have been eaten for the better part of a millennium and in some cases much longer. Growing your own edible plants and flowers is always best but if you cannot then always remember to find a reputable source for these culinary delights. Never purchase flowers from a florist to eat. Most are sprayed with toxic herbicides and chemicals and should never be consumed. This list is by no means complete but gives you and idea of what you can try incorporating into your food for more colour, flavour and texture.
Angelica has been grown and eaten since the middle ages. The beautiful flowers are edible, and you can eat them right out of the garden. The flavour has hints of anise and carrot, along with a mild bitterness. Angelica should not be eaten if pregnant as it is often used to bring on menses.
The Anise Hyssop flowers and leaves have a delicate black liquorice flavor that’s pleasant and not overwhelming. They’re tasty fresh, or you can add anise hyssop blossoms to baked goods.
Also known as Cornflower, Bachelors Buttons are bright blue edible flowers with a mild grassy flavor. While the flower petals are a tasty edible, carefully remove the green sepals around the flower to avoid their bitter taste.
There are dozens of ways to use Bee Balm, from teas to salves and herbal steam. they are also wonderful as salad toppers or in a simple floral jelly.
Begonia has a bright citrus taste with a slight sour note. They are a flavorful edible flower that’s quite versatile. They can be eaten alongside savoury or sweet dishes because of their complex flavour. Begonia blossoms and leaves are tasty raw, and the stalks can be cooked like rhubarb.
With a flavor reminiscent of fresh cucumbers, Borage flowers are often added to cool summertime drinks. While the edible flowers tend to get all the attention, Borage leaves are also edible and make a lovely salad green. The greens can be served cooked, and added to anything in place of spinach.
In the late spring and early summer, black locust trees are covered with fragrant white blossoms. These edible blossoms can be used in many ways such as jellies, syrup, sorbet etc.
The beautiful orange/yellow flowers of Calendula make a lovely annual in the flower garden. Their bright edible flower petals add colour to all manner of dishes. They often are used as a bright natural herbal cupcake sprinkle for a pop of colour. The petals are a beautiful addition to thyme infused shortbread cookies. Calendula is also a well known topical used to treat skin issues.
Carnations can be used in many of the same ways as roses in recipes or for creating fragrant flavoured waters. They impart a sweet/spicy flavor, along with their perfumed aroma.
Best known as a simple relaxing herbal tea, chamomile can also be used to add a warm, sunny floral flavor to baked goods such as cakes, jams scones, and buns.
Common Chickory (Cichorium intybus) is a perennial with beautiful blue flowers in mid-summer. It has a tasty edible root that’s actually cultivated for food in many parts of the world. The greens are edible raw or cooked, and the root is used for flavouring in many commercial coffee blends. Though the root is the best known edible part, the edible flowers make lovely additions to salads.
CHIVES (AND OTHER ALLIUMS)
Chive greens add an onion flavor, and they’re the perfect topping sprinkled on top of a baked potato. Chive blossoms are also edible, and while they taste similar, they do have a flavor all of their own.
Chrysanthemum greens are a cooked vegetable in Asian cuisine, and the edible flowers are commonly made into chrysanthemum tea.
Red clover and white clover are both sweet edible flowers that can be harvested in huge quantities in the summer months. The flowers themselves can be dried and ground to make clover flour which adds nutrition and helps extend flour supplies during tough times. Dried clover heads can also be added to herbal tea blends.
DAISY (BELLIS PERENNIS)
Daisies are a sunny, fun addition as a garnish. The flower has a slightly bitter flavour and somewhat similar aroma.
DAME’S ROCKET (HESPERIS MATRONALIS)
Dame’s Rocket is a biennial plant in the broccoli family, It goes by many names, including dame’s rocket, damask-violet, dame’s-violet, dames-wort, dame’s gilliflower, night-scented gilliflower, queen’s gilliflower, rogue’s gilliflower, summer lilac, sweet rocket, mother-of-the-evening, and winter gilliflower. The leaves are harvested before the plant flowers, and can be added to salads. The flower buds are cooked and eaten like broccoli raab, and the edible flowers can be eaten raw or used as a garnish.
DANDELIONS (TARAXACUM OFFICINALE)
Every part of the Dandelion is edible. The greens are often cooked into savoury dishes, or eaten raw to add a touch of bitter to salads. Dandelion roots are cooked like carrots, or dried, roasted and then ground into a dandelion coffee substitute (much like C hickory). The flowers are often made into dandelion wine or used to flavour cream and ice cream.
Every part of a Day Lily is edible, including the roots and young shoots. Flowers may be treated like squash blossoms and the stalks chopped and sauteed like broccoli raab or other green stalk vegetables.
Elder Flowers are delicious, and are a one of a kind taste. While the flowers are wonderful, be sure to not over pick them so the remainder form Elderberries. Elder Flowers can be used to flavour apples while in cold storage.
Fireweed jelly is big in Alaska, where the blossoms are used to mark the progression of summer. They start blooming at the bottom and work their way up the plant as the season progresses. Jelly made from the edible flowers is commonly made and the leaves of Fireweed can be made into a tea substitute. Fireweed tea is made by stripping the leaves off the stalks, bruising them, allowing them oxidize and ferment, then drying and storing them. This method is the same way Asian tea leaves are prepared.
FORSYTHIA (FORSYTHIA SP.)
These bright yellow blossoms have very little flavour but are used in baking, jelly and syrup most often for their colour contribution.
FRUIT BLOSSOMS (APPLE, CHERRY, STRAWBERRY, ETC)
The flowers of many fruiting trees and shrubs are edible long before they set fruit. This is a good way to thin a crop if your apple tree is over-producing. Thinning the blossoms ensures that the remaining fruit will be larger and helps prevent stress on the tree. Edible flowers are available on apples, cherries, plums, citrus, and many other trees. Fruiting shrubs like strawberries, honeyberries, and blueberries are also edible.
Hibiscus blossoms taste a bit like cranberry, and are often used to stain foods bright red during cooking. Hibiscus is very versatile. Syrups and jellies are most common but the tart flavour also pairs well with savoury recipes.
Related to marshmallow flowers, Hollyhocks are also edible flowers. Much like Marshmallow they are bland, with a mild vegetable flavor, but add a beautiful touch to fresh salads. Just like marshmallow, every part of the plant is edible. The leaves make a good fresh salad greens, and all parts of the hollyhock plant can be used as a medicinal tea for pain and inflammation.
Honeysuckle is attractive to bees and hummingbirds because of it high sugar content in the nectar. It is also tasty for humans too. Honeysuckle is excellent for making a delicious sweet and fragrant syrup that can be used in desserts, tea and more, however, other parts of honeysuckle are toxic such as the leaves and berries that form later in the season.
Hosta blossoms are edible and offer a refreshingly mild flavour. Beyond the edible flowers, the flower stalks, leaves, and young spring shoots may be eaten. Young Hosta shoots taste similar to asparagus and can be cooked in the same manner, or eaten raw in salads. Harvesting sparingly won’t hurt the plant. They are grown as a popular vegetable in Japan. The flowers can be added to salads, eaten out of hand, or fried up into tasty fritters.
Culinary lavender is excellent in so many things. To some people it tastes like soap, but for many of us who enjoy the light floral aroma and flavour it is a lovely addition to tea, baking, ice cream, sorbets and cold soups however a little goes a long way. Be sure you are using culinary lavender as the flavour is more pleasant and subtle compared to its bitter tasting cousin that is used for its strong fragrance.
Lilacs are also tasty to eat and like many edible flowers, they taste an awful lot like they smell. One of the simplest ways to use them is making a simple lilac sugar. They can also be used in the same dishes that culinary lavender is used offering a similar flavour note.
While most edible flowers are found in the perennial garden, a few are found on trees. Lindens trees grow all over our woods, and they’re a beautiful landscape tree that’s often found in suburban backyards. Linden flower tea is medicinal and is often used by herbalists for treating anxiety and hyperactivity (as well as ADHD in children).
Who says marshmallows don’t grow on trees? Ok they don’t but they do grow right in the flower garden, or at least they used to. Every part of the marshmallow plant is edible, including the beautiful fragrant pink flowers. The leaves are a spring green colour, and the roots are commonly used in medicinal preparations that soothe mucous membranes.Marshmallows can also be made from the green seed pods after the edible flowers have been pollinated by local bees (and the bees really love these flowers).
Use the tiny flowers of signet marigolds, such as Lemon Gem and Tangerine Gem. Their blossoms have a citrus taste.
It’s becoming more common to plant milkweed in flower beds, as a nice gesture for the monarch butterflies, but also because they’re beautiful and smell wonderful. Knowing they’re edible flowers is just one more reason to plant them in your flower garden. The edible species is common milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca). Beyond the edible flowers, there are a number of other edible parts on milkweed including the shoots, flower buds, leaves, seed pods, and immature seeds. All parts should be cooked before eating. Never pick milkweed for consuming unless you are 100% sure you are harvesting from the correct species.
Like Bee Balm, all of the mint family are edible and have a pleasant taste. Try lemon balm or spearmint in iced tea.
One of the best known edible flowers, nasturtiums are annual flowers commonly grown for adding spice and colour to salads. The buds of nasturtium flowers can be made into capers, and the flowers themselves are pretty versatile. Nasturtiums have a spicy flavour and they beautiful bright colours are wonderful on salads, desserts and even meat dishes.
PANSIES AND JOHNNY JUMP-UPS
These flowers have a wintergreen flavor and are pretty on cakes and other desserts. Glaze with warmed jelly for a jewelled look or dip in a thinned honey syrup and coat with crystalline sugar for a sweet treat.
Peonies like roses can also be used to create a flavoured water that may be added to cool summertime beverages. Beyond their edible flowers, peonies are used medicinally in China, where dried peony root is sold as Bai Shao which may be used for gout, osteoarthritis, fever, respiratory tract illnesses, and cough. Peony is also used for spasms, whooping cough (pertussis), epilepsy, nerve pain (neuralgia), migraine headache, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).”
PHLOX (PHLOX PANICULATA)
While low growing creeping Phlox is toxic, the tall type of perennial phlox (Phlox paniculata) is edible and resembles Dame’s Rocket. The main difference is phlox has 5 petals, while Dame’s Rocket has 4. The flowers are slightly spicy, and they’re often used in salads and offer a slightly spicy taste
Rosewater is a rose extract, and has been used to add flavor to dishes for millennia. It’s a traditional addition to baklava, to add lightness and intrigue to a dish that’s otherwise heavy with butter and honey. Rice can also be flavoured with rose petals and rose water is commonly used in Turkish Delight candy. Fresh rose petals taste wonderfully floral, and you can add them to salads or eat them out of hand. They can be sugared, turned into rose cordial using the blossoms, sugar and a bit of citric acid for tartness.
SAGE (Various Types)
Sage has been used for thousands of years to flavour food and as a tea and medicinal. The leaves can be dried, steeped, cooked and Sugared. Sage is a member of the Mint family.
SCARLET RUNNER BEAN
Mix these bright-red flowers into salads, or in with steamed veggies. The flower has a bean like flavour.
Another edible flower that tastes just like they smell, scented geraniums add a delightfully floral flavor to dishes.
Use these as you would Day Lilies.
Sunflowers are grown for their seeds as well as their beautiful flowers, but the flowers themselves are actually edible. Young sunflowers can be prepared and cooked like artichokes before they’re fully open. Like many edible flowers, the rest of the plant is also edible. Sunflower sprouts are a great micro green.
Tulip flowers are edible, as are tulip bulbs. Tulip petals vary quite a bit by variety, some sweet, others a tad spicy. They have many flavours ranging from bland to bean, pea, and cucumber like. Pink, peach and white blossoms are the sweetest, red and yellow the most flavorful. While you can use them to garnish salads they are more common used is to hold appetizers or dip, much like a day lily or squash blossom. If you use the entire blossom cut off the pistil and stamens from the centre of the blossom. The ends of the petals can also be bitter so cut them off as well when used individually.”
With a sweet floral taste, violets are a lovely edible flower for topping salads. Violets also make stunning candied flowers, and they’re commonly used to decorate cakes and cookies. The greens are also edible.