Edible flowers, fresh or dried, can add beauty, color, flavor and texture to savory and sweet dishes, as well as cordials, condiments and butters. Flowers are best when eaten a few hours after picking, so growing your own makes sense. By growing your own you can also ensure they are free from pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

Edible flowers are very easy to grow either in beds and often in pots.

Which flowers are edible?

There is a huge variety of edible flowers available for growing, however, it is important to know that not all parts of each plant are edible. The following flowers are edible:

Apple blossoms – They have a floral flavor that works well in ice cream, infused in jellies, and as a salad garnish.

Bee balm – Both leaves and flowers are edible, with an Earl Grey-like taste with citrus notes. They work well infused in homemade butter and ice cream, teas, and as a salad garnish.

Tuberous begonia – They have a tart, lemon-like flavor and whole flowers can be added to salads, or the petals can be used as a garnish.

Bergamot – They have a strong spicy scent, are wonderful as a tea and complements bacon, poultry, rice and pasta.

Borage – It is necessary to remove the hairy inner parts of the flowers. The petals have a subtle, cucumber-like flavor and are good in soups, salads, and desserts. You can freeze them in ice cubes to add to drinks. They also can be candied.

Calendula – Only the petals are eaten, so remove them from the flower heads before using. They have a spicy, tangy, peppery, or bitter flavor depending on which variety you grow. They work well for homemade butter, rice dishes, and salad garnish.

Camellia – They are used fresh as salad garnishes or dried for use in Asian cuisine.

Pink Carnation – They have a spicy, floral, clove-like taste, and are beautiful for decorating cakes. They’ll also make a colourful garnish for soups and salads.

German & Roman Chamomile – German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is sweeter and thus preferable for culinary purposes. Chamomile has an earthy, floral, apple-like flavor that’s often described as slightly bitter. It can be infused in teas, cocktails, and desserts. Fresh or dried flowers can also be fried in butter and stirred into hot cereal, such as oatmeal.

Chive blossom – They have a subtle onion / garlic flavor. They’re great infused in homemade butter, and work well in sauces, scrambled eggs, salads, and sandwich spreads.

Chrysanthemum – They have a tangy, grassy, and slightly bitter flavor. They’re good fresh or dried to garnish soups and salads.

Citrus blossoms – They work well with many different foods from stir-fries to puddings. They are also ideal for crystallising and decorating cakes or desserts.

Cornflower – They have a sweet-to-spicy clove-like flavour. They look pretty as a garnish, or can also be frozen in ice cubes and added to drinks.

Dahlia – They can have a range of flavours from water chestnut and spicy apple to carrot. In addition to the petals, you also can eat dahlia bulbs.

Dandelion – All parts of the dandelion plant can be eaten. The flowers can be deep-fried to make dandelion tempura or they can be added as a sunny garnish to salads and desserts. They can also be used in jam, syrup and winemaking. You can steep the flowers to make a delicious herbal tea.

Day lily – The unopened buds and petals have a sweet and floral flavor when eaten raw. They can also be stir-fried in oil or made into fritters. Sliced petals can be added to salads and soups.

Dianthus – Their warm spice-like scent makes them a perfect garnish for pork, curry, root vegetables, as well as apple pie. They are a tasty addition to green salads.

Elderflower – They are sweet with undertones of pear and lychee. They’re good to infuse in syrups, cordials, jellies, ice creams, and other desserts. Flower heads also can be dipped in batter and deep-fried, or they can be dried for tea.

English daisies – The young flower heads or buds can be added to salads, soups or sandwiches. Daisies may be frosted and sprinkled on top of cakes for decoration, or to make tea.

Forget-me-not – They are delicious as a snack on their own or to decorate cupcakes or salads.

Fuchsia – All parts are edible. Their fleshy texture means they are as at home on a salad as popped into a cocktail or through a cake. Use the lemony – peppery tasting berries to make jams and jellies.

Gardenia – They can be eaten raw, pickled or preserved in honey.

Scented-leaved Geranium – Both the leaves and flowers are edible. All varieties with the exception of the ‘Citronella’ variety are good for eating: apple, ginger, lemon, lime, nutmeg, peppermint, rose, and ginger. They have a citrus flavor combined with the variety’s scent. They’re good for garnishing salads and for candying.

Gladiolus – They are mild in taste (similar to lettuce), and good in sweet or savoury dishes.

Herb flowers – Herb flowers like basil, chives, lavender, mint, rosemary and thyme impart a more subtle flavour to food than the leaves. 

Hibiscus – They can be eaten raw or dried. They have a subtly sweet and tart, cranberry/ pomegranate flavor. They’re ideal to infuse in drinks, including ice tea and cocktails, as well as to use in ice cream and other desserts. The dried flowers also can be used in tea. Great addition to fruit salads or to make a citrus-flavoured tea.

Hollyhock – Remove the centre stamen (e.g. pollen) before eating.

Honeysuckle – Enjoy the nectar fresh, or use petals make a syrup, pudding, or a tea.

Anise Hyssop – The flowers have a sweet, lemon-like taste with notes of licorice and mint. They work well in salads, soups, sweet breads, iced drinks, and ice cream.

Cape Jasmine – Extremely fragrant, they’re ideal for pickling, preserving, and baking.

Lavender – They have a floral, herbaceous, and sweet flavor with notes of mint, citrus, and rosemary. They’re good in marinades, desserts, drinks, and jellies. Try adding flowers to sugar for baking.

Lemon balm – Leaves are commonly used as a relaxing tea. They can be added into many dishes in which the lemon flavour can be enjoyed. Lemon balm has been added to many desserts including ice cream and custards. It is always to be used fresh when using for food (other than a tea).

Lemon verbena – leaves and edible flowers turn up in martinis, ice cream, syrups, sun teas, pesto, salad dressing.

Lilac – fragrant purple and pink varieties are the best for culinary use. Before using, remove any leaves and stems. The flowers have a floral, perfumed flavor. They’re good in homemade butter, infused in drinks and syrups, and as garnish for cakes. They also can be dipped in batter and deep-fried or candied. Enjoy mixed with cream cheese or yogurt as a dip or spread.

Signet & Mexican mint Marigold – The blooms have a floral flavor with citrus and pepper notes. They’re good for salad garnish, frozen in ice cubes, or sprinkled over egg dishes, or adding color to dishes.

Magnolia – The young flowers can be pickled or used fresh in salads.

Nasturtium – Both the flowers and leaves of nasturtium plants are edible. The flowers can be dried, and the seed pods can be pickled as a caper substitute. They both have a peppery flavor and go well in homemade butter, sandwich spreads, infused vinegar, and as a garnish for soups and salads.

Californian poppy – Fresh or dried leaves can be used to make a herbal tea which is known to be soothing and relaxing.

Peony – The petals taste lovely fresh in salads, or lightly cooked and sweetened.

Roses – white portion of the petals is bitter and should be removed. The petals have a floral, sweet, earthy flavor. They’re good in homemade butter and to infuse in sugar, ice cream, drinks, syrup, honey, jelly, and vinegar. They also can be used as a garnish for salad and cakes.

Pansy – Mild and fresh-tasting, they’re great in a green salad or as a garnish.

Safflower – Add flavour and colour to both sweet and savoury dishes, perfect for decorating pastries and desserts.

A sweet addition to cakes, biscuits, slices, donuts, candy, chocolate, icre creams, drinks and more!

Sunflower – The buds, petals and seeds of the sunflower are all edible – the petals taste a little nutty.

Violas – honey-vegetal taste of these edible flowers adds another lovely layer to creative dishes ranging from salads to desserts, floating beautifully on cocktails and mocktails, adding delightful crunch to dishes and drinks alike.

Violet – They can be used fresh or dried, providing a strong floral taste with sweet notes. They’re good for homemade butters and as garnishes for salads, cakes, and other desserts. They also can be infused in drinks, syrup, and jelly.

Water Lily – The young leaves and unopened flower buds can be boiled and served as a vegetable. The seeds, high in starch and protein can be popped, parched or ground into flour.

Yucca – The white yucca flower petals have a crunchy, mildly sweet taste with a hint of artichoke flavour. Delicious added to salads or used as a garnish.

Zucchini blossoms – Male flowers Squash blossoms have a mild flavor that’s reminiscent of the squash. They’re good stuffed with cheese, rice, or beans; baked as a gratin; or coated in a tempura batter and deep-fried. For fritters and stuffing, leave the stems on.

How to grow them?

A wide range of annuals and perennial edible flowers can be grown in the garden from early spring to late autumn. Home-grown flowers, free from pesticides and soiling by dogs and other pets are best.

How to store and use them?

Pick edible flowers on a dry, sunny day. Most flowers should be picked when they have fully bloomed and are not yet starting to wilt. Rinse the flowers quickly under cold water or swirl them in a large bowl of cold water to remove dirt and tiny insects Then, gently shake off the water but not so vigorously that you remove the pollen, which often has a lot of flavor.

Edible flowers are always best when picked fresh from the garden. They’ll taste even better if you can pick them early in the morning before they’ve had too much sun.

But if that’s not possible, don’t worry. Put them straight in the fridge (in a plastic container) and try to use them within a few days.

Wash and dry them gently by dipping them in a bowl of water and gently shaking. This should also help remove any bugs or bees that might have stowed away within the petals.

If you plan to dry your flowers, place them on paper towels or clean tea towels in a single layer. Let them dry in a warm, well-ventilated place, turning them over once or twice a day. Depending on the thickness and moisture content of the flowers, this can take several days. You can also dry flowers in a dehydrator. Follow the gadget instructions, and, just like with air-drying, make sure not to overlap them.

Edible flowers add pretty bursts of color to salads. They can be chopped up and used in baked goods such as cookies or muffins, whilst whole blooms can be used around a large cake such as a wedding cake. A couple of my favorite bakers to checkout would be www.loriastern.com and www.sugarstudiola.com

Edible Flowers and herbs

www.smithandlily.com

Cheers, Clare

Clare has built up a loyal client base throughout the Los Angeles area delivering daily flower bouquets, subscriptions for private homes and businesses, and designs to wow at your wedding or next event. Inspired by her English countryside roots, Clare has recently turned her hand to growing flowers to include in your flower designs along with locally sourced flower, and those from further afield.

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