Not just for decoration, flowers are also for eating. And probably more flowers have shown up in your food than you realized. Edible flowers are available in specialty food stores, at farmer's markets, and right in your own garden. Be sure to pick flowers that you know for certain have not been sprayed with pesticides, and only flowers you can positively identify, as some are poisonous. Keep reading to see a helpful chart of some common edible flowers and their uses.
Edible flowers range in taste from sweet, delicate, fruity, nutty, spicy, peppery, and pungent.
Edible flowers should be consumed quickly, but can be stored in plastic containers in the refrigerator or with their stems immersed in water for a few days. Some people may develop upset stomachs or allergies to edible flowers, particularly people with pollen allergies. New flowers should be introduced to your diet in small amounts to see how your body reacts to them. Remove the stems, pistils, and anthers as they may have a bitter taste. The petals are fine to eat.
|Angelica||Tastes like celery. Cooked with fish and candied.||Can cause skin irritation in some people.|
Eaten as a vegetable. Steam, braise, roast, grill, marinate. Distilled into liqueur.
|Arugula Blossoms||Eaten raw in salads, also good cooked in soups, egg dishes, and pizzas.|
|Bachelor Buttons (aka cornflower)||Eaten raw in salads.|
|Banana Blossom||Eaten raw, steamed and served with dips, cooked in soups, stews, and curries.|
|Borage||Used in Pimm's Cup.|
|Calendula||Known as "poor man's saffron." Adds a spicy and colorful note to food.|
|Capers||Pickled flower buds; used in pastas, fried, fish dishes, meat dishes, sauces, and salads.|
|Carnation||Eaten raw in salads and candied.||Remove the pistils and stamens.|
|Chamomile||Used commonly in tea.|
|Cherry Blossoms||Salted and used in tea and soups in Japan.|
|Chive Flowers||Eaten raw in salads.|
|Cilantro Flowers||Eaten raw with salads, cooked in soups and with vegetable dishes.|
|Dandelion Flowers||Eaten raw in salads (along with the greens.) Can also be fried in butter, baked in breads, canned in jelly, and made into wine.|
|Elderflowers||Fried as fritters and made into liqueur.|
|Hibiscus||Very sweet. Brewed as tea and used to make agua fresca. The flowers are also preserved in syrup and used as a cocktail addition or dessert topping.|
|Jasmine||Used in teas.||Only the species Jasminum sambac is edible; all other jasmine species are poisonous.|
|Kudzu Flowers||Eaten raw in salads, cooked in jellies, made into wine|
|Lavender||Used in desserts and teas, also lavender lemonade. Good when candied.||Lavender essential oil may be poisonous. Make sure to buy "food-grade" lavender buds.|
|Marigolds||Eaten raw in salads.||Calendula officinalis and Tagetes tenuifolia are edible; Tagetes patula is not.|
|Nasturtiums||Eaten raw in salads, can also be added to burritos.|
|Pansy||Eaten raw in salads and candied.|
|Roses||Eaten raw in salads, cooked in soups, creamy sauces, desserts, and added to cocktails. Very good when candied.|
|Saffron||Used as a spice in baked dishes, paella, soups, stews. A great addition to sauces and ice creams. Infused in vodka.|
|Squash Blossoms||Batter-fried, stuffed, baked, cooked in soups, quesadillas, burritos.|
|Sunflowers||Petals can be eaten raw in salads, sunflower heads can be steamed like artichokes.|
|Szechuan Buttons||Salads, sauces, soups, and cocktail garnishes.||Give off a tingling, electric-like sensation on the tongue. Start slowly and with small amounts.|
|Violets||Eaten raw in salads, candied, and made into wine and syrup. Made into jellies.|
|Yucca Flowers||Eaten raw in salads, cooked in soups and egg dishes, used in beverages and desserts.||Only the petals are edible. Eat in small amounts.|
See also: a list of non-edible, poisonous flowers. Avoid!
(Images: Kathryn Hill, Burpee,com, watertonwildflowers.com, profumo.it, wikipedia.user.Strobilomyces, Emily Ho, Faith Durand, Sunrise Seeds, Marx Foods)