I ate a lot of flowers last year. Not terribly filling, I’ll admit, but they proved to be the most magical of ingredients, turning a green salad into a flowery mead and a scoop of ice-cream into a fairy castle. They earned their keep pre‑harvest, too: they looked so at home on the allotment, nestling brightly and dependably among the veg, and providing something to lift the heart even when skies were grey and produce was lacking.
They are also at the very top of the “you can’t buy this” list, marking out your dishes as homegrown far more tactfully than an “I grew all this myself!” announcement as guests take their seats. Delicate and ephemeral, they would be trashed by commercial harvesting, and look tired and past it a few hours after cutting. You have to grow them yourself, and thankfully it’s easy. Here are five favourites.
- Viola Tricolor
- Courgette flowers
- Edible Pansies Make These Desserts Almost Too Pretty to Eat
- Different Types of Edible Flowers
- When Are Edible Flowers In Season?
- Where to Buy Edible Flowers
- How To Buy Edible Flowers
- How To Store Edible Flowers
- Store your flowers in a hard sided container to prevent accidentally crushing them when moving them around.
- After storing, but before using, make sure to remove the stamens and pistils from the flowers because these contain pollen which may overpower the flavor of the flowers or cause allergic reactions.
- Practice Makes Perfect
- Are Pansies Edible – Information On Eating Pansy Flowers
- Using Pansies as Food
- Pansy Recipes and Ideas
- Most recent
- Edible flowers, Pansies.
I would grow nasturtiums for their leaves alone – perfect circles of bright, fresh green in ever-descending size, draping elegantly along flower beds – but their flowers are special, in jewel-bright oranges and deep reds. Both leaves and flowers have a strong, peppery flavour. They are tender annuals, so sow them into modules under glass a couple of weeks before the last frost. Pot on into small pots a few weeks after germination and plant out somewhere sunny once all danger of frost has passed. Try ‘Empress of India’ (ruby red flowers against darkest green leaves), ‘Alaska’ (bright flowers against white- and cream-splashed leaves) or ‘Milkmaid’ (pale primrose flowers).
After picking, float them, faces upturned, in a bowl of water until ready to use. This keeps them fresh and even plumps them up a little. Pick flowers young and scatter them on salads. The leaves can be ground with parmesan and walnuts to make a peppery pesto.
Commonly known as heartsease for its medicinal properties, Viola tricolor has long been used as an edible flower, sprinkled on salads or desserts. It makes a dainty plant, with pretty little violet- and yellow-faced miniature pansy flowers. The flavour is delicate and perfumed.
Sow under cover in early to mid-spring, then plant out once the weather has started to warm, though protect them from slugs.
Pick the flowers when they have just opened and leave them in cold water to swell up slightly before scattering on to salads. To crystallise flowers, use a fine brush to paint them with egg white and scatter with caster sugar. Leave to dry for two hours. Use within a week, on top of cakes or puddings.
Courgette flowers have a delicate courgette taste and are wonderful lightly fried in butter, or stuffed as tempuras. Females have a small bulge behind the flower that will turn into a courgette. Males have a straight stem and will never be courgettes, so pick with abandon. Track down ‘Bianca’, a variety that produces unspectacular courgettes but lots of flowers. Harvest early in the day, when flowers are young and fresh. Wash carefully and remove the central stamens.
Borage produces star-shaped, sapphire-blue flowers with a fresh, cucumber taste, perfect for adding to salads and summery drinks but just as happy crystallised or sprinkled on to sweet things. It is a hardy annual. Sow under cover in early spring and plant out in early summer in a sunny spot with well-drained soil. After the first year, borage should self-sow freely.
Scatter the young flowers on salads or cold soups (they are a particularly good addition to cucumber soups) and into summery cocktails such as Pimm’s. To freeze, half fill an ice-cube tray with water, drop a flower into each cube, and freeze. Once this has frozen, top up and freeze again.
Pot marigolds, or calendula, produce happy orange flowers. The petals have a peppery taste and look beautiful sprinkled over food. This is a hardy annual – sow where it is to flower, in early to mid-spring. You will get quicker growth and stronger, earlier-flowering plants if you start them off under cover and plant outdoors once the weather has started to warm. Plant into full sun, in rich but well-drained soil. Use flowers straight away as a garnish on soups and salads. Grind with a little olive oil to create a “poor man’s saffron” for colouring dishes.
• To order a copy of The Speedy Vegetable Garden, by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz, for £11.99 (RRP £14.99), visit theguardian.com/bookshop, or call 0330 333 6846.
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Edible Pansies Make These Desserts Almost Too Pretty to Eat
Pansies stand for thought or remembrance, which is fitting: not only do they make a memorable bouquet, but a handful can also take a dessert from ordinary to unforgettable. Pansies and their relatives violas have a mild, fresh flavor or a more prominent wintergreen taste depending on the variety and how much you eat (a whole flower tastes stronger than petals alone). You should only eat flowers that are grown organically, without chemical pesticides, which rules out almost everything from florists, garden centers, and nurseries.
If you plan to consume pansies, look for them at farmers’ markets or in the produce aisle of a specialty grocery store, order them from an edible-flower source, or follow Martha’s lead and grow pansies yourself. Once you stock up, try using the beautiful blossoms in all kinds of sweet applications: perch a bouquet on top of a cake, bake them into cookies or tarts, candy them until they sparkle, adorn drinks with them, you name it.
CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE CAKES WITH FRESH PANSIES
As if a rich ganache coating weren’t luscious enough, these triple-decker chocolate cakes are topped with intense jewel-toned pansies.
Get the Chocolate Truffle Cakes with Fresh Pansies Recipe Image zoom Victor Schrager
Each of these dainty scalloped cookies is decorated with a pansy and a sprinkling of sanding sugar before baking, which turns them absolutely radiant. Pack in elegant tins and gift to family or friends.
Get the Pansy Cookies Recipe Image zoom Victor Schrager
Perfect for afternoon tea, these lemon-curd tartlets have pansies beneath the glossy, clear apricot glaze; pansy leaves are scattered across the cake stand, and a little bouquet sits at the center.
Get the Pansy Tartlets Recipe Image zoom Victor Schrager
A colorful assortment of pansies floats on top of this icy treat that teams puréed watermelon with white vermouth. More of a slushy than a punch, it makes a light, refreshing dessert in spring or summer.
Get the Watermelon Punch Recipe Image zoom Victor Schrager
Candied flowers like these Johnny-jump-ups can make any dessert pretty enough to serve as a centerpiece. The white grid on this magnificent cake was piped with a #2 round tip over a smooth coating of lavender buttercream.
Get the Sugared Flowers Recipe Image zoom
VANILLA PANSY CAKE WITH ORANGE-BLOSSOM SYRUP
Moist vanilla-bean cake gets three embellishments here: it’s brushed with a fragrant orange-flower syrup while still warm, topped with sugared pansies, and served alongside a velvety honey mousse.
Get the Vanilla Pansy Cake with Orange-Blossom Syrup Recipe
Edible flowers can be used to add a splash of colour to all kinds of foods, from salads to desserts to fancy cocktails. A single borage petal, carefully placed, can really enhance a slice of cake or an amuse bouche.
Before venturing out to the garden to harvest a bunch of flowers for the dinner table, it’s important to remember that some flowers are poisonous. Make sure to make a positive identification of each variety before using. Obviously, one should avoid flowers that may have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. It’s useful to either grow organic flowers, or harvest them from a location where no chemicals are used. Organic or not, all flowers should be shaken and washed in cold water prior to use, as they may to be homes for insects.
Pick edible flowers in the morning, when they have the highest water content. Keep them on some dampened paper towel inside a sealed container in the refrigerator for as long as a week. Wilted flowers can be revived by floating them in some ice water for a few minutes. Prepare them for eating just before serving in order to prevent further wilting.
Remove the stamens and styles from flowers before eating. Pollen can cause allergic reactions when eaten by some people, and it may overwhelm the otherwise delicate flavour of the petals. The exception here is the Violas, including Johnny-Jump-Ups and pansies, as well as scarlet runner beans, honeysuckle, and clover. The flowers of these varieties can be enjoyed whole, and will probably be more flavourful this way.
This list of Edible Flowers is not comprehensive so if you notice a flower missing from this list, please do further research before you consider it edible. Don’t assume that all flowers are edible – some are highly poisonous.
Agastache – Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is also sometimes known as licorice mint. Both the young leaves and the striking purple flowers have a mild licorice flavour. Pull the purple flower tubes away from the central structure of the flower and scatter them in salads or fancy drinks for a pop of colour and flavour.
Angelica – This relative of celery (Angelica archangelica) has licorice-scented, pinkish flowers borne in large umbels. The flowers make an interesting addition to salads, but it is mostly grown for its stronger-tasting leaves.
Apple – Be sure to only try flowers from trees that have not been sprayed. Apple blossoms (Malus spp.) have an appealing but delicate flavour and scent. They work particularly well with fresh fruit salads. Use in moderation, as the flowers contain very low levels of poisonous chemicals.
Arugula – Once this cool-season plant (Eruca vesicaria) begins to bolt, its leaves will have become tough and almost too spicy to eat. So let it bolt, and enjoy some of its very small, spicy, white or yellow flowers. They add a nice, unusual zing to salads.
Basil – Most growers use basil’s leaves (Ocimum basilicum) before the plant has flowered. After blooming, the character of the leaves changes and becomes less appealing, but the flowers can be eaten. They may be white to lavender, but they look stunning when sprinkled over pasta. Thai basil is sometimes allowed to flower before whole stems, with leaves attached, are harvested. The whole flower is edible.
Begonia – both tuberous (Begonia x tuberhybrida) and wax (B. x semperflorens-cultorum) begonias have edible flowers with a slightly bitter to sharp citrus flavour. Tuberous begonia flowers contain oxalic acid, so should be avoided by people suffering from kidney stones, gout, or rheumatism.
Bergamot, wild – This plant (Monarda fistulosa) may be listed as bee balm, Monarda, Wild Bergamot, Oswego Tea, or Horsemint. The flowers (and the young leaves) have an intense flavour of mint with undertones of citrus and oregano. This plant that has a scent highly reminiscent of Earl Grey tea. Somewhat confusingly, the “oil of bergamot” used to flavour Earl Grey is actually derived from citrus peel from the Bergamot Orange. Monarda flowers are formed by large clusters of edible tubular petals that can be separated before adding to cakes, fancy drinks, or salads.
Borage – This familiar garden herb (Borago officnialis) has furry leaves and exquisite blue, star-shaped flowers. Both have a cooling taste reminiscent of cucumber. Try some of the flowers in a summer lemonade or sorbet – or a gin & tonic! They work particularly well as garnishes for gazpacho, cheese plates, or just sprinkled over salads.
Calendula – All “pot marigolds” (Calendula officinalis) have flower petals that are edible. They have a nice flavour that ranges from peppery to bitter, and they add bright yellow, gold, and orange colour to soups and salads. They may even tint some dishes like saffron does.
Chamomile – Choose the German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla syn. M. recutita) for its daisy-like flowers. They can be used fresh or dried, and make a particularly nice tea that tastes vaguely like apples. Drink the tea in moderation – some allergy sufferers may have a negative response. Otherwise, sprinkle the petals into salads and soups.
Chervil – The lacy leaves of this shade-loving herb (Anthriscus cerefolium) are topped by delicate white flowers borne in umbels. Both the leaves and the flowers have a very mild anise or licorice-like taste. Add chervil to your dishes just before serving to maintain the best flavour.
Chicory – All endive varieties (Cichorium endivia & C. intybus) produce, at summer’s end, tall stems with striking, sky-blue flowers. The petals can be pulled off and added to salads for their earthy, endive-like flavour. The unopened flower buds can also be pickled like capers.
Chives – The flowers of chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are ball-like clusters of hundreds of little florets that can be separated and scattered onto salads for colour and a mild onion flavour.
Chrysanthemum – The edible chrysanthemum and garland Chrysanthemum (both are Leucanthemum coronarium) that we offer produce both edible young leaves and appealing white daisy-like flowers with yellow centres, or flowers that are entirely yellow. The petals of both types are edible and faintly tangy.
Cilantro – This leafy herb (Coriandrum sativum) is also known as Coriander. In summer heat it is quick to bolt, and will send up tall umbels of white flowers. These have an intensely herbal flavour, just like the leaves, roots, and seeds of the plant, and can be used as a garnish where cilantro leaves would otherwise be used.
Clover – The flower heads of clover (Trifolium spp.) are edible, and have a sweet, mild liquorice flavour. In fact, the whole above ground plant is edible, but it’s best to grow clover as tender sprouts or to use the flower tubes in moderation as a salad garnish. Mature clover is tough to digest, and may cause bloating.
Cornflower – The pretty, blue flowers of cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) have a slightly spicy, clove-like flavour with a subtle sweetness. Cornflower petals look wonderful in salads. Use torn petals as a garnish, or whole flowers in fancy drinks.
Dame’s Rocket – The petals of this tall relative of mustard (Hesperis matronalis) are pink, lavender, or white, and always come in fours. Perennial Phlox looks similar, and also has edible flowers, but always have five petals. The petals (and the immature leaves) of Dame’s Rocket are worth adding to salads, but have a mild bitter flavour.
Dandelion – The ubiquitous dandelion (Taxacum officinalis) is entirely edible. When picked small, and unopened, the flower buds have a surprising sweetness, reminiscent of honey. Young greens are also tasty either raw or steamed. Dandelion petals look very nice when scattered over pasta or rice. While dandelions are rather easy to come by, make sure to harvest them only from organic gardens. Avoid any grown near roads or picked from lawns where chemicals may be present.
Day Lilies – The fleshy, short-lived flowers of day lilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are sweet, with a flavour resembling mild melon or cucumber. Make sure to cut the tasty petals away from the bitter base of each flower. Try them in salads! Eat in moderation.
Dianthus – Look for the large-flowered carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus), and cut the sweet tasting petals away from the bitter white base of each flower. The bright red and pink petals have a mild clove flavour and are great for desserts or salads.
Dill – Stronger in flavour than the leaves, the flowers of dill (Anethum graveolens) can be used when cooking fish, or raw in salads. They are very small, yellow, and borne on tall umbels. Best used when they have just opened, as they set seed quickly.
English Daisy – The low growing flowers (Bellis perennis) have a bitter flavour, but are entirely edible. They are small enough to use simply by sprinkling the petals onto salads or other meals, and will not overwhelm stronger flavours.
Fennel – Both the garden herb and the vegetable Florence fennel(both are Foeniculum vulgare) will eventually produce attractive and tall umbels of tiny yellow flowers that have the same mild licorice flavour as the leaves. These work very well in desserts!
Fuchsia – Avoid nursery-bought Fuchsia (Fuchsia x hybrida) flowers, as they may have been sprayed. Otherwise, the extraordinary looking flowers make great garnishes and have a slightly acidic flavour.
Garlic – Allowed to open, garlic flowers (Allium sativum) are pink to white, with florets that can be separated and inserted into salads for a mild garlic zing. However, allowing the plants to flower may divert energy that would otherwise go to the bulb. Many garlic growers prefer to cut the flower stems (scapes) before they open. These can be sautéed in butter for an intense, early summer side dish, or run through the food processor and mixed with Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts for a sensational pesto.
Hollyhock – The large, brightly coloured flowers of common hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) have almost no flavour of their own, but they sure look nice cut into salads or sprinkled over desserts. Be sure to use the petals only – cut these away from the central structure of the flower just before serving.
Honeysuckle – The long flower tubes of various honeysuckle species are edible, but Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is best, with its distinctly honey-like flavour. Do not eat the berries that follow, or any other part of the plant, as they are all poisonous.
Impatiens – The flowers of Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) may be bright white or shocking red, but the petals are edible and have a surprisingly sweet taste. They can be torn into salad or mixed into fancy drinks.
Johnny-Jump-Up – This plant (Viola tricolor) produces masses of small, brightly coloured flowers that have a faint wintergreen taste. They look great served on cakes, served with soft cheeses, or as a topping for salads. Use the whole flower intact.
Lavender – Pull the clustered flowers of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) apart and sprinkle a few pieces onto chocolate cake. Submerge one or two pieces in a glass of chilled champagne. The sweet, intensely floral flavour of lavender should be used with restraint, but adds an incredible to pop savory dishes as well as desserts.
Lemon Bergamot – Like its wild cousin above, Lemon Bergamot (Monarda citriodora) has a perfume-like, intense, almost astringent quality, but it is strongly scented with citrus. Use portions of the flower conservatively in drinks or desserts or in herbal teas.
Lilac – Like lavender, the flowers of lilac (Syringa vulgaris) have an intensely floral, almost perfumey flavour with lemon undertones. A little goes a long way, but one or two individual flowers added to a summer punch looks wonderful and tastes very refreshing.
Lemon Marigold Tagetes tenuifolia
Marigold – Both French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and African marigolds (T. erecta) produce flowers that are technically edible, but the pungent scent is probably worth avoiding. African marigold flowers are used as a food colourant in Europe, but have only been approved for use as a poultry feed additive in the US. However,T. tenuifolia has a refreshing citrus, lemony flavour, and its petals work well torn into salads or smart drinks.
Mint – All mint varieties (Mentha spp.) have minty-flavoured, edible flowers that may be sweet or lemon-scented, or even with chocolate overtones depending on the type.
Nasturtium – All garden nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) produce edible flowers and leaves. Even the fresh seeds can be pickled like capers. Curiously this familiar garden flower is a cousin of the Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, mustards, etc…). All parts of the nasturtium have a pleasant, sweet, peppery flavour. The flowers can be used whole to decorate salads and a variety of other foods, but you may want to remove the long spur at the back of the flower, as this is the nectary and may harbour small insects.
Pansy – The flower petals of the familiar garden pansy (Viola x wittrockiana) are edible and highly decorative. The petals have little flavour, but the whole flower can also be used. It has a grassy, wintergreen undertone that works well in fruit salad.
Pea – Edible garden peas (Pisum sativum) produce edible flowers that look great in salads. Serve a blend of peas in a meal: shelled peas, pea tendrils, pea pods, and some flowers for garnish. Note: Ornamental sweet peas are poisonous.
Perennial Phlox – Be certain that you’ve got the tall-growing perennial garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), and not the inedible annual, creeping type before you try the flowers. The perennial type bears pink to white flowers with five petals that have a pleasant, peppery flavour. They look great and taste great in fruit salads.
Primrose – With its bland, but highly colourful flowers, primrose (Primula vulgaris) is worth cultivating if only to tear its petals into a few summer salads. The flower buds can also be pickled, steamed, or fermented into wine.
Queen Anne’s Lace – The Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) produces tall umbels of exquisite, tiny, white flowers, each one marked by a blood-red centre. Although this plant is grown for its decorative, edible flowers, it can cross-pollinate with its close relative the carrot, so if you happen to be growing carrots with the intent of saving seed, avoid this plant in your garden. The flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace have a mild, carroty flavour. Be absolutely certain that the plant you are harvesting is not the invasive weed known as Wild or Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum), which looks very similar. The stems of Queen Anne’s Lace are hairy, while Poison Hemlock has smooth, hollow stems with purple spots.
Rose – Another surprisingly edible garden flower is the rose (Rosa spp.). Although its petals are intensely perfumed, their flavour is subtler and a bit fruity, with complex undertones that depend on the variety and soil conditions. The petals of all roses are edible, but you should remove the bitter white base of each petal. Be sure to use only rose flowers that have been organically grown from a reliable source, as nearly all nursery or cut flower roses will have been treated with pesticide.
Rosemary – It takes nimble fingers to pull the strongly scented flowers of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) from between the tightly packed leaves. The leaves contain more oil than the flowers, but both are similar in flavour. Use the flowers as you would the herb. Flowers are deep blue to pink, depending on the soil.
Safflower – The dried yellow flowers (Carthamus tinctorius) are sometimes sold as Mexican saffron, and used like saffron as a food dye. Otherwise, fresh petals can be torn into salads, soups, and sauces. They have a very mild flavour of their own.
Sage – The deep blue flowers of sage (Salvia officinalis) add an interesting mild-sage flavour to salads or savory dishes. Pull individual flower tubes from the stems and use with discretion, as the taste is strong.
Scarlet Runner Bean – The flowers of this vine (Phaseolus vulgaris) are vivid, intense red, and also delicious. They make excellent garnishes for soups and salads, providing a real visual high note.
Sorrel – Like the leaves of sorrel (Rumex acetosa), its flowers have a strongly lemony flavour, and can be scattered over salad or used in sauces. The flavour comes from oxalic acid, so should be avoided by those with kidney conditions or rheumatism.
Squash – Both male and female flowers of all squash and zucchini varieties are edible, and have a faint squashy flavour. It may be sensible to only use the male flowers, as they will not form fruits. They can be torn into salads or stuffed with savory items like herbs and goat cheese, and then fried in a light tempura batter. There are many squash blossom recipes online.
Sunflower – It’s still a little known fact that unopened sunflower (Helianthus annuus) buds can be steamed or sautéed in butter and served whole. They have an artichoke-like flavour. Alternately, the petals can be pulled from the edge of the opened flower and added to soups and salads. Their flavour is somewhat bitter.
Violet – Many varieties (Viola spp.) are suitable for decorating food. They come in a range of sweet, perfumed flavours, and a wide range of colours. Some of the tiniest violet flowers make the best additions to cakes, drinks, and salads.
Flip through a few vintage copies of Good Housekeeping — mostly from the ’60s and ’70s — and you’ll see lots of dishes made with edible flowers. But a scattering of pansies on a plate might as well have been a neon sign blinking, “Look at me, I’m fancy!”
So it’s understandable that flower-infused meals lost their appeal. But they’re on their way back, and here’s why: The right edible flower (especially fruit, herb, and vegetable blossoms) can add flavor to a recipe in a more colorful, and texturally interesting way.
Where to Buy
The best place to find them is your local farmers’ market. Not only are the options more interesting than what’s available at grocery stores, but you can also talk to vendors to make sure their crops are safe for you to eat (note: avoid flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals).
If you don’t have a farmers’ market nearby, look for edible flowers in the produce section (not the florist section!) of your grocery store. You can also order them online. Shops like Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, Marx Foods, and Melissa’s will ship to you overnight so they’re as fresh as possible.
How to Clean and Store
1. Shake flowers to remove any insects or excess dirt.
2. Gently wash in a large bowl of cold water; drain.
3. Let flowers air-dry on a paper towel–lined tray.
4. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, lined with damp paper towels, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Flowers to Try
For the most part, edible flowers taste like they smell. Our advice: Buy a few different kinds and experiment! That’s the only real way to decide what you like. Just keep in mind that not every flower is edible. Only buy ones you can identify and know are 100% safe to eat. Here are some of our favorites for cooking, but you can visit the The Chef’s Garden for more options:
• Arugula Flowers: Peppery flavor, just like arugula leaves. Use in salads or other savory dishes.
• Chive Blossoms: Delicate, oniony flavor. Use whole flowers or separate the individual petals.
• Hibiscus: Tart and sweet. Often used in teas, cocktails, and salads.
• Jasmine: Very sweet, floral fragrance and flavor. Use in teas or desserts.
• Johnny-Jump-Ups: Minty, almost bubblegum-y flavor. Serve on cakes or with soft mild cheese, like goat cheese.
• Lavender: Floral flavor that’s perfume-y and faintly citrusy. Use in cocktails, teas, desserts, or other baked goods.
• Lemon Verbena: Light lemon flavor that’s well-suited for sweet or savory cooking.
• Marigold: Faint citrus flavor. Try it in a salad.
• Nasturtiums: Peppery flavor and golden hue. Try them on crostini with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
• Pansies: Use these as garnish — they’re so pretty! Faint grassy flavor.
• Squash Blossoms: Mild raw squash taste. Usually cooked before eaten. Lightly dust with cornstarch and deep fry.
• Violets: Sweet and floral. Use in dessert or freeze into ice cubes for decorative drinking.
TELL US: Have you ever eaten flowers?
Photo: Foodcollection RF/Getty
NEXT: 3 Ways to Eat Flowers “
Learn everything you need to about what to look for and where to buy edible flowers. Plus storage tips and tricks to help them stay as fresh as possible!
As April showers usher in May flowers, we’ll be focusing on a topic that is often forgotten in the culinary world – edible flowers. These flowers not only lend beauty and color to your plate, but are capable of completely altering the flavor profile of what you are making. As the focus of our month, we’ll be covering 4 different edible flowers recipes that range from the mixed packages you find at the store, to lavender, to rose, to jasmine All of these flowers are both beautiful and potent in their own way, lending a unique flavor profile to what they are in.
Note: Before utilizing any type of edible flowers, please make sure to consult a guide to determine whether or not your flower is edible, and talk to a doctor about any potential allergies or risks.
Different Types of Edible Flowers
There are many types of edible flowers you can enjoy. While we’re only going over four of the most basic ones this month, if you ask around at your local farmer’s market you’re sure to find more. Some of my favorites include:
- Squash Blossoms
The 1 ounce containers you often find at the grocery store usually contain a mixture of 3-5 different flowers.
When Are Edible Flowers In Season?
It would make sense that edible flowers are in season during the season that the flowers grow and bloom – which for most edible flowers is spring and summer. You can find varieties that straggle on into autumn, but the glory of the internet is that there is always someone somewhere who has a greenhouse and will be willing to ship them to you. Many varieties are beautiful enough to grow in your yard, and some even house additional benefits (marigolds are great for keeping away mosquitos), making it ideal to forage for them at home.
Where to Buy Edible Flowers
In my experience, it can be tough to find edible flowers at your every day grocery stores like Fred Meyer, Kroger, Giant Eagle, Food Lion, or even Trader Joes. You can usually find the one ounce packages at the higher end groceries like Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Town & Country.
I don’t recommend just walking in and buying edible flowers from a flower shop because they often carry what is pretty – not what is edible. If you ask them about it, they may be able to order some for you, but make sure that you verify the genus and species of the plants to make sure you are getting one that is edible. Also, while we’re on the topic of florists, please never pluck a flower out of a bouquet to use in your cooking – often flowers that come from nurseries or florists have been sprayed with pesticides, preservatives, or protectants because they are not intended for consumption – even if they are edible.
How To Buy Edible Flowers
No matter what, the thing that you want the most from your flowers is freshness. I mean, yes, you want all your ingredients to be fresh, but edible flowers deteriorate quickly so you want a “just-picked-this-day” level of freshness. Usually that kind of freshness is something that you can arrange with a local farmer’s market. I have a booth at mine that I go to, schedule when I’ll need my flowers, and they’ll pick them that morning for me so they’re in the best condition possible.
If you’re not able to do this and you need to buy the packaged flowers instead, those are usually kept in the refrigerated section of your grocery with the herbs.
No matter which way you buy them, here are some things to look out for:
- Mold. This is especially important if you are buying your edible flowers packaged because it is easier for it to hide. Open the package and check down inside of the flowers themselves to make sure there is no mold beginning to fuse together the petals. It usually presents as a grey-white and weblike mold.
- Color. Your flowers should be bright and attractive with a little bit of sheen. If your flowers are looking dull and hazy then they are probably starting to go bad.
- Petals. The petals should be pert and happy. If they’ve started to become limp, weak, and droopy, they need to be used up or thrown out.
If you are looking for an out of season flower or one that is harder to find, you can always order it online. Most likely the website will require overnight shipping (and refrigeration during travel) so the shipping can often get pricy. Sometimes I get lucky and can save on cost if I order a living plant of that species and have that shipped to me, rather than just the flowers.
How To Store Edible Flowers
Each flower is different, but one thing is the same. Use them as soon as possible. If you use them up the day you get them, they will be in the best shape possible, but if you can’t, I recommend not going more than 48 hours before using them. Refrigeration is helpful in prolonging the life of your flowers.
Store your flowers in a hard sided container to prevent accidentally crushing them when moving them around.
To store your edible flowers, I recommend :
- Place a damp paper towel on the bottom of a rigid, airtight storage container. This helps prevent wilting by creating humidity in the container.
- If you notice any dirt or insects on your flowers (make sure to check inside if you are getting something like a squash blossom) gently rinse your flowers by dipping them in room temperature water or using a gentle stroke with a paintbrush to remove the debris. Damage is more noticeable on lighter colored petals, so make sure to be extra careful when handling these.
- Layer the flowers between paper towels, double-checking that none of the flowers are touching. Make sure that you don’t push down on any of the layers, damaging the flowers.
- Seal the container with an airtight lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours, removing any flowers as necessary when they begin to go bad.
After storing, but before using, make sure to remove the stamens and pistils from the flowers because these contain pollen which may overpower the flavor of the flowers or cause allergic reactions.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you would like to try some recipes that use edible flowers, here are some I recommend:
- Blood Orange and Edible Flower Pound Cake
- Fresh Jasmine & Tahitian Vanilla Cream Scones
- Strawberry Lavender Ice Cream
- Rose Curd and White Peach Tart
Thank you so much for stopping by!
Do you like to cook with edible flowers? What are your favorite ways to enjoy them? Tell me about it in the comments, or show me on social media – @foodabovegold. Tag it with #foodabovegold for everyone to see!
Happy Cooking! 🙂
Are Pansies Edible – Information On Eating Pansy Flowers
Are pansies edible? Yes! Pansies are one of the most popular edible flowers, both because you can eat their sepals and because they come in such a wide array of colors. They are popular eaten both fresh in salads and candied in desserts. Keep reading to learn more about eating pansy flowers and common pansy recipes and ideas.
Using Pansies as Food
Can you eat pansies? You sure can. In fact, unlike with many edible flowers, you don’t even need to be careful to stop at the petals. The stamen, pistil, and sepals (those little leaves directly under the flower) are all edible, too. This means you can just snip the flower off its stem and eat away.
That being said, you should only eat pansies that you know haven’t been exposed to chemical pesticides – which means no eating flowers you’ve bought at the florist or picked in the park. The best option is to grow the flowers yourself so you know exactly what they’ve come into contact with.
Pansy Recipes and Ideas
When eaten raw, pansy flowers have a fresh, slightly spicy, lettuce-like flavor. In a word, they taste very green. They are popular in salads because their taste meshes very well and they add a great splash of color. Really, they work well as a garnish for any savory meal, and since they come in so many colors, it’s easy to find just the right flower to accent your plate.
They are also excellent dessert flowers. They can be pressed fresh into the icing of a cake or placed in a bowl of fruit. Candying is the route most chefs make, however, both because it helps preserve the flowers for longer, and because it gives them a sweeter, more dessert-like taste.
To candy a pansy flower, simply whisk together an egg white and a few drops of water. Using a paintbrush, gently brush the mixture onto both sides of the petals, making sure to coat the surface completely. Then dust the flower with confectioners’ sugar (it should stick in a fine layer). Place the finished flowers face up on a sheet of parchment paper and let them dry overnight. These flowers should stay looking nice for up to a year.
By Brian Barth
Eating flowers seems almost heretical. If plants could talk, wouldn’t they say, you can look, even sniff, but please don’t chow down on my pretty petals? The dainty apple flower, after all, is what gives way to the fruit, and thus the seed, ensuring the cycle of life continues. Do you dare give into the temptation to pluck it for food?
Many a chef certainly has. But most folks are clueless to the vast array of edible flowers. Apple blossoms, for example, impart a delicate floral flavor to fruit salads, along with a heavenly aroma. With many herbs, the flowers taste just like the leaf—chive flowers are a colorful way to infuse salad dressing with a garlic flavor.
On the other hand, some flowers are technically edible, but unpleasantly acrid. Chrysanthemums, for example, or begonias. One reference describes the flavor of wax begonias as slightly bitter with “a hint of swamp.”
A word of warning before we get on to our list of edibles: Exercise caution when using flowers in the kitchen; many are poisonous. Those daffodils in your perennial border could cause nausea, diarrhea, itchiness, stupor, convulsions or even death, depending on how much you eat. (In almost all cases it’s not just the flower that’s poisonous, it’s the entire plant.) Below, you’ll fine a list of safe-to-consume flowers that we think you’ll enjoy, with a few thoughts on how to grow and use them. And if you’re ever unsure, here’s a list of common poisonous plants whose flowers you never want to ingest.
In the Kitchen: These cheery flowers have a fairly neutral, nondescript flavor and are used to brighten-up both salads and sweets. Pastry chefs sometimes use Calendulas to make floral designs on cheesecakes and other goodies. Because the golden-orange petals hold their hue when cooked, they’re sometimes used as a saffron substitute as well.
In the Garden: Calendula is easy to grow from seed, and often reseeds itself in the garden each year without any effort on the part of the gardener. Needs full sun and regular water.
Zones 3 to 9
In the Kitchen: Most types of lilies are mildly toxic when consumed, but not daylilies. (Though botanically speaking, daylilies are not a true lily.) Daylily blossoms are meatier than most flower petals, with a succulent texture and a mildly sweet taste, similar to romaine lettuce. Chop them up and add them to salads, but be sure to sample the flavor first, as some daylily varieties taste better than others. Try stuffing them with herbed cheese or dipping the unopened flower buds in batter and frying them up as an hors d’oeuvre.
In the Garden: Daylilies are generally sold as a potted plant and are easy to grow in sun or part sun, as long as you provide ample moisture. In rich soil, they spread to form extensive colonies.
Zones 3 to 9
In the Kitchen: Adventurous foodies relish the bitter flavor of dandelion greens in salads and soups, though few realize the flowers are also edible. Use dandelion flowers exactly as you would calendula (a close botanical relative). The flavor is sweeter if picked immediately after the flowers open.
In the Garden: Dandelions can be found growing as a weed almost everywhere (lawns, sidewalk cracks, soccer fields), though you can purchase seeds if you want to establish a bed for culinary use. The plant needs full sun and is drought tolerant, once established.
Zones 3 to 9
In the Kitchen: Elderberry flowers have a light, honey-like aroma and taste, and they’re often used to flavor white wine, champagne, lemonade, iced tea, and other summery drinks. You can sprinkle the tiny individual flowers in salads, or fry the dome-shaped clusters whole to make elderberry fritters. Beware that elderberry foliage is mildly toxic, as is the uncooked fruit (the cooked fruit, however, is edible and delicious).
In the Garden: Elderberries are typically purchased as a potted plant, and are easy to grow in full sun or partial shade. Water frequently until established.
In the Kitchen: Borage flowers have a mild, cucumber-esque flavor and are used to jazz-up salads, drinks, and savory dishes. The plant’s electric-blue hue is a great compliment to calendula’s golden tones, making for a photo-worthy plating.
In the Garden: Borage is easily grown from seed, and typically reseeds itself in the garden year after year. Drought tolerant.
Zones 4 to 9
In the Kitchen: Lavender flowers have a unique, savory flavor with a hint of floral sweetness, and they’re usually employed in summer drinks, ice cream, chocolate, and other sweets. Rub the flower buds between your fingers to separate the tiny individual flowers and sprinkle them into your dish.
In the Garden: Lavender is typically purchased as a potted plant. Grow it in a location with full sun and well-drained soil. Lavender is highly drought tolerant—once established, water only when the soil is bone dry.
In the Kitchen: Pansies are one of the few flowers that come in every color of the rainbow. They have a mild, nondescript flavor and are used primarily for decorating salads and desserts. Use violets, a close relative of pansies, in the same way.
In the Garden: Pansies are typically grown from seed. They thrive in locations with rich, moist soil and part sun. Pansies suffer in the heat of summer, so they’re primarily grown as spring and fall annuals.
Hardiness Zone Varies by Species
In the Kitchen: Hibiscus flowers have a cranberry-like flavor with tropical notes. Though they’re most often made into iced tea or infused into other cold drinks, chopped hibiscus flowers add a tangy spunk to salads and desserts.
In the Garden: There are numerous edible species of hibiscus, but it is the Jamaican species Hibiscus sabdariffa that is most known for its flavor. Hibiscus is typically purchased as a potted plant. Needs full sun and ample irrigation.
In the Kitchen: Nasturtium flowers have a peppery zest similar to watercress, to which the plant is closely related. They are primarily used in salads and as a garnish for hors d’oeuvres. Though the tubular flowers are large and sturdy enough to stuff with cheese or tapenade.
In the Garden: Nasturtium is easily grown from seed in partial shade or full sun, and often reseed themselves in the garden. Thrives in rich soil with regular irrigation.
Zones 3 to 10
In the Kitchen: Most people pick roses as a centerpiece for their table or to give as a symbol of their affection, but their culinary qualities are unsurpassed. Roses taste much like they smell, but with a slightly bitter undertone. Use in drinks, desserts, and salads, or make rose petal jam.
In the Garden: There are literally hundreds of rose varieties to choose from, some of which are much easier to grow and others. Iceberg roses and Knock Out roses are two of the most foolproof varieties. Roses thrive in a location with rich, well-drained soil and full sun. They require regular irrigation.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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Edible flowers, Pansies.
I have nastursiums growing now. Don’t think its to late, but you may have trouble finding plants in the Nursery. You might also try pansies. They’re pretty and taste great.
From: Pat Peck <arpeck.FREENET.SCRI.FSU.EDU>
> You wrote about tasting pansies–can you really?! Do you add them to a salad like nasturtiums?
Yes Anna you can eat pansies. Just put them in salad. Don’t know how to describe taste. Also freeze them in ice cube trays and put in drinks. Only be sure to fill ice cube tray half full. Deposit pansy and then after slightly frozen, add more water to top. That way pansy is in middle of cube.
There are a number of edible flowers. Certain type of marigold. Not triple kind. Maybe someone knows. Also use Johnny Jump Ups (think that’s what they’re called). Growing up in South Florida. Ate hibiscus all the time. Don’t know what kind they were. Just picked them and ate them. My family is a little gun shy over greens I fix.
Always checking to see what’s in them.
From: Lynette Scribner <lscrib.GORGE.NET>
>Certain type of marigold. Not triple kind. Maybe someone knows.
The lemon gem marigold is edible and a beautiful plant as well. Little 1 foot mounded bushes covered with zillions of little yellow flowers which bloom all summer long. Smells sort of like a citrusy marigold. I got mine through Shepherd’s and plan to plant a lot more of them this year!
From: “Mary E. Hall” <IOMA2.AOL.COM>
> Yes Anna you can eat pansies… //snip//… There are a number of edible flowers.
But if you’re new to this, PLEASE be sure to eat only flowers you KNOW have had no pesticides or fungicides sprayed on them! That means you can’t safely eat pansies from the flat you just bought at a nursery UNLESS you patronize an organic-only nursery. It also means that roses from a florist are NOT edible.
From: “Mary E. Hall” <IOMA2.AOL.COM>
Lisa asks, “What all CAN you eat -flower-wise??” Well, there’s lots. I haven’t seen a comprehensive list on Herbs List, so I brainstormed a good dozen or so, then started flipping through books out of curiosity. This is not all-inclusive, but it looks pretty safe (with the exception of primroses, but it’s so commonly said to be edible that I had to mention it WITH a warning.) DO remember not to eat commercially-grown flowers unless you know they’re grown 100% organically. Pesticides aren’t good for people.
These are said to be nice for salads: nasturtiums, borage, roses, violets and their leaves, chives, broccoli (it turns into yellow florettes that look kind of pretty against spinach), dandelions, pansies & johnny-jump-ups, bergamot, calendula, sage, rosemary, and sweet rocket (whatever that is–I like the name!)
I have seen these cooked or brewed with: dianthus (aka the chrysanthemums known as “pinks”), elderflowers, mint, dandelions. I’ve heard rumors of mullein and soapwort blossoms in brewing, even.
I have also seen recipes for rose petal jam, hibuscus-blossom tea, and suggestions to make vinegars using carnations, clover, elderflowers, lavender, nasturtiums, primroses,* rose petals, rosemary flowers, thyme flowers, violets. ****However, I list primroses with a warning–some sources say it’s toxic. It may be a confusion between varieties, or between European and American nomenclature, I don’t know. So whether “the jury’s still out” safety or not, I myself won’t eat ’em, and I REALLY don’t think making an infusion of it would be a good idea.
Citrus blossoms and apple blossoms also ring a bell as potential flavorings–if you live in an area where you can obtain them–but I have never seen it written down. “Orange blossom honey” by the way does not mean mixing the petals into the honey but taking the honey from bees who have fed at an orange grove.
I saw a beautiful thing done at a gourmet shop once. They pressed soft goat cheese into a form that they had lined with petals in patterns.
There’s one more thing turned up in a “salad herbs” page that startled me. Dandelions I knew, but would you believe chickweed is edible? Well, maybe if I’m really desperate…I’d rather eat that than cicadas!
who doesn’t eat flowers much herself because she’s got hay fever
From: “Janice D. Seals” <DianeTN5.AOL.COM>
Subject: Safe, Edible Flowers
Be certain that the flowers you use in cookery are pesticide-free. Before you start experimenting with all those pretty blossoms in your yard, it is essential that you become familiar with which ones are safe and which ones are unsafe.
Flowers have been used as food in cultures all over the world since antiquity. Odysseus encountered the lotus-eating Sybarites on his way home from Troy. Charlemagne ordered his wine to be flavored with palace garden carnations.
The Chinese have used daylilies,lotus, and chrysanthemums in their cuisine for centuries. Elizabethan cooks made “stewed primroses” and “gillyflower fondant” and Queen Bess favored Lavender conserve. The American colonists made such delicacies as violet vinegar, Oswego tea with bergamont flowers, and mutton broth with marigolds.
The best time to pick edible flowers is in the early morning when the blossoms are fresh and moist. Remove any part of the stem. You will notice that some recipes call for just the petals of the flower. This is because the stamen, sepal, and calyx may be bitter. I have noted on this list when petals are the only part to use. Gently wash the blossoms or petals in cool water. Wrap them in paper towels and place in a plastic bag to be stored in the refrigerator until mealtime. It’s best to use them when fresh, but the flowers will keep for a few days this way and may be “crisped” in ice water if revival is necessary.
The flowers of all culinary herbs are safe to use. If the leaf of an herb is edible, then so is the flower. Herb blossoms have the same flavor as their leaves, but, with the exceptions of chamomile and lavender blossoms, the flavor is usually more subtle. A good way to start experimenting is to use the flowers of an herb in recipes calling for that particular herb.
Here is a short list of safe flowers. It is not complete, by any means but this will give you something to start with. There are probably many more safe flowers then is listed here.
I will post a list of some unsafe flowers on another post. Please remember it’s best not to use flowers you don’t know about. If in doubt, call your local poison center.
Safe, edible flowers
- All culinary herbs
- Bachelor’s button
- Calendula (petals)
- Carnation (Dianthus pinks) (petals)
- Chrysanthemum (petals)
- Citrus-scented marigold (petals)
- Citrus tree blossoms
- Dandelion (petals)
- Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)
- English daisy (petals)
- Lily (Lilium auratum only)
- Peas (Pisum sativum)
- Rose (petals)
- Scented geraniums
- Squash (especially male zucchini blossoms)
- Water lily (Nymphaea odorata)
From: “Dorian G” <godorian.SINGNET.COM.SG>
>SAFE, EDIBLE FLOWERS
> Chrysanthemum (petals)
That was a most informative mail on edible flowers. I’d just like to add that dried Chrysanthemum petals alone makes the most wonderful & aromatic tea. Brew it as you would any regular tea, for optimum result add a little sugar for taste. However, *don’t* add any milk to it, that would corrupt the delicate flagrance. The Chinese believe that Chrysanthemum tea brew in this fashion has a certain cooling effect, it’s a great drink to counter the heat of the Summer months ahead.
From: “Janice D. Seals” <DianeTN5.AOL.COM>
Subject: Unsafe Flowers to eat
Here is short list of UNSAFE flowers that cannot be eat. This list is not complete. But will help you get started on your way to safely eating flowers. It is best not to use flowers you are unsure about. If in doubt, do not eat it and call your local poison center. Also if you have children make sure they know the difference. Be certain that the flowers you use in cookery are pesticide-free.
Do not use – “Toxic Flowers”
- Goldenrod (not true. -Henriette)
- Jack-in -the-pulpit
- Lily (Lilium atamasco)
- Lily (Lilium gloriosa)
- Nightshade family (Belladonna, bittersweet, white potato, tomato, eggplant)
- Scarlet pimpernel*
- St.-John’s-wort (not true. -Henriette)
- Yellow jessamine
*These have proven toxic to animals, so they are included as a caution, I would suggest further research before, including them in your cuisine.
The blossom of Queen-Anne’s lace may also be toxic, although it has been used medicinally in the past and sometimes now appears in exotic recipes. The roots of Queen-Anne’s lace are maginally edible, young ones being okay. The young plants looks a great deal like poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) which is quite toxic, so great caution must be used when picking Queen’s Anne’s lace for edible purposes. People have also said that they have eaten cowslip and milkweed greens with no apparent ill effects. But still these plants have not been documented as a safe edible flower. It is better to be safe than sorry.
From: “Peter A. Gail” <PETERGAIL.AOL.COM>
Milkweed buds and flowers are eminently edible when properly prepared, but you must know how to do it. The plant contains a highly toxic alkaloid in its milky juice, but this is heat labile and breaks down and washes out when the buds and flowers are plunged into boiling water, boiled 2-3 minutes and drained, covered with a second change of boiling water for 2 minutes and drained, and then cooked for a couple of minutes in a third change. Drained, served with salt and pepper and a bit of margarine/butter, this is one heavenly vegetable, and our family favorite.
Culinary herb FAQ: http://www.henriettes-herb.com/faqs/culi-4-6-jelly.html