The edible flower garden

Edible Landscaping – Growing Edible Flowers in Your Garden


Select nasturtium varieties, such as ‘Empress of India’, that have flowers growing above the foliage. The flowers, leaves, and stems add a spicy taste to salads.

Daylily flowers and buds are edible. Eat them raw in salads or sautee the flower buds in an Asian stir-fry.

Tulips are not only beautiful, the petals are edible as well. They have a slightly sweet flavor.

Rose petals have a sweet taste. Remove the petals from their bitter base and avoid eating petals from sprayed bushes.

Violas and pansies are perfect cool-season edible flowers. In many areas they will survive the winter and flower again in spring.

While gardeners love flowers for their beauty outdoors in the garden and indoors in a vase, few grow them for eating. That’s a shame because many flowers are edible in addition to bringing lively flavors, colors, and textures to salads, soups, casseroles, and other dishes. Eating flowers is not as exotic as it sounds. The use of flowers as food dates back to the Stone Age with archaeological evidence that early man ate flowers such as roses.

Of course flowers have been used for centuries for making teas, but flower buds and petals also have been used — from China to Morocco to Ecuador — in soups, pies, and stir-fries. Rose flowers, dried daylily buds, and chrysanthemum petals are a few of the flowers that our ancestors used in cooking. In fact, many of the flowers we grow today were originally chosen for the garden based upon their attributes of aroma and flavor, not their beauty.

Some flowers are high in nutrition as well. Roses — especially rose hips — are very high in vitamin C; marigolds and nasturtiums also contain vitamin C; and dandelion blossoms contain vitamins A and C.

Eating Flowers

Any flower that isn’t poisonous or that doesn’t cause a negative reaction is considered edible. However, just because a flower is edible doesn’t necessarily mean it tastes good. Before you go munching through the flower garden and window box, there are a few criteria you should keep in mind.

  • Be sure to positively identify a flower before eating it. Some flowers have look-alikes that aren’t edible.
  • Don’t eat flowers if you have asthma, allergies, or hay fever.
  • Only eat flowers that have been grown organically so they have no pesticide residue.
  • Collect flowers for eating in the cooler parts of the day — preferably early morning after the dew has evaporated — or late afternoon.
  • Choose flowers that are at their peak, avoiding those that are not fully open or are starting to wilt.

Edible Annual Flowers

Here’s a listing of some common edible, annual flowers that are easy to grow as well as tasty. Included are a number of herbs and vegetables that have edible flowers in addition to other edible parts.

  • Calendula/pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) comes in yellow, gold, or orange flowers with a tangy, peppery taste.
  • Garland chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium) produces mild-favored, flowers in shades of yellow to white.
  • African marigold (Tagetes erecta) has white, gold, yellow, or red flowers with a strongly pungent flavor.
  • Signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia) features white, gold, yellow, or red flowers with a citrus flavor.
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) has flowers in shades of white to red, with a watercress and peppery flavor.
  • Pansy/viola (Viola spp.) has violet, white, pink, yellow, or multi-colored flowers with a sweet flavor.
  • Petunia (Petunia hybrida) has a wide range of colors and a mild flavor.
  • Garden salvia (Salvia officinalis) features blue, purple, white, or pink flowers with a slightly musky flavor.
  • Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) has scarlet flowers with a sage flavor with pineapple undertones.
  • Radish (Raphanus sativus) has yellow, spicy-hot flowers.
  • Snapdragon (Antirrhinum spp.) has a wide range of colors with a bland to bitter flavor.
  • Scented geranium (Pelargonium spp.) has white, red, pink, or purple flowers with flavors such as apple or lemon, depending on the variety.
  • Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) has bright orange to scarlet flowers with a mild, raw bean flavor.
  • Squash (Cucurbita spp.) has yellow to orange flowers with a mild, raw squash flavor.
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) features white, yellow, orange, or burgundy flowers. Unopened buds taste like a mild artichoke. Flower petals are bittersweet.
  • Tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) have white, pink, yellow, red, orange or multi-colored flowers with a citrus flavor.

Edible Perennial Flowers

Flowers of these perennials and herbs offer a broad range of flavors.

  • Baby’s breath (Gypsophila sp.) has white or pink flowers with a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
  • Bee balm (Monarda didyma) features red, pink, white, or lavender flowers with a tea-like flavor that’s stronger than the leaves.
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) have white, lavender, or purple flowers with a strong onion flavor.
  • Dianthus/Pinks (Dianthus) have pink, white, and red flowers with a spicy, clove-like flavor.
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) comes in a wide range of flower colors with a slight asparagus or summer squash-like taste.
  • Borage (Borago officinalis) has blue, purple, and lavender flowers with a cucumber-like flavor.
  • Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) have yellow, slightly bitter flowers.
  • Red clover (Trifolium pretense) has sweet-tasting, pink or red flowers.
  • Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) come in a wide range of colors with a bland to slightly bitter flavor.
  • Tulips (Tulipa spp.) come in a wide range of colors and have a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
  • Violets (Viola odorata) have violet, pink, and white flowers with a sweet to slightly sour flavor.

Tree and Shrub Flowers

Yes, even trees and shrubs produce edible flowers. Here are a few of the best.

  • Apple (Malus spp.) has white to pink flowers with a floral to slightly sour taste.
  • Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) has sweet, white flowers.
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) has orange, red, or purplish red flowers with cranberry and citrus overtones.
  • Linden (Tilia spp.) has white to yellow flowers with a honey-like flavor.
  • Lilac (Syringa spp.) has fragrant white, pink, purple, or lilac flowers with a slightly bitter, lemony flavor.
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) features white, yellow, pink, or red flowers with a honey-like flavor.
  • Plum (Prunus spp.) has pink to white flowers with a mild flavor, like flower nectar.
  • Rose (Rosa spp.) has white, pink, yellow, red, or orange flowers with a highly perfumed, sweet to bitter flavor.

Some Flowers to Avoid

While exploring different ways of using edible flowers, be careful. There are a number of poisonous plants containing substances that can cause symptoms such as upset stomachs, rashes, and headaches. And even edible flowers should be eaten in moderation. You can have too much of a good thing.

Some common landscape and flowering plants that you should avoid eating include: clematis, hydrangeas, sweet peas, azaleas, daffodils, daphne, lily-of-the-valley, foxgloves, bleeding hearts, rhododendrons, wisteria, oleander, lupines, hyacinths, four-o’clocks, calla lilies, and castor beans. This is by no means an exhaustive list of non-edible flowers so you should thoroughly research any flower before munching away.

How to Gather Edible Flowers

Like any fruit or vegetable, when and how you harvest can influence the quality of the food. Harvest early or late in the day when the blossoms are cool. Sugars and volatile oils — the basis for aroma and flavor — are highest before heat and photosynthesis converts them into starch.

Pick flowers and place them in a shaded basket without crushing them. Most blossoms should be harvested at or near opening. Cull blemished blossoms. Gently clean off any dirt or bugs and store clean blossoms in a hard container in the refrigerator to prevent crushing.

Before using, gently wash the flowers and remove the stamens and styles (reproductive parts inside the flower) before eating. Flower pollen can detract from the flavor, and some people are allergic to it.

Not all parts of all flowers are edible. While flowers such as violas, violets, scarlet runner beans, honeysuckle, and clover are entirely edible, some flowers have only edible petals. These include roses, calendulas, tulips, chrysanthemums, yucca, and lavender. Pluck the petals of these flowers for use in salads and cooking. For most flowers (except violas and pansies) the sepals (parts below the petals) are not tasty and should be removed before eating. In addition, some flowers, such as roses, dianthus, English daisies, signet marigolds, and chrysanthemums, have a bitter white portion at the base of the petals where they attach to the flower that should be removed.

With a little effort, you can harvest beautiful, delicious flowers to dazzle your friends and family at mealtimes.

Eight Easy-To-Grow Edible Flowers

Wake up your taste buds with these eight edible flowers that taste as good as they look.

Rose photo copyright Isabel Gomes.

Photo by RC Designer on Flickr

Borage, (Borago officinalis): This annual is a delicious edible flower, which grows 2 to 4 feet tall with purplish blue, star-shaped flowers that “make the mind glad,” according to renowned 16-century herbalist John Gerarde. Sow seeds in a sunny spot after the last frost, or earlier in warm climates. Borage tolerates most soil types and usually reseeds itself. Transplanting isn’t recommended due to the taproot.

Borage adds a cucumber taste to salads, dips and cold soups. Freeze flowers in ice cubes to float in decorative drinks. In large amounts, borage may have a diuretic effect.

Photo by Isabel Gomes

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Also known as pot marigold, this annual edible flower was a favorite in medieval cooking pots. Calendula grows up to 20 inches tall, with attractive pale yellow to deep orange flowers. Sow seeds in a sunny spot in well-drained soil. Provide afternoon shade in hot temperatures. In colder climates, start indoors. This easy-to-grow plant self-sows freely.

Sometimes called “poor man’s saffron,” calendula has a slightly bitter taste. Petals add color to scrambled eggs, cheeses, poultry and rice. Try chopped leaves and petals in soups, salads and stews. Use caution if you have allergies to ragweed, asters and other members of the Compositae family. Try my Calendula-Orange Muffins.

Photo by Eran Finkle on Flickr

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): This annual has tiny daisy-like flowers immortalized in “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” when Mrs. Rabbit brewed a calming tea for her son Peter. Easily grown from seeds sown in spring, chamomile grows 1 to 2 feet tall in full sun. It prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil with good drainage. Chamomile reseeds easily, and can be invasive in some regions.

Chamomile’s sweet apple flavor and fragrance make a delicious tea. Steep a teaspoon of fresh edible flowers with a cup of boiled water for 3 minutes covered. Strain and serve. Use caution if you have allergies to the Compositae family.

Photo by Isabel Gomes

Chive (Allium schoenoprasum): This perennial grows 8 to 20 inches tall, with pink and lavender flowers that have flavored meals for centuries. This edible flower prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil, high in organic matter. Planting rooted clumps is the easiest way to propagate chives. Seeds germinate slowly and require darkness, constant moisture and temperatures of 60°F to 70°F. Grows in Zones 3 to 9. Divide plants every couple years. Chives grow well in sunny windows.

Break apart chive florets to add mild onion flavor to dinner rolls, casseroles, eggs, potatoes and herb butters.

Photo by Isabel Gomes

Lavender (Lavendula spp): Lavender flowers were enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth I, who reportedly sipped the blossoms in her tea. This perennial requires dry, somewhat fertile soil with good drainage. It grows in Zones 5 to 9, and prefers neutral or slightly akaline soil in full sun.

Not all lavenders have the same culinary qualities. The most popular edible flowers are Lavendula angustifolia and Lavendula x intermedia ‘Provence.’ Lavender’s floral taste combines well with rosemary and thyme in chicken and lamb marinades. Add a teaspoon to sugar cookie and cake recipes. A little lavender goes a long way; too much tastes soapy.

Photo by Isabel Gomes

Nasturium (Tropaeolum majus): This annual has cheerful cuplike flowers that Thomas Jefferson used to spice salads at Monticello. Available in diverse cultivars, including climbing and bushy types, nasturtium comes in a kaleidoscope of colors, including orange, pink and yellow. Sow seeds in spring in colder climates; earlier in warmer zones. Nasturtium prefers light, sandy soils in full sun, with partial shade in hot temperatures. It flowers best in less fertile soils.

Flowers and leaves add peppery taste to salads, herb vinegars, sandwiches and even pizzas. Immature pods can be pickled and used as capers. Try this Butternut Squash Soup with Nasturtiums.

Photo by Isabel Gomes

Rose (Rosa spp.): Eating roses back to the ancient Romans. Roses grow best in rich, well-drained soil with full sun and good air circulation. These plants prefer regular pruning, watering and fertilizing. The older varieties, such as Rosa rugosa and Rosa gallica, are considered the best tasting roses.

Petals add a floral flavor to jellies, honey, vinegars and salads. For rose sugar, mince one part petals with two parts sugar and leave covered for a month. Strain and use for baking cookies, cakes and sweet breads. Rose hips make a delicious tea high in vitamin C.

Sweet Violet (Viola odorata); Johnny-jump-up (Viola tricolor); Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana): These three violas are old-fashioned culinary favorites that bloom best in cool weather, and prefer rich, moist, well-drained soil. Partially shaded locations are preferred in hot climates.

Sweet violets are perennials with aromatic purple or white flowers. Typically hardy to Zone 5, violets are usually propagated by dividing clumps. Johnny-jump-ups and pansies are annuals easily found as transplants in garden centers. Johnny-jump-ups have saponins, which can be toxic in large amounts.

These pretty flowers add sweet, perfumed or wintergreen flavor to salads, fruit and vegetables. Float flowers in punch, or candy the petals for elegant cakes and cookies. Try Victoria’s Frozen Semifreddo with Pansies. You don’t even need an ice cream maker.

Three Important Tips:

Not all flowers are safe to eat. Know what you are eating or check a good reference if you aren’t sure a particular plant is edible. Sometimes only a portion of a plant can be eaten. Rhubarb stems are edible, for example, but not the flowers, leaves or roots. When in doubt, be cautious.

Many garden centers, nurseries and florists treat flowers with systemic pesticides not labeled for food crops. Consume only edible flowers grown specifically for culinary purposes. Growing your own edible flowers is the best way to ensure a fresh, healthy supply.

Introduce flowers into your diet gradually. If you have allergies, try one species at a time. Eat only the petals on most edible flowers (Violets, pansies and Johnny-jump-ups are an exception.) Just before eating, remove interior flower parts such as the pistils and stamen. These can taste bitter and the pollen may cause allergic reactions in susceptible people.

Portions of this article appeared in Gardening How-To Magazine online and print.

Also try our May Wine with Sweet Woodruff for a traditional spring treat. Beware, it packs a mean punch!

Learn More:
Edible Flowers Chart from About.Com
Tips from What’s Cooking America

10 Edible Flowers to Grow in Your Garden

Add gorgeous colors to your meals with edible flowers! Growing edible flowers can be incredibly easy — you might even have some of these stems growing in your garden right now!

Read on to discover our favorite plants with edible flowers that make mealtime a delight for the eyes and the taste buds.

Design a kitchen garden that’s beautiful AND delicious! Sign up for the online gardening class Designing Elegant Edible Gardens with renowned food and garden writer Ellen Ecker Ogden to learn how to plan and design your space, grow your favorite vegetables and so much more.

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10 best plants with edible flowers

1. Nasturtium

These colorful annuals are super easy to grow by seed — just watch for aphids late summer and if they attack, spray with soapy water. They come in gorgeous orange, yellows and corals. Plant near herbs and gather them to garnish meals. I love to use them in flower salads! They have a spicy flavor.

2. Calendula

Calendula is another favorite annual to grow by seed and another flower I love to toss into green salads with some arugula. To eat, just remove the petals and sprinkle on top of greens or couscous.

3. Lavender

Lavender has so many uses and one of them is culinary. Consider adding to sugar for a floral flavor or adding to tea cookies or cakes. A little bit goes a long way! It’s also a lovely addition to summer lemonades.

4. Cornflowers

Cornflowers offer that rare cobalt-blue color to the garden and to the kitchen. An annual easily grown by seed, consider adding their blossoms to salads or to decorate birthday cakes .

5. Roses

Roses add sweetness to cakes both for decoration and flavor. Sprinkle fuchsia rose petals over a chocolate cake for a dramatic look! Roses add a gorgeous floral flavor to cakes, cookies and ice cream.

6. Borage

Borage flowers offer a lovely addition to salads and open-faced sandwiches.

7. Pansies

These sweet purple, lavender, white and yellow flowers look just adorable on top of sugar cookies, or sugared and used to decorate a cake. I like detaching their petals and sprinkling onto summer salads as well.

8. Chamomile

Chamomile creates a lovely ground cover, and it’s also great to dry for teas or even to use in baking.

9. Dianthus

Pinks are oh-so sweet on cakes and cookies or tossed into a salad. Remove their small petals and use for decoration or to spice up dishes. They have a subtle but spicy taste.

10. Lilacs

Lilacs are gorgeous when the small blossoms are removed and simply added to a pitcher of ice-cold water for a refreshing floral drink on a spring day. Just the faint fragrance of lilacs as you are sipping is incredibly calming.

Things to keep in mind when consuming plants with edible flowers

  • Be sure to only use organic flowers that have not been sprayed. If you have a question about the identity of an edible flower, be sure to check with an expert before consuming!
  • As with cut flowers, you’ll want to harvest in the early morning or evening and not in the blaring sun.
  • Keep flowers in the fridge until ready to use, and then wash gently. They should last in the fridge a few days, as with any produce, but I like to clip them fresh right before using them. You can also just keep them in a little vase in the fridge. It adds a colorful touch to your refrigerator!

You might also enjoy our post on weeds you probably didn’t know you could eat and learning about designing beautiful vegetable gardens .
Bluprint Guilt Free Binge Watching

How to Plant Your Own Easy Edible Flower Garden

So it is hard to get your paws on edible flowers, isn’t it? Not so. Did you know that cauliflower is a flower (well, that makes sense, look at the name), and broccoli too? Edible flowers are just for decoration also, right? Not so. The best of them have excellent flavour and where you will find them will surprise you too.

The simple act of growing your own herbs at home will introduce edible flowers with no extra effort. Most herbs have flowers with flavours of the herb, often milder and, therefore perfect for a garnish. Oregano surprised me with a delicate bright tiny orange flower. There are many varieties of individual herbs too. Rosemary has purple flowers, as does sage, but sage can also have orange flowers (tangerine sage). Rocket flowers are delicate and just peppery, often overlooked as people see that as the end of the season.

Some plants have gorgeous and delicious flowers but you might want to leave them alone so that they bear fruit. Pea flowers (worth planting extra to have the flowers too, I think), aubergine flowers (so pretty but sadly flavourless), bean flowers (I have gorgeous purple flowers on my purple beanstalk in my garden).

An edible flower garden requires a plan. Some plants won’t flower the first year, many will though. I started this year, and put down seeds that grew this year but won’t flower until next year (chicory, chive flowers, saffron crocuses). Worth the wait, and in the meantime, I can use the leaves too, often.

Before you start, analyse your garden. Understand how to manipulate shade (wild garlic loves shade, you can transplant some in, but beware, it will take over, and which plants will require sun. These flowers are an easy delicious start, next year we can start thinking about the tougher options, like roses!

Nasturtium

The nasturtium is a generous, bright and joyful plant. It grows with ease and returns year after year. There are many colour flowers. I bought a range from Wyevale Garden Centres and I have red, orange, rich yellow and primrose yellow growing in my garden. I also planted climbing ones, and nasturtiums that hang well for hanging baskets. The flowers taste peppery, as do the leaves, which are delicious as a garnish too. When they go to seed you can save them, or you can pickle them like capers also.

Perfect for: window sills, hanging baskets, will climb anywhere. Easy to grow and very versatile. Perennial, so it will come back every year.

Bergamot / bee balm

Called bergamot, but unrelated to the fruit, and also called bee balm, as bees just love it. The flowers grow tall and strong, and the flowers and leaves are so fragrant, they are terrific for herbal teas and alcohol infusions (vodka and gin work well). They are quite striking and terrific for decoration also, of cakes that have a citrus flavour, for example. Mine grow in a pot on my windowsill quite happily.

Perfect for: sunny window sills or borders, and cocktail and herbal tea fans.

Calendula / Marigold

All marigolds are edible, but not all are delicious. Their flavours swing from peppery to citrus to bitter. I have particular affection for them. My mother planted marigolds in small beds in wall pillars, and they were the first flowers of my own that I had to look after. We called these ones English marigolds (what I now know are calendula or pot marigold) and the ones my sister had were French marigolds (tagetes). I planted both this year. Calendula is wonderful as a decorative flower either whole or with individual petals taken off. The flavour is spicy and peppery. It is known as poor mans saffron also, the petals are dried before being ground to a powder to use in cooking later. There are many varieties of tagetes, and I planted a few. They have a gorgeous flower with a taste of zesty flavour like orange zest with a little bit of pith. Perfect or decorating chocolate or salads. Wyevale Garden Centres have a lovely selection.

Perfect for: companion planting with tomatoes, the tagetes repel whitefly. Easy to grow and gorgeous.

Borage

I knew borage flowers as I have had them at restaurants, and for a while Waitrose even sold them in the herb section. However, I had no idea just how successful and wild a plant they are. Mine stand 4 ft tall outside my living room window now, bowing with purple flowers. The leaves are edible too, although they require cooking as they are a bit bristly (unless you pick them very young). Borage is self seeding and will come back year after year. You can save the seed also.

Perfect for: drinks, borage in ice cubes brighten a G&T, Pimms and similar. Easy to grow but need staking. Make sure you have the space for them as they grow pretty tall.

Cucumber Flowers

Cucumber flowers are a joy. So surprising. Like a petite open courgette flower, they taste of cucumber and are divine with fish or used to decorate salads. Choose a plant with male and female flowers and not just an all female variety. You want the individual flowers as well as those attached to the tiny cucumbers.

Perfect for: cucumber lovers! Easy to grow. Need staking.

Pansies

So pretty and so easy to grow, pansies are a perfect decorative flower and they are easy to preserve too (brush gently with egg white and sprinkle on caster sugar, before leaving to dry). I planted Swiss pansies, which erupted in shades of purple and yellow. These are a gorgeous delicate flower, tasting fragrant and a little like lettuce or greens, and are perfect for the top of cocktails, or adoring anything that you desire. Perfect for salads, tasting like salad themselves, and I love them brightening a plate of pasta.

My summer garden has been a joyful and bountiful adventure. I highly recommend you start your own. To get going, I have partnered with Wyevale Garden Centres to give you the chance to win a £50 voucher which will buy you everything you need to start an edible flower garden (or a general kitchen garden featuring everything that I have written about). To win, simply leave a comment telling me what you would like to plant, and what you would do with it. The competition will close on the 25th October, and winners will be selected at random, but I do look forward to hearing your kitchen garden ambitions and to being inspired by your ideas.

Happy gardening, and good luck!

Other posts in this series on edible gardening:

Planting a Kitchen Garden: How To & What to Plant

Planting a Kitchen Garden: How To & What to Plant

Growing Courgettes & Courgette Flower Egg Menemen

This recipe is the fourth in a series of four that was written in partnership with Wyevale Garden Centres who sponsored this post. (Read more about sponsored content on Eat Like a Girl). See my first post on How to Plant an Edible Garden, my second post on Courgette Flowers and a Recipe for Courgette Flower Egg Menemen and my third post on growing aubergines and a lovely recipe for Japanese favourite BBQ Nasu Dengaku.

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Niamh

Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you. Say hi!

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Who doesn’t love to get a beautiful bouquet of blooms or gaze upon a field of wildflowers? A flower’s main purpose is to be pretty; they need to attract pollinators in order to produce seeds. Not only do they beautify your garden, they can also add aesthetics and exotic flavors to your meals.

Yes, I did say flavors! There are many garden flowers you can eat. However, before you consume just any flower, take heed of these guidelines:

  1. Eat flowers only when you are positive that they are edible. Some flowers look VERY similar. Be sure to have a positive ID first.
  2. Only eat flowers that were grown organically. Many plants you purchase from retailers have been sprayed with pesticides.
  3. Thoroughly wash all flowers before you consume them.
  4. For most flowers, only consume the petals.
  5. If in doubt that the flower is edible, skip it.

These are my 10 favorite edible flowers you can grow in your garden.

Nasturtiums
This is a popular edible flower that takes well to containers. Nasturtiums are available in trailing or upright varieties and their color range is reminiscent of a brilliant sunset (think oranges, reds, and yellows). All parts of a nasturtium are edible: petals, leaves, and seeds. They have a peppery, spicy flavor; a cross between watercress and a radish.

Roses
The quintessential flower of love, roses offers a sweet flavor with a slight spice. The intensity of flavor will depend on type, color, and soil conditions. The darker the petals, the more pronounced the flavor. All roses are edible, but before consuming, remove the bitter white portion of the petals.

Related: Rose Hips: the Hippest Fruit (with Amazing Health Benefits!)

Calendula
Also known as “poor man’s saffron,” calendula flavor ranges from spicy to bitter and tangy to peppery. This flower is also a skin-healing powerhouse. Calendula’s color can vary greatly in a diverse range of yellows and oranges and the petals add a yellow tint to food and a saffron-like flavor, hence its nickname.

Daylily
This tough ornamental is a favorite in landscapes because it is a prolific and ornamental bloomer. Daylilies come in numerous shades of yellow, red, orange, purple and white. They have a mild vegetable flavor similar to asparagus. Remove the bitter white base of the bloom before you eat them. Also please be sure that you are tasting a daylily (hemerocallis), as other lilies can be toxic and can make you quite sick.

Lavender
I’m sure you are familiar with the soothing properties of lavender’s scent. The flowers of this popular herb are used for a multitude of beauty products, many of which you can find here. Like all herb flowers, lavender blooms are edible. They have a distinctive floral taste with a hint of rosemary/mint combo. Use sparingly in sweet dishes; a little goes a long way.

Related: 18 Soothing Ways to Use Lavender at Home

Chive
All allium (onion family) blossoms are edible. Their flavor is typically milder than the foliage. Chive blooms have a delicious onion essence and pretty little purple petals. Harvest the blooms along with the foliage and add to salads and vinaigrettes.

Echinacea
Commonly known as coneflower, echinacea is a well-known medicinal herb. Its powerful healing properties have made this herbaceous plant a popular home remedy for colds. Although the most of its power is in the roots and seed head, the petals are edible and will add a colorful splash to your dishes with the added benefit of its healing properties.

Squash Blossoms
The blooms of all types of squash are edible, but the most popular ones come from the male flower of the zucchini and crookneck squash. The blooms have a mild squash taste and can be eaten raw in a salad or stuffed with ricotta and batter fried.

Dandelion
The bane of perfect, green lawns is the humble dandelion. Nonetheless, the tenacious weed is entirely edible. The blooms taste the sweetest when picked young; they offer a honey-like flavor. Avoid mature blooms, as they tend to be bitter.

Read more: The Surprising Superfood From Your Backyard: Dandelions

Viola (Pansy, Viola, & Violets)

These cool-weather favorites add brightness to planters, lollipops, ice cubes, AND cupcakes! They have a sweet, grassy/green flavor. Violas come in a plethora of color ranges, which makes them a fun flower to use to decorate cakes and as garnishes.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg of edible flowers. Remember to do your research before you eat any flower. Also, just because you can eat them doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes consuming vast amounts of blooms will not sit too kindly in your digestive tract. The Garden Therapy Edible Flower Seed Collection is filled with delicious flowers that you know will be beautiful, prolific, and tasty. Get the kit here.

About the Author

Debbie Wolfe is a mom of two rambunctious boys, wife, and work-at-home mom from Georgia. In her free time (when there is such a thing), she is in the garden or hidden away reading the latest post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama! As for interests, Debbie is an obsessive crafter, home chef, and gardener. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and is a co-author and photographer behind the garden blog, The Prudent Garden; a collection of tips, crafts, and articles that highlight home gardening.

More Edible Flowers:

  • Plant an All-Season Edible Flower Garden with this All-in-One Kit
  • Harvesting, Preparing, and Storing Edible Flowers
  • Double Duty Plants: 20 Edible Flowers for Companion Planting in the Vegetable Garden
  • Edible Wildflowers: Grow it! Eat it!
  • A Sweet Garden Party Treat: Edible Flower Lollipops
  • Yes, You can Eat that! Edible Ornamentals
  • How to Make the Perfect Edible Flower Ice Cubes
  • Fresh Herb and Nasturtium Infused Vinegar Recipe
  • Add Some Color to the Table with Flowerfetti Salad
  • Chive Blossom Vinegar and Vinaigrette
  • A Sweet Spring Cocktail, Made with…Weeds? Wild Violet Simple Syrup

Edible Flowers & How To Grow Them

Have you ever thought about growing edible flowers? It’s pretty easy. We asked some experts, and here’s how treating edible florals like vegetables and loving them as herbs makes growing them pretty and easy.

How are edible flowers grown?

For farmers, it all starts on a flower field, where the soil is tested for optimal pH levels and fertility. The land used by farmers to grow edible flowers is often a remaining strip of other agricultural crops, usually vegetables or fruits.1 Through edible flower cultivation, the grower optimises land use, both in a greenery and out in the field.2

Often seeds are pre-sowed and cultivated indoors. Once the last frost is over, the seeds are transplanted outside. During the sowing period, the same fertilisers used for vegetable production are also used on edible flowers. Once the sowing is over, the seeds are regularly watered.1

Stay away from non-organic pesticides

The golden rule in edible flower farming is never use non-organic pesticides. Instead, edible flowers should be grown organically with just four ingredients: the sun, soil, organic fertilizers and water.

Only legally authorised fertilizers for organic agriculture (like biopesticides) can be used on edible flowers. For example, rapeseed oil extract can be used to limit damages caused by insects. Naturally, the maximal limit of use needs to be respected at all times.3,4 You can find the list for Belgium here.

Some helpful insects (like ladybugs) can also be used as natural fertilizers to get rid of pests.1,3 And any wilted flowers should be removed by hand to allow fresh ones to grow. This way, the plant can maximise its energy use for the growth of new flower buds, otherwise lost in seed production of wilted flowers.

When to harvest edible flowers

The window to pick edible flowers is very narrow. Just like fruit, you should only pick the flowers that are not under- or overripe.4 The best time to harvest them is early in the morning, right after the dew has dried and the flowers are fully opened.1

You will find the flowers in optimal shape: full of water, but not sticky and not warmed up by the sun yet. They are moist enough and have not yet been pollinated, which improves their shelf life.

Ready-to-eat flowers should also have remaining dirt and insects brushed off. You don’t even need to wash them, as washing will not benefit the quality— unless they are completely covered by mud after a heavy rainfall.4

Storing edible flowers

In an ideal world, edible flowers should be used right after harvesting. If this isn’t possible, some measures should help to keep them in optimal shape as long as possible.1

Here are 3 effective edible flower storage tips:1,5,4

  • Keep in form, store in a plastic container away from sunlight
  • Keep fresh, store in a refrigerator just like any other food
  • Keep humid, store on top of moist paper

Tip: Plastic actually gives just the right amount of thickness and respiration to store your edible flowers and let them breathe. But of course, try to limit your plastic waste as much as possible and reuse when you can.

Growing your own edible flowers

Sounds easy right? Edible flowers are extremely resilient as you’ll discover with calendulas or violas. Even if you have poor skills to keep plants alive, nature’s got you covered.2 So there’s no need to worry if you don’t have an open field in your disposition. You can also grow them inside before a window, or on your balcony in a flowerpot or hanging basket.

If you try this at home, leave us a progress picture in the comments below!

Grow Edible Flowers in Your Garden

Below are common edible flowers that you can try growing in your own garden.

Edible flower options

  • Delicate and pretty star-shaped blue flowers that are easy to grow.
  • Tastes similar to cucumber with a fresh, cool flavour that isn’t overpowering.
  • Widely used in fish and cheese dishes. The flowers also make a beautiful addition to salads and iced drinks.
  • To make borage tea, boil the flowers in water for 10 minutes.
  • Crystallise with sugar and use them as cake decorations.

Calendula

  • One of the easiest flowers to grow.
  • Flowers vary in colour from bright yellows and oranges to two toned cream and bronze types, or look out for silver and peach tones.

Chive flowers

  • A delicate onion flavoured flower of the herb chives.
  • Once opened up the young pink flowers can be used in salads and cold soups.

Hollyhock

  • Upstanding flowers which vary from simple to frilly.
  • Available in a rainbow of colours.
  • Remove the stigma and only use the petals in cooking.
  • Use the petals of hollyhock to add colour to desserts.
  • Blend into fruit salads for contrasting colours.

English Lavender

  • Dark purple flowers that have a rich and heady taste.
  • Add a little to baking such as shortbread, biscuits and muffins.
  • Due to their strong flavour be careful not to use too much in your cooking.

Nasturtiums

  • A hardy annual flower that grows well in a sunny or slightly shady spot.
  • Flowers range from bright yellow, orange and red to creamy lemons.
  • Classic peppery taste, with a hint of spice.
  • Can be added to omelettes, sandwiches, salads and pastas.

Marigolds

  • A bedding plant well known for the explosion of colour they produce for around six months of the year.
  • Available in a wide range of colours from clean yellows and limes and creams to just about every shade thinkable of orange and bronze.
  • A reliable companion plant to help keep aphids away.
  • Marigolds have an Indonesian flavour similar to saffron.

Rosemary

  • Clean, pale, and dark blue flowers that are very aromatic.
  • The flowers have a soft rosemary flavour, similar to the herb leaves used in cooking.
  • A fragrant addition to a fresh salad or enjoyed with roast lamb.

Rose petals

  • Roses are a favourite flower around the world, coming in every shade imaginable, and a huge variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Choose smaller flowers as the petals tend not to bruise as easily.
  • Their soft delicate and musky flavour, similar to vanilla, is enjoyable in jams and jellies, and they are the perfect partner for cake decorating.

Violas

  • Dainty flowers from the same family as pansies, that grow for months on end.
  • Available in all shades of blue and purple, through to reds, citrus tones of orange, lime and lemon, through to whites, creams and pastel antique shades.
  • Has a fresh carrot-type flavour with a rich aroma.
  • A fresh addition on top of muffins and biscuits.

Ideas for using edible flowers

  • Freeze edible flowers into ice cube trays.
  • Make ice blocks with edible flowers and herbs.
  • Add a selection of colourful edible flowers to your next salad or sprinkle over pasta dishes.
  • Add to hot or cold herbal or fruit teas.
  • Try our Lavender Shortbread recipe.

Get creative and try using edible flowers in your next kitchen creation. Check out our edible flowers board on Pinterest!

Get your edible flowers off to the best start with Tui Flower Mix, a high quality planting mix containing the right blend of nutrients to provide sustained flowering throughout the season. We’ve added Acadian seaweed to this mix, for extra-strong healthy plants and potassium to maximise flower production. Use in garden beds, pots, containers and hanging baskets, and watch your plants reach their flowering potential before your eyes!

Note: not all flowers are edible so make sure you identify the flower is before using it. If you are unsure, check with your local garden centre.

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