Cooking and garnishing meals and drinks with flowers is back in vogue once again. In fact, it’s very hip this year. Did you know that the use of edible flowers has been traced back to Roman times and to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures? Edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era during Queen Victoria’s reign.
The secret when using edible flowers is to keep the dish simple. Do not add too many other flavours that will overpower the delicate taste of the flower.
We’ve provided a list of some of the edible flowers below for you. Just remember, not every flower is edible. Also, you should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms which you plan to eat. Never harvest flowers growing by the roadside.
(Cynara scolymus) – The artichoke is considered a flower in which the leaves of the flower are eaten and the choke or thistle part is discarded.
(Ocimum basilicum) – Basil has different varieties that have different milder flavours like lemon and mint. Sprinkle them over salad or pasta for a concentrated flavour and a spark of colour that gives any dish a fresh, festive look.
(Begonia cucullata) – The fleshy leaves and flowers are edible raw or cooked. They can have a slight bitter after taste and if in water most of the time, a hint of swamp in their flavour.
The flowers have a mildly bitter taste and are most commonly used for their looks than their flavour. The petals are used as a garnish and in salads.
(Borago officinalis) – Has lovely cornflower blue star-shaped flowers. Blossoms and leaves have a cool, faint cucumber taste. Wonderful in punches, lemonade, gin and tonics, sorbets, chilled soups, cheese tortas, and dips.
(Calendula officinalis) – Also called narigolds. Flavours range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Sprinkle them on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads. Petals add a yellow tint to soups, spreads, and scrambled eggs. Only the pedals are edible.
(Dianthus caryophyllus – aka Dianthus) – Carnations can be steeped in wine, candy, or use as cake decoration. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower.
(Allium schoenoprasum) – Use whenever a light onion flavour and aroma is desired. Separate the florets and enjoy the mild, onion flavour in a variety of dishes.
(Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat) – Use the highly scented waxy petals sparingly. Distilled orange flower water is characteristic of Middle Eastern pastries and beverages. Citrus flavour and lemony.
(Coriander sativum) – Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers have a strong herbal flavour. Use leaves and flowers raw, as the flavour fades quickly when cooked. Sprinkle to taste on salads, bean dishes, and cold vegetable dishes.
(Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colours from red, white, yellow and orange. They sould be blanched first and then scatter the petals on a salad. Always remove the bitter flower base and use petals only.
(Taraxacum officinalis) – Member of the daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. Mature flowers are bitter. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.
(Foeniculum vulgare) – It has a star-burst yellow flowers that have a mild anise flavour. Use with desserts or cold soups, or as a garnish with your entrees.
(Fuchsia X hybrida) – Blooms have a slightly acidic flavour. Explosive colours and graceful shape make it ideal as garnish. The berries are also edible.
(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – Cranberry-like flavour with citrus overtones. Use slightly acidic petals sparingly in salads or as garnish. The flower can be dried to make an exotic tea.
(Alcea rosea) – Very bland tasting flavour.
(Impatiens wallerana) – The flowers have a sweet flavour. They can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.
(Origanum majorana) – Flowers are a milder version of plant’s leaf. Use as you would the herb.
(Tagetes tenuifolia – aka T. signata) – The marigold can be used as a substitute for saffron. Also great in salads, as they have a citrus flavour.
(Mentha spp) – The flavour of the flowers are minty, but with different overtones depending on the variety. Mint flowers and leaves are great in Middle Eastern dishes.
(Tropaeolum majus) – Comes in varieties ranging from trailing to upright and in brilliant sunset colours with peppery flavours. Nasturtiums rank among most common edible flowers. Leaves add peppery tang to salads. Use entire flowers to garnish platters, salads, cheese tortas, open-faced sandwiches, and savoury appetizers.
(Origanum vulgare) – Milder version of plant’s leaf. Use as you would the herb.
(Viola X wittrockiana) – Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavour. If you eat only the petals, the flavour is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a winter, green overtone. Use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or in soups.
(Primula vulgaris) – Also know as cowslip. This flower is colourful with a sweet, but bland taste. Add to salads, pickle the flower buds, cook as a vegetable, or ferment into a wine.
(Raphanus sativus) – Depending on the variety, flowers may be pink, white or yellow, and will have a distinctive, spicy bite (has a radish flavour). Best used in salads. The Radish shoots with their bright red or white tender stalks are very tasty and are great sautéed or in salads.
(Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis) – Flavours depend on type, colour, and soil conditions. Flavour is reminiscent of strawberries and green apples. Sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. Miniature varieties can garnish ice cream and desserts, or larger petals can be sprinkled on desserts or salads. Freeze them in ice cubes and float them in punches also.
Milder version of leaf. Fresh or dried herb and blossoms enhance flavour of Mediterranean dishes. Use with meats, seafoods, sorbets or dressings.
(Salvia officinalis) – Flowers have a subtler sage taste than the leaves and can be used in salads and as a garnish. Flowers are a delicious companion to many foods including beans, corn dishes, sauteed or stuffed mushrooms, or pesto sauce.
(Antirrhinum majus) – Delicate garden variety can be bland to bitter. Flavours depend on type, colour, and soil conditions. Probably not the best flower to eat.
(Curcubita pepo) – Squash and pumpkin blossoms are edible and taste mildly of raw squash. Prepare the blossoms by washing and trimming the stems and remove the stamens. Squash blossoms are usually taken off the male plant, which only provides pollen for the female.
(Helianthus annus) – The flower is best eaten in the bud stage when it tastes similar to artichokes. Once the flower opens, the petals may be used like chrysanthemums, the flavour is distinctly bittersweet. The unopened flower buds can also be steamed like artichokes.
(Thymus spp.) – Milder version of leaf. Use sprigs as garnish or remove flowers and sprinkle over soups, etc. Use thyme anywhere a herb might be used.
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