Amazing Edible Flowers You Can Eat And Their Benefits

Cake with borage flowers

Growing flowers in our gardens are not only for the beauty they bring to us while also helping to pollinate our plants, they can bring a splash of color and exotic taste to the plates on our table. If you love flowers like I do you might already have several different varieties of edible flowers growing around your yard or garden.

But which flowers are safe to eat and are they beneficial to our health? There are a vast number of flowers that are edible like Marigolds, Chive Blossoms, Dandelions and Nasturtiums. High in antioxidants and vitamins they can provide health benefits.

For years I've used edible flowers such as Chive Blossoms and Johnny Jump-ups in my herb butter but I wasn't sure what other ones were safe to eat. I also wasn't sure if you could eat all of the flower or just the petals and what would they taste like? So I decided to do some research to find out the answer. I'd love to share the amazing results of my research with you!

Flowers have been used by cultures around the world in their traditional cooking and garnishing of foods for hundreds of years. This practice has been around since the days of Julius Caesar in fact. Even in the days of Queen Victoria edible flowers were popular.

Early reports indicated that Romans, Greeks and also the Chinese used flowers in their cooking. So did the Middle Eastern and Indian cultures. It's popular again in North America and Europe.

Did you know there is even a scientific name for people who eat flowers for food? It's called floriphagia (flori-FA-gea). Who knew!

Heart shaped pancake decorated with Pansies

Which Flowers Can You Safely Eat?

While there are a vast number of flowers that are edible, there are also some that can be poisonous so it’s a must to stick with flowers that you know are edible or do sufficient research to ensure the flowers you plan to munch on are safe for consumption. However, all the flowers of culinary herbs are edible.

If you are uncertain about which flowers are edible you can check the following website and search for “edible flowers” for a listing of safe blooms: whatscookingamerica.net

Avoid flowers that have been sprayed with an insecticide, fungicide or herbicide. Since most flowers are very easy to grow there’s usually no need for these sprays or applications. For dandelions you want to make sure they are not coming from a yard that has had non-organic applications applied to them.

Do not use flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides, which
often occur along roadsides, or collect flowers from plants that have been fertilized with untreated manure. Generally avoid purchasing flowers from florists, Garden centers or nurseries. These flowers are not
grown for consumption.

https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/07237.pdf

Edible flowers have been used for many years by different cultures in their traditional cooking such as squash blossoms in Italian food and rose petals in Indian food. It would be so much fun to create “high-end restaurant” dishes in our own kitchens by adding edible flowers for their color, flavor and even a little whimsy, picked from our own gardens.

For allergic people, be aware that flowers that have pollen can cause allergic reactions in some. By removing the reproductive parts (stamen and pistil) from the flower it can reduce the risk but it doesn't eliminate it.

Whole grain patty with radishes, herbs and Chamomile flowers

Are Edible Flowers Good For You?

According to the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), edible flowers can contribute to our nutritional health although nutritional analyses of edible flowers is limited.

Some flowers are actually high in nutrition. Roses are very high in vitamin C, especially rose hips. Marigolds and Nasturtiums also contain vitamin C and Dandelion blossoms contain vitamins A and C for instance.

Flowers are very high in antioxidants, especially those with deeper colors. They contain Vitamins A, C and E and some even have Vitamin D. Other flowers contain beta-carotene and potassium.

Other potential beneficial plant compounds are also found though you don't get much from the small amounts of flowers that are typically consumed. Researchers have also identified several nutrients in the petals of edible flowers such as riboflavin, niacin and minerals such as iron, calcium and phosphorous.

Phytochemicals (natural substances in plants) present in the colorful flowers were found to be beneficial to human health. Red roses and orange nasturtiums for example are rich in substances called polyphenols that are found in their colorful pigments.

Research found that these compounds, rich in their antioxidant properties, may help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Some edible flowers that have pollen in them when eaten can even lessen allergy attacks. So many good reasons to eat flowers! https://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(15)00263-4/fulltext

Waffle decorated with berries and flowers

Flower Picking And Prepping Tips

Most edible flowers are best eaten raw by simply picking and gently rinsing or cleaning before consuming. Picking right from your own garden makes it especially fun and easy to add color and flavor to all sorts of dishes for a “gourmet” meal.

There’s nothing more satisfying than getting out into your garden and growing your own edible flowers to liven up your culinary creations with gorgeous colors, flavors and decorations.

In some areas you might be able to purchase edible flowers from the produce section of your local or gourmet grocery store. Shopping at your local "Farmer's Market" is a great place to find edible flowers! Edible flowers can also be obtained from online sources such as "The Chef's Garden", "Gourmet Sweet Botanicals", "Melissa's" or "Marx Foods".

It’s important to positively identify your flowers to avoid eating those that might be poisonous. Using their full scientific name and not their common names will help to ensure you are eating the edible flowers. Labeling plants in your garden is a good idea to ensure which ones are your edible flowers.

Pick your flowers at their peak when they have just fully opened up in the cool of early morning after the dew has dissipated or late afternoon. Remember that flowers are more delicate than vegetables so it is more difficult to wash them sufficiently. You might want to grow some of your plants like violas, nasturtiums and geraniums in containers if you are short on garden space.

Remove the green parts of the flower (called sepals) around the buds. Make sure to shake out any bugs that might be hiding inside. Dip them gently in room temperature water to clean them.

Protect delicate petals from bruising by avoiding using salad spinners or pouring fast running water over the flowers. Place the flowers with their faces down onto damp towels in sealed containers in the fridge but they are best when used within a few hours. You can also store them a day or two in a small vase or glass of water if needed for a little longer time before using.

At first you should go lightly until you can get a feel for the flower-to-taste ratio you like best. It’s always a good idea to taste flowers first before using them in any food.

Consider growing an edible garden that includes flowers for their lively colors, textures and flavors to use in your salads, soups, casseroles, drinks and other dishes for a delightful change. Yes, even some trees and shrubs produce edible flowers so check them out as well.

Lemon custard with orange slices and Chamomile flowers

What Do Edible Flowers Taste Like

Just because a flower is edible does not mean it will taste good! You will find some more to your liking than others, its all just a matter of taste. Nasturtiums rank among the most common of the edible flowers with their sweet, spicy flavor that is similar to watercress.

Some flowers are herbaceous in flavor while others are floral and fragrant, some with an apple-like flavor. Clover flowers are sweet with a hint of licorice while Chrysanthemums are a little bitter with a range of flavors from peppery to pungent. The range of taste is pretty amazing.

Edible flowers are generally best used as accent or seasoning to enhance the flavors of food rather than as a main ingredient to your dish. Edible blossoms promise to add a delectable touch to your creative dishes whether sprinkled on salads, frozen into ice cubes or sugared for desserts.

You can consult an edible flowers cookbook for specific recipes or by checking out websites to find ways to incorporate your favorite edible flowers into your culinary cuisine. Many of the flowers we gardeners love to grow in our gardens for their beauty were originally chosen for their attributes of aroma and flavor and not their beauty.

Beautiful cake decorated with flowers

27 Of The Best Edible Flowers To Try

I've created a list of flowers that you might want to try but by no means is this an exhaustive list of edible flowers. You should do some research of your own for any flower before you start munching away on it or adding it to your table.

Chances are that you have been eating edible flowers for a long time and just didn’t realize it. Did you know that artichokes, broccoli and cauliflower are all flowers? The stamens of the crocus flower are the cherished spice called saffron. Also capers are unopened flower buds to a bush native in the Mediterranean and Asian nations.

Anise Hyssop. (Agastache foeniculum) For sweet or savory dishes, try adding this edible flower if you like an anise or licorice flavor. Some people say it reminds them of root beer. Separate the florets and add them to your dishes. Full flowers can be used to garnish a cheese plate.

Bachelor Button. (Centraurea Cynaus) This favorite flower of President John Kennedy, also known as cornflowers, have a slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor.  Blooms are more commonly used for garnishes and also as a natural food dye. Flowers come in blue, purple, pink, lavender and white.

Basil. (Ocimum basilicum) The flavor of the flowers are similar to the leaves but milder. Different varieties of basil can have mild flavors like mint and lemon. For a concentrated flavor, sprinkle over pasta or salad. Adds color to give any dish a fresh cheerful look. Colors vary by variety from white to pink or lavender.

Borage. (Borago officinalis) For a light cucumber taste this fuzzy-leaved herb has beautiful sky-blue flowers. Add them to fruit salads, green leafy salads or freeze in ice cubes for a splash of color to your cold drinks, delicious in lemonade.

Bee Balm. (Monarda didyma) A member of the mint family these flowers have a minty-taste. Flowers range in color from bright red to purple and pink. Leaves can be dried for later use in teas. Add fresh leaves to fruit salads and iced drinks.

Calendula. (Calendula officinalis) A prolific and easy to grow from seed edible flower adds color when separating the petals from the center of the flower and sprinkling into your salads. With a more subtle peppery, slightly spicy and tangy taste, their golden color adds to any dish.

Colors range from pure yellow to orange and red. By dead-heading, the plants will bloom continuously from early summer into late fall.

Cupcakes decorated with fruits and flowers

Chamomile. (Chamomilla recutita, Chamaemelum nobile) With bright yellow centers having an apple-like flavor, the English Chamomile has small, daisy-like flowers. Chamomile, with it's sweet flavored flowers is probably most known for it’s use as a wonderful tea to calm frazzled nerves and relaxing for bedtime.

Leaves can also be added to salads but may have a somewhat bitter taste. If you are allergic to ragweed, you might want to avoid Chamomile.

Chives. (Allium schoenoprasum) All allium (onion family) blossoms such as chives, garlic, garlic chives and leeks are edible. Chive blooms with their delicious onion or garlic essence are very delicious in tossed green salads, potato and pasta salads and dips. Release the separate florets by removing the central stem. They are wonderful and pretty used in herb butters!

Chocolate Cosmos. (Cosmos atrosanguineus) A dark burgundy colored flower with the aroma of dark chocolate! Culinary experts suggest adding the petals or young leaves to salads.

Chrysanthemums. (Chrysanthemum morifolium, syn. C. x grandiflorum) As the “radicchios” of edible flowers, their petals kick up the flavor of salads, rice dishes, stir-fries and burrito dishes. All Chrysanthemums are slightly spicy to strongly pungent so a little will usually go a long way. Only use the petals.

Dandelion. (Taraxacum official) A member of the daisy family the blossoms are sweet with a honey-like flavor. The buds, tastier than the flowers, are best picked when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Good eaten raw or steamed. Young leaves are also good steamed or added raw to salads.

Daylily. (Hemerocallis) These lilies come in numerous shades of yellow, red, orange, purple and white. Slightly sweet with a mild vegetable flavor, like sweet lettuce or melon and/or a flavor combination of asparagus and zucchini. 

Removing the bitter white base these surprisingly sweet petals can be used in desserts. Sometimes called "golden needles", the unopened buds are used in Chinese cuisine like Hot and Sour soup.

Scented Geraniums. (Pelargonium) These come in fragrances from sour citrus and spices like nutmeg or ginger to fruits and flowers, and usually in colors of pinks, reds and pastels. The flower flavor generally corresponds to the variety. 

For example, a lemon-scented geranium would have lemon-scented flowers. Rose-peppermint and lemon-scented varieties are some of the best flavored blooms. Sprinkle them over desserts and in refreshing drinks. Scented geranium blossoms are great frozen in ice cubes.

Flowers are not typically found in everyday meals, so their deliberate inclusion in a dish makes that dish something special, a treat for the receiver. They send a message of freshness and of caring. In some cultures, specific flowers are ritually used to mark festivals and special occasions. In this way, their appearance in a dish elevates it to something beyond the ordinary. There can also be a health benefit to eating flowers. Since early times, traditional healers have studied the medicinal properties of a wide range of flowers, many of which are still found today in herbal remedies and supplements.

Constance Kirker, Edible Flowers: A Global History
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/edible-flowers

Hibiscus. (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) These vibrant sweet and tart cranberry flavored flowers with citrus overtones are famously used in hibiscus tea. The flower can be dried for use in teas. Sparingly use these slightly acidic petals as garnish or in salads.

Honeysuckle. (Lonicera spp.) The entirely edible white, yellow, pink or red blossoms have a honey-like flavor. Add them to salads for a pretty addition. Caution: Don’t use the berries as they are poisonous. Only use the blossoms!

Lavender. (Lavandula augustifolia) These blooms are edible like all herb flowers having a distinctive sweet floral taste with a hint of rosemary and mint combination. Some say it’s a sweet floral flavor with lemon and citrus notes. Use sparingly in sweet dishes as a little goes a long way. Wonderful as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams, Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also. Lavender blossoms make a lovely Lavender lemonade.

Marigolds. (Tagetes tenuifolia – aka T. signata) Often called the “poor man’s saffron”, the tiny flowers of signet Marigolds such as Tangerine Gem and Lemon Gem have a citrus flavor making them great to use in salads. Remove the white base of the petals as it can be bitter. African Marigold of white, gold, yellow or red flowers have a strongly pungent flavor.

Mint. (Mentha spp) Like Bee Balm, all flowers of the mint family are edible with a pleasant taste. Add these delicate tiny flowers to your food for a flavorful addition to your food dishes. Lemon Balm or Spearmint are lovely in iced tea. Don’t forget to use the leaves also for a wonderful minty taste.

Nasturtiums. (Tropaeolum majus) A popular all-star of edible flowers, all colors and varieties of these blossoms are edible. Tasty in salads, vegetables, pastas, stir-fries or used as garnishes having a somewhat spicy peppery flavor akin to watercress. The leaves can also be eaten.

Pansies, Johnny Jump-ups and Violas. (Viola x qittrackiana, V. tricolor, V. cornuta) Entirely edible and bitter-free, these blossoms of violet, white, pink, yellow, apricot or multi-colored flowers have a sweet to slightly sour flavor. Some say they have a wintergreen flavor, even minty that works well in fruit salads and drinks.

Coming in a plethora of colors makes them a fun flower to use glazed with warm jelly for a jeweled look for decorating cakes and as garnishes. They look lovely tossed in a salad, added to sorbets and deserts or frozen in ice-cubes added to your favorite beverage. The heart-shaped leaves cooked like spinach are tasty.

Pea Blossoms. (Pisum species) The edible garden Pea Blooms are mostly white but some may have other pale coloring. Pea Blossoms are slightly sweet and crunchy tasting like peas. With a delicate pea-like flavor, the shoots and vine tendrils are also edible.

But remember, harvesting too many blooms will diminish your pea harvest so be sure to plant plenty. NOTE: The flowering ornamental Sweet Peas are poisonous - DO NOT EAT!

Pinks. (Dianthus) Having a delicate flavor with a hint of cloves or nutmeg, spice up hot tea or cider with these blossoms, though the taste can vary some among species. Sprinkling over fruit salads, baking into cookies or floating the flowers in cream soups give a nice touch to your meals. Cut off the white base of the flower petal as it is bitter.

Cup of tea and Rose buds

Roses. (Rosa) All roses are edible, varying greatly in flavor from full-bodied floral to pleasantly sweet and floral to slightly metallic or even with overtones of ginger spice. With flavors more pronounced in darker varieties, you’ll want to taste test roses.

The flavor intensity will depend on the type, color and soil conditions. The darker the petal, the more pronounced will be the flavor. Be sure to remove the bitter white part of the petals. Rose petals give flavor to honey, fruit compote, beverages, sorbets and rose-petal jams. Rose petals also contribute well to everything from salads to soups, teas, desserts and teas.

Scarlet Runner Beans. (Phaseolus coccineus) Bright orange to scarlet flowers have a mild raw bean flavor that are entirely edible. Mix these very tasty brilliant red flowers into salads, added to steamed veggies and as garnish for soups.

Sunflowers. (Helianthus annuus) Toss these bittersweet flower petals into green salads or once the flowers have passed, eat the seeds either roasted or raw. The unopened buds are best to eat when they taste like a mild artichoke instead of the bittersweet taste of the petals. You can steam the buds like artichokes.

Violets. (Viola species). Related to Johnny Jump-ups or Violas and Pansies, Violet flowers taste like vanilla. Another famous edible flower, they have a sweet, floral flavor, beautiful as garnishes for desserts, salads, and drinks. When crystallized they are especially beautiful on top of frosted cakes or other desserts. Violets come in a range of colors from purples to yellows, apricot and pastel hues

Zucchini, Squash and Pumpkin Blossoms. (Curcubita pepo) These giants of culinary flowers, all types of squash blooms are edible, the most popular being from the male flower of the zucchini and crookneck squash.

A somewhat crisp texture, these blooms have a mild sweet squash-like taste that can be eaten raw in salads. They are perfect for stuffing or batter frying, an ever popular golden tubular blossom in Italy where they stuff it with ricotta and herbs.

Try pan frying, delicious served as a side dish or added to eggs. People in Mexico like to use the petals in quesadillas and soups. Harvest when fully opened and remove all the green parts.

NOTE: Avoid the flowers of tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers and asparagus.

Now its time to start munching on a few of these delightfully delectable flowers that are edible. Bon Appétit...

Related Questions

Are flowers used for medicinal purposes?

Yes, for many centuries, medical practitioners have acknowledged therapeutic properties in certain flowers. Flowers offer completely natural medicinal properties, often without side effects that modern medicines bring. Remedies made from flowers are usually much cheaper than drugs marketed for pharmaceutical companies.

What are some quick growing edible flowers?

Johnny Jump-ups are quick blooming flowers that don't mind frost so come up early in the spring. Bachelor's Buttons (Cornflowers) are literally unfazed by the changeable springtime weather, rising up on straight stems in early summer.

Calendula (Pot Marigold) with a long history of use as a skin-healing herb, are fast-growing flowers. Sunflowers also love to come up early in the garden.

What flowers are poisonous to cats and dogs?

According to Petmd.com and Pet Poison Helpline.com, plants and flowers that are toxic to cats and dogs are Amaryllis, Azaleas and Rhododendrons, Autumn Crocus, Cyclamen, Lilies, Castor Bean, Daffodils, Lily of the Valley, Tulips, Peace Lily and Hyacinths to name a few.

Even though there are thousands of species of plants and flowers, only a small percentage are truly dangerous and poisonous to your pet. Make sure you know which ones they are.

Are there flowers that are poisonous to humans?

Yes. Flowers such as Hydrangea, Clematis, Calotropis, Oleander, Azalea, Daffodil, (Narcissus), Foxglove and Lily of the Valley are just a few that are toxic to humans. Researching books, online or calling your local extension office will give you a list of the flowers that are poisonous to humans.

About The Author

Linda Brownlee

Living on a Country Homestead with her husband John, two beautiful German Shepherds and a few chickens, she loves to share her passions of Quilting, Gardening, plant-based Cooking and many varied DIY creative things.