The Good Life
with a Southern Drawl

How To Cook With Edible Flowers

By Amy Bailey — May 29, 2018

Cooking, flavoring, and garnishing with flowers has been traced back to Roman times as well as to the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. Edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era and are once again gaining popularity. Not only are they pretty, most of them provide nutritional benefits and can be easily grown in your garden. The secret to success when using edible flowers is to keep the dish or cocktail simple, do not add too many other flavors that will over power the delicate taste of the flower. Below are lists of edible flowers and here are somethings you should note:

  • Not every flower is edible in fact some can make you very sick.
  • You also should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.
  • Identify the flower exactly and eat only edible flowers and edible parts of those flowers.
  • Always remember to use flowers sparingly in your recipes due to the digestive complications that can occur with a large consumption rate.
  • Most herb flowers have a taste that’s similar to the leaf, but spicier.

Edible Flowers:
Carnations (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. Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads or aspics. Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that has been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.

Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange. They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. They sould be blanched first and then scatter the petals on a salad. The leaves can also be used to flavor vinegar. Always remove the bitter flower base and use petals only. Young leaves and stems of the Crown Daisy, also known as Chop Suey Greens or Shingiku in Japan, are widely used in oriental stir-fries and as salad seasoning.

Clover (Trifolium species) – Sweet, anise-like, licorice. White and red clover blossoms were used in folk medicine against gout, rheumatism, and leucorrhea. It was also believed that the texture of fingernails and toenails would improve after drinking clover blossom tea. Native Americans used whole clover plants in salads, and made a white clover leaf tea for coughs and colds. Avoid bitter flowers that are turning brown, and choose those with the brightest color, which are tastiest. Raw flower heads can be difficult to digest.

Cornflower (Centaurea cynaus) – Also called Bachelor’s button. They have a slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor. Bloom is a natural food dye. More commonly used as garnish.
flowericecubesDahlia – Among the most beautiful of flowers, dahlias are also edible! Most people don’t realize that dahlias are a close New World relative of both sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes. In addition to the petals, you also can eat dahlia bulbs. Although not all are tasty (some are quite bland), they have a range of flavors and textures that is hard to quantify: There are those with crunchy textures and those with flavors ranging from spicy apple to celery root or even carrot. A lot depends on the variety and the soil in which the variety grew.

5 Flower Ice Cubes http://www.myscoop.us/5-flower-ice-cubes/

themeangreenDandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) – Member of the Daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Dandelion buds are tastier than the flowers: best to pick these when they are very close to the ground, tightly bunched in the center, and about the size of a small gumball. Good raw or steamed. Also made into wine. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.

Mean Green Smoothie http://www.myscoop.us/the-mean-green-smoothie/

Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) – Cranberry-like flavor with citrus overtones. Use slightly acidic petals sparingly in salads or as garnish. The flower can be dried to make an exotic tea.
honeysuckleHoneysuckle (Lonicera japonica) – Sweet honey flavor. Only the flowers are edible. NOTE: The berries are highly poisonous – Do not eat them!

Honeysuckle Cocktail http://www.myscoop.us/honeysuckle-cocktail/

Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) – The flowers have a sweet flavor. They can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.

Johnny-Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor) – Lovely yellow, white and purple blooms have a mild wintergreen flavor and can be used in salads, to decorate cakes, or served with soft cheese. They are also a great addition to drinks, soups, desserts or salads.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – The flavor of lilacs varies from plant to plant. Very fragramt, slightly bitter. Has a distinct lemony taste with floral, pungent overtones. Great in salads and crystallized with egg whites and sugar.

Marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia – aka T. signata) – The marigold can be used as a substitute for saffron. Also great in salads as they have a citrus flavor.
seabass1Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) – Nasturtiums rank among most common edible flowers. These flowers are usually added to salads for a breathtaking pop of color, but the entire plant is edible. These beautiful specimens are actually delicious and quite peppery. Nasturtium leaves have a high concentration of Vitamin C and are also a natural antibiotic. Eating a couple of the peppery leaves at the onset of a cold can stop it dead in its tracks. The gentle antibiotic reaction makes it ideal for treating minor colds and flu. Eat one to two leaves three times a day for full benefits. They are also believed to help cure acne. If growing Nasturtiums sounds intimidating, it is not, these flowers LOVE poor soil and lots of sun. So if your yard is saturated in red clay, these beauties may be your yard’s best friend.

Seared Sea Bass With Nasturtiums http://www.myscoop.us/seared-sea-bass-with-nasturtiums-and-edible-greens/

Pansy (Viola X wittrockiana) – Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals, the flavor 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.

Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) – In China the fallen petals are parboiled and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy.  Peony water was used for drinking in the middle ages. Add peony petals to your summer salad or try floating in punches and lemonades.

Phlox, Perrennial Phlox (Phlox paniculata) – It is the perennial phlox, NOT the annual, that is edible. It is the high-growing (taller) and not the low-growing (creeping) phlox. Slightly spicy taste. Great in fruit salads. The flowers vary from a Reddish purple to pink, some white.

Primrose (Primula vulgaris) – Also know as Cowslip. This flower is colorful with a sweet, but bland taste. Add to salads, pickle the flower buds, cook as a vegetable, or ferment into a wine.

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) – Also known as Wild Carrot and Bishop’s Lace. It is the original carrot, from which modern cultivars were developed, and it is edible with a light carrot flavor. The flowers are small and white, and bloom in a lacy, flat-topped cluster. Great in salads. NOTE: The problem is, it is closely related to, and looks almost exactly like another wild plant, Wild or Poison Hemlock, which often grows profusely in similar habitats, and is said to be the most poisonous plant native to the United States. The best way to differentiate between the two plants is to remember that Queen Anne’s Lace has a hairy stem, while the stems of Wild Hemlock are smooth and hairless and hollow with purple spots.
roseicecreamRoses (Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis) – All roses are edible, with the flavor being more pronounced in the darker varieties. In 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. Petals used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads. One of the simplest things ot do with the rose petals is to make Rose Petal Syrup (recipe in Rose Sangria link). This syrup can be used to flavor cocktails, ice cream, and other dishes. NOTE: Be sure to remove the bitter white portion of the petals.

Rose And Strawberry Ice Cream http://www.myscoop.us/rose-and-strawberry-ice-cream/

rosesangriaRose Sangria http://www.myscoop.us/5-ways-to-enjoy-champagne/

Rose Petal Cupcakes http://www.myscoop.us/rose-petal-cupcakes/

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) – Delicate garden variety can be bland to bitter. Flavors depend on type, color, and soil conditions. Probably not the best flower to eat.

Sunflower (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 flavor is distinctly bittersweet. The unopened flower buds can also be steamed like artichokes.

Herb Flowers:
Most herb flowers are just as tasty as the foliage and very attractive when used in your salads. Add some petals to any dish you were already going to flavor with the herb.

Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives) – Known as the “Flowering Onions.” There are approximately four hundred species that includes the familiar onion, garlic, chives, ramps, and shallots. All members of this genus are edible. Their flavors range from mild onions and leeks right through to strong onion and garlic. All parts of the plants are edible. The flowers tend to have a stronger flavor than the leaves and the young developing seed-heads are even stronger. We eat the leaves and flowers mainly insalads. The leaves can also be cooked as a flavoring with other vegetables in soups, etc.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica) – Depending on the variety, flower range from pale lavender-blue to deep rose.  It has a flavor similar to licorice. Angelica is valued culinary from the seeds and stems, which are candied and used in liqueurs, to the young leaves and shoots, which can be added to a green salad. Because of its celery-like flavor, Angelica has a natural affinity with fish. The leaves have a stronger, clean taste and make a interesting addition to salads. In its native northern Europe, even the mature leaves are used, particularly by the Laplanders, as a natural fish preservative. Many people in the cold Northern regions such as Greenland, Siberia, and Finland consider Angelica a vegetable, and eat the stems raw, sometimes spread with butter. Young leaves can be made into a tea.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) – Both flowers and leaves have a delicate anise or licorice flavor. Some people say the flavor reminds them of root beer. The blossoms make attractive plate garnishes and are often used in Chinese-style dishes. Excellent in salads.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – Depending on the type, the flowers are either bright white, pale pink, or a delicate lavender. The flavor of the flower is milder, but similar to the leaves of the same plant. Basil also has different varieties that have different milder flavors like lemon and mint. Sprinkle them over salad or pasta for a concentrated flavor and a spark of color that gives any dish a fresh, festive look.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – Also called Wild Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, Horsemint, Monarda. Wild bee balm tastes like oregano and mint. The taste of bee balm is reminiscent of citrus with soft mingling of lemon and orange. The red flowers have a minty flavor. Any place you use oregano, you can use bee balm blossoms. The leaves and flower petals can also be used in both fruit and regular salads. The leaves taste like the main ingredient in Earl Gray Tea and can be used as a substitute.

Borage (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.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) – Earthy flavor, eat either the petals or the buds. Chicory has a pleasant, mild-bitter taste that has been compared to endive. The buds can be pickled.

Cilantro/Coriander (Coriander sativum) – Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers have a strong herbal flavor. Use leaves and flowers raw as the flavor fades quickly when cooked. Sprinkle to taste on salads, bean dishes, and cold vegetable dishes.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – It has a star-burst yellow flowers that have a mild anise flavor. Use with desserts or cold soups, or as a garnish with your entrees.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – The white variety of ginger is very fragrant and has a gingery taste on the tongue. Petals may be eaten raw or you can cook the tender young shoots.

Jasmine (jasmine officinale) – The flowers are intensely fragrant and are traditionally used for scenting tea. True Jasmine has oval, shiny leaves and tubular, waxy-white flowers.

lavenderbasilLavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – Sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. Flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a glass of champagne, with chocolate cake, or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets.

Lavender Basil Gin Fizz http://www.myscoop.us/lavender-basil-gin-fizz/

Tupelo Honey And Lavender Ice Cream http://www.myscoop.us/tupelo-honey-and-lavender-ice-cream/

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) – Tiny cream-colored citrus-scented blossoms. Leaves and flowers can be steeped as an herbtea, and used to flavor custards and flans.

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) – Flowers are a milder version of plant’s leaf. Use as you would the herb.

beekeepersdelightMint (Mentha spp) – The flavor of the flowers are minty, but with different overtones depending on the variety (i.e. orange, chocolate, etc). Mint flowers and leaves are great in mojitos and cocktails.

Beekeeper’s Delight http://www.myscoop.us/beekeepers-delight/

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) – Milder version of plant’s leaf. Use as you would the herb.

Rosemary – Milder version of leaf. Fresh or dried herb and blossoms enhance flavor of Mediterranean dishes. Use with meats, seafoods, sorbets or dressings.

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) – The dried flowers, Mexican saffron, are used as a food colorant in place of the more aromatic and expensive Spanish saffron.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) – The flowers are violet-blue, pink or white up to 1 3/8 inches long, small, tubelike, clustered together in whorls along the stem tops. 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.

Thyme (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.)

Vegetable Flowers:
Did you know that broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes are all flowers? Also the spice saffron is the stamen from the crocus flower? Capers are unopened flower buds to a bush native in the Mediterranean and Asian nations. The general rule is that the flowers of most vegetables and herbs are safe to eat. Always check first, because there are exceptions like tomato, eggplant, pepper, potato, etc.

Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) – The flowers are small, white with dark centers and can be used in the salad for a light piquant flavor. The flowers taste very similar to the leaves and range in color from white to yellowish with dark purple veins. Arugula resembles radish leaves in both appearance and taste. Leaves are compound and have a spicy, peppery flavor that starts mild in young leaves and intensifies as they mature.

Artichoke (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.
Broccoli Florets (Brassica oleracea) – The top portion of broccoli is actually flower buds. As the flower buds mature, each will open into a bright yellow flower, which is why they are called florets. Small yellow flowers have a mild spiciness (mild broccoli flavor), and are delicious in salads or in a stir-fry or steamer.

Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) – Also known as Ochro, Okoro, Quimgombo, Quingumbo, Ladies Fingers and Gumbo. It has hibiscus-like flowers and seed pods that, when picked tender, produce a delicious vegetable dish when stewed or fried. When cooked it resembles asparagus yet it may be left raw and served in a cold salad. The ripe seeds have been used as a substitute for coffee; the seed can be dried and powdered for storage and future use.

Radish Flowers (Raphanus sativus) – Depending on the variety, flowers may be pink, white or yellow, and will have a distinctive, spicy bite (has a radish flavor). 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.

squashblossomsgcSquash Blossoms (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 and does not produce actual squash. One of the most delightful ways to enjoy squash blossoms is by stuffing them with goat cheese.

Squash Blossoms Stuffed With Goat Cheese http://www.myscoop.us/squash-blossoms-stuffed-with-goat-cheese/

Squash Blossom And Goat Cheese Frittata http://www.myscoop.us/squash-blossom-and-goat-cheese-frittata/

Squash Blossom Omelet http://www.myscoop.us/squash-blossom-omelet/