10 Edible Flowers you can Safely Eat

Edible flowers have graced tables across cultures throughout the centuries. It isn't a new fad or the latest fashion, and you will be surprised just how many flowers you can eat in salads, soups, puddings and dishes.

And for those of you who don't think you could ever eat flowers, if you have ever eaten cauliflower,
broccoli and artichokes, then you have eaten flowers! However, along with edible flowers, and edible fruit flowers, there are also some words of caution that go with this and common sense prevails.

EDIBLE FLOWERS, SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS


Always make sure that you know what flowers you are eating. That is, be sure of the identification of the plant, because eating the wrong flower is like eating the wrongly identified mushroom; it could make you very sick, or worse.

Also make sure that the flowers that you are eating have not been sprayed with any insecticides or pesticides. This of course can be overcome by growing your own and taken from locations that you know are pesticide free, such as the fields from your own farm and homesteads. And lastly, everything in moderation. Don't eat too many flowers all the time.

I cannot stress more the importance of making sure that you are eating flowers that really are edible and safe to consume. Luckily for us, those flowers that are toxic forewarn us by usually giving off a pungent smell and are very bitter to the taste. Despite this however, it really isn't the right 'acid test' to take. Be very sure of your plants, and if you don't know the difference between a daisy and a dandelion, rather stay away from being adventurous with edible flowers!

TWO TYPES OF EDIBLE FLOWERS

There are two types of edible flowers: ornamental flowers and herbal flowers . Where there is a great diversity in the taste of the various ornamental flowers, eating herbal flowers tastes no different to their parent plant leaves and stems.

HARVESTING YOUR EDIBLE FLOWERS

Flowers should be picked in the cool of the day, after the dew has evaporated, around noon. For maximum flavor choose flowers at their peak , and do not pick flowers that are not fully opened, or have already started to wilt. Once picked keep them in a cool place with the stems in water. If you have chosen blossoms for your dish without stems then these should only be picked about 2 - 4 hours prior to use and placed on a damp piece of kitchen towel in a plastic bag and placed in the refrigerator.

Because pollen can cause distress to those with allergies, and because it also interferes with the true flavor of the flower, it is best to remove both the pistils and the stamens, if possible. Flowers that have multiple stamens like roses and calendulas only the petals are edible and even these need our attention. At the base of each of these petals is a white part that should be removed to avoid a bitter taste when eaten. Marigolds also fall into this category.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF EDIBLE FLOWERS

Eating flowers means that there are few carbohydrates, fat or protein in what you are eating. However, some flowers have vitamin C or A, and contain other trace elements such as calcium, zinc and magnesium. Borage is said to help us forget our troubles, and calendula flowers, commonly known as marigolds are said to bring happiness.

TOP TEN EDIBLE FLOWERS


BORAGE

Eating borage is said to make us forget our troubles, gives us courage by stimulating our adrenaline and tastes like cucumbers. The leaves or flowers can be put in salads or sauces. Placing the flowers in ice-blocks adds interest to drinks.


CALENDULA

The calendula is also known as the Pot Marigold and when the petals are dried they can be added to soups and scrambled egg to add a yellow hue to the dishes in place of saffron. The leaves can also be brewed into a tea.


CARNATION

Carnation (Dianthus) petals must be separated from the calyx and the white base removed before use as it makes eating them very bitter. What you are left with is a clove-like taste, and the petals can be added to jellies, aspics, salads, herb butters and cordials.


GARLAND CHRYSANTHEMUM

The garland chrysanthemum or edible chrysanthemum is well known in Asian cusine. The leaves can be steamed, stir-fried or boiled and used instead of greens. The petals can also be brewed into a tea. The petals are tangy and go well with lamb.


DANDELION

Use the leaves raw for salads or steam. The flowers are good both cooked and raw and make good wine but remove the white base first and choose buds or young flowers for the honey-like flavour. Don't eat the stems.


SCENTED GERANIUMS

The flavor of scented geranium flowers ranges from rose, to lemon to nutmeg and can be added to sorbets, ice creams and desserts. The leaves can also be used and added to soups, stews and sauces for flavor.


NASTURTIUMS

My favorite! Add leaves and stems to any green salad for a peppery lift. Flowers can be stuffed with cream cheese, or added to salads. Pickled nasturtium seeds make a cheap caper substitute.


ROSES

Long used for teas and infusions, the sweeter varieties can be found in the darker colored roses. Miniature roses can be candied and used for cake decorating by using egg whites and castor sugar. Rose hips make good jelly.


VIOLETS

Most violets are edible, but some yellow species may be slightly cathartic. Flowers can be candied with egg white and castor sugar and used for decorating cakes or desserts. They combine well with scented geranium leaves and lemon balm for a fragrant salad.


ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS

A well-known dish that is enjoyed throughout Italy and beyond, uses the male flowers (with no bulge underneath) of the zucchini plant. They are stuffed and fried, or sometimes just coated in a light batter and deep-fried.

More Flowers you can Eat

Name of Flower Goes well with ...
Angelica ( Angelica archangelica) salads, vegetables, fruit
Anise hyssop ( Agastache foeniculum) salads, vegetables, pasta, fruit
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) tomatoes, vegetables, fish, chicken, pasta, rice
Bergamot petals (Monarda didyma) salads, vegetables, pasta, fish
Borage (Borago officinalis) salads, fruit
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) salads, stews
Catmint (Nepeta cataria) vegetables, pasta, rice
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) salads
Chives ( Allium schoenoprasum) salads, vegetables, sauces
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) Asian dishes, salads, soups, vegetables
Day lily (Hemerocallis spp.) Asian dishes, soups, salads
Dill ( Anethum graveolens) salads, fish, vegetables, dressings, pickles
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) salads, fish, pork
Garland chrysanthemum
(Chrysanthemum coronarium)
salads, vegetables, soups
Garlic chives ( Allium tuberosum) salads, vegetables, sauces
Heartsease (Viola tricolor) salads, fruit
Hollyhock ( Alcea rosea) fruit, dessert
Honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium) salads, desserts
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) chicken, desserts, cakes, biscuits, honey
Lemon (Citrus limon) Asian dishes, desserts
Lemon verbena ( Aloysia triphylla) fruit
Mint (Mentha spp.) salads, desserts, vegetables
Myrtle (Myrtus communis) fruit, fish, pork
Nasturtium (Trapaeolum majus) salads, vegetables
Orange (Citrus sinensis) Asian dishes, desserts
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) vegetables, fish, chicken
Phlox (Phlox drummondii ) salads, desserts
Pinks (Dianthus spp.) fruit, desserts, cakes
Primrose (Primula vulgaris) salads
Rocket (Eruca sativa) Asian dishes, salads
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) tomatoes, lamb
Rose petals (Rosa spp.) jam or jelly, cake
Sage (Salvia officinalis) Asian dishes, rice, meat
Sunflower petals (Helianthus annus) Asian dishes, salads, pasta
Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) fruit
Sweet violet (Viola odorata) salads, desserts
Yarrow ( Achillea millefolium) salads, vegetables
Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) usually lightly battered or stuffed; but remove stamens first

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You might also be interested in our section on edible wild plants.

BOOKS ON EDIBLE FLOWERS


Dehydrated Food


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