Edible Flowers & How to Use Them
I absolutely love using edible flowers in my recipes. They add an exciting pop of color to any dish. I continue to be astonished by how many flowers are edible. I've compiled a list of flowers I know are possible to source and recipes to use them in. But, first, it's important to know a few things.
What to Know Before Using Edible Flowers
- Many flowers need the stamens and styles removed before eating, because the pollen can cause allergic reactions. For some of the smaller flowers (violas, pansies, honeysuckle, and clover) you do not need to do this.
- Do not assume all flowers are edible. Many cause allergic reactions or are poisonous. If you cannot identify a flower, it's best to take a sample to a greenhouse or nursery to be identified, before you try eating it.
- Do not eat flowers that have been sprayed with fertilizers and pesticides. Likewise, do not eat flowers picked from the side of the road, as they may be contaminated with car exhaust.
- All flowers that aren't poisonous or that cause an allergic reaction are considered edible, but that doesn't mean they necessarily taste good.
- Teach children that not all flowers are edible, and that many can cause severe allergic reactions.
- Ice water can perk up wilted flowers.
- If you can't pick edible flowers or get to a farmer's market, there are several online shops that will ship them to you. If you're in the US: Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, Marx Foods, and Melissa's. If you're in the UK: Greens of Devon.
- For more edible flower inspiration, visit my Edible Flowers Pinterest board.
Edible Flowers & How to Use Them
Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic) - Allium blossoms have a sweet onion to garlic flavor and can be used in a variety of ways, including sauces and salad garnishes. This Asparagus Chives recipe and this Allium Blossom Vinegar are interesting ways to use alliums.
Basil - Basil flowers are aromatic and tangy. Typically, basil flowers are pinched off the basil plant and discarded, so the plant will produce more leaves. This herb flower pesto is a great showcase for basil flowers, or try them in this basil flower vinegar.
Begonia - Begonias are vibrantly colored flowers with a citrus taste. They are most often used in salads, like this strawberry begonia salad. Warning: The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism. (sourced from: What's Cooking America)
Borage - Borage flowers are small, bright blue, and star shaped. They have a light cucumber flavor and one of their most popular uses is as a garnish in a Pimm's Cup. Additionally, borage flowers are used in this classic English dessert - Blackberry Fool.
Busy Lizzie (Impatiens) - Impatiens come in multiple colors from purple to pink to white and are easy to grow. Flowers have soft and sweet petals. Because of their sweetness, they are a perfect addition to salads.
Calendula/Marigold - Calendulas can be yellow, orange or gold and have a nice peppery taste with a faint citrus flavor. They have a similar flavor to saffron. Sometimes, they can be bitter. Calendulas are great shredded in salads or added to tea. This lentil salad features kicky marigold petals. They're also are easily made into ice cubes, as featured in this lovely post.
Carnations (Dianthus) - Carnation flower petals are edible, but the base is quite bitter, so cut or tear petals off before using. Carnations were used in this beautiful Flower Power Cake and in this Eat Your Garden Salad. They'd also make a lovely decoration in a punch bowl.
Chamomile - Chamomile flowers are small and daisy-like. They taste slightly of apple and are often used in tea or medicinal drinks, like this Blossom Tisane. This rhubarb, strawberry, and chamomile galette is a great way to celebrate the subtle flavor of chamomile.
Chicory (Cornflower) - Chicory flowers are usually bright blue and can have a strong, sometimes bitter flavor - similar to endives. They are often pickled or used in jams and sometimes in salads.
Coriander (Cilantro) - Coriander flowers taste much like the herb. Use the flowers raw, as they lose flavor when cooked. This simple recipe for Coriander Flower Liqueur is a delicious way to use the flowers.
Chervil - Chervil flowers are small and white and have an anise flavor. They're best used raw and in salads.
Chrysanthemum - Chrysanthemums come in a range of colors and have a faint peppery taste. The base can be bitter, so it's best to use just the petals. This recipe for a potato frittata uses both chrysanthemums and dandelions.
Daisy - Daisy petals are commonly used as garnish, but they have very little taste. Daisy lollipops make for a stunning little treat. Warning: If you have hay fever or asthma, avoid daisies as they can trigger an allergic reaction.
Dandelion - Dandelions, when picked young, have a sweet honey taste. They can be made into wine and also taste lovely when steamed. This spring pea pasta with wild dandelions is a beautiful celebration salad. This dandelion and feta tart would wow at a dinner party.
Daylily - Daylily flowers come in many colors and are sweet and crunchy - similar to the flavor of asparagus. Here's a fun video from PBS on Daylily Fritters, and a useful post on foraging for and cooking the parts of a daylily.
Dill - Dill flowers have a stronger dill flavor than the leaves and seeds, but can be used similarly.
Elderflower - Elderflowers are sweet, white, and small blossoms. This lemon and elderflower drizzle cake is a wonderful way to showcase edible flowers. Or, if you're looking for something more savory, this recipe for elderflower tempura should fit the bill. And, if you want something healthy, this elderflower acai bowl looks perfect.
Fennel - Fennel flowers are small, yellow starbursts that have a strong anise flavor. Fennel blossoms can be added to sauces, dressings, and soups - and also makes a lovely garnish. Try them in this Fennel Blossom Soup.
Fuchsia - Fuchsia come in a variety of bright colors and look lovely as garnish in salads and cold soups. They are also commonly candied and added to sweets. The stamen needs to be removed before eating.
Gladiolus - Gladiolus flowers come in a wide array of colors and taste similar to lettuce. They can be stuffed or used in salads.
Hibiscus - Hibiscus flowers are tart and sweet. They're often found in teas and salads. Dried hibiscus adds a gorgeous color to this ice cream recipe. Or, try these oh-so-pretty hibiscus marshmallows.
Honeysuckle - Honeysuckle flowers are edible, but the berries are highly poisonous. The flowers are highly perfumed and can be candied. Here are a few recipe for honeysuckle flowers: Honeysuckle Iced Tea, Honeysuckle and Jasmine Cupcakes, and Honeysuckle Sorbet.
Lavender - Lavender flowers may be blue, violet, or lilac and have a very strong, floral flavor and are heavily perfumed. They are lovely in tea, salads, and baked goods. This recipe for Lavender Lemonade is another classic use of lavender.
Mint - Mint flowers are tiny, but pack a very minty punch. Mint flowers can be used in salads, pesto, and add great flavor to Middle Eastern dishes.
Nasturtium - Nasturtiums come in tropical colors ranging from white to red to orange. They taste similar to watercress and have a slightly peppery kick. This easy recipe of nasturtiums stuffed with basil and ricotta is simple and beautiful.
Pansy/Viola - Pansies can be white, pink, purple, yellow, or multi-colored and they have a light, and sweet flavor. A great way to use pansies is to sugar them and put the on a cake or cookies. Here's a recipe for Pansy Shortbread. They can easily be added to salads as a garnish as well - similar to this Springtime Noodle Salad recipe.
Pea - Pea flowers are delicate and taste like young peas. They can easily be added to salads or candied. They'd also be lovely in a stir fry. Warning: Only Pea flowers are edible, Sweet Pea Flowers are poisonous.
Primrose - Primrose flowers have a sweet flavor and make a great addition to green salads and sweets. Here's a gorgeous Lavender Cupcake with Candied Primroses. Primroses can also be fermented into wine.
Rosemary - Rosemary flowers taste similar to the herb, if slightly less strong, and can be used in sauces or to flavor meat. They can be used in butters, similar to this Butter with Rosemary recipe, or as a garnish, as in this Roasted Potatoes recipe.
Safflower - Safflower blossoms are orange red and look like shaggy puffs. They can be used similarly to saffron. Here's a list of a number of Middle Eastern dishes that use dried safflower. Warning: Do not eat large amounts during pregnancy
Strawberry - Strawberry blossoms are small and white or pink and have a mild strawberry taste. They can be floated in drinks or to garnish baked goods.
Sunflower - Sunflower blossoms are large and yellow. They taste mildly of asparagus and can be cooked or eaten raw.
Violets - Violets have a delicate, floral taste. Violets are often made into a syrup for a stronger flavor. This lovely matcha sponge cake with fresh violets is a great way to showcase their stunning colors. Violets are an easy flower to grow - here's a great resource for how to grow and when to harvest violets.
Zucchini (Squash Blossom) - Zucchini flowers or squash blossoms have a subtle zucchini flavor and taste a bit like nectar. They are easily stuffed, and possible recipes include flowers stuffed with rice, beet hummus, or with cheese. Here's a great list from The Kitchn on 5 ways to eat squash blossoms.
I found information on edible flowers from the following sources: