Flowers have been set aside as ornament for hundreds of years, but have recently begun to make a comeback on the table. Eatable flowers are actually more common than you think, and very tasty. Take broccoli or cauliflower for example. The wonderful florets of these two vegetables are nothing more than masses of flower buds, harvested right before they open. Okra is another flower bud that we eat before it opens (and left to bloom, okra is quite beautiful). Flowers can be made into main dishes or added to main dishes, and of course make beautiful garnishes. You can easily add edible flowering plants to your vegetable garden, but many are perfectly suitable in ornamental containers and even as part of the landscape- turning your landscape into edible landscaping that is not only beautiful but useful as well. There are many, many edible flowers that you can add to your food. Here are our 10 favorite, best tasting and easiest to use edible flowers.
Nasturtium blooms are beautiful and very edible, as are the leaves. They have a spicy peppery flavor, like arugula or even a hot radish. Nasturtium’s edible qualities make it a wonderful addition to any salad. The seed pods can be pickled and used as a caper substitute- as many people seem to enjoy them over real capers. Nasturtiums have been enjoyed in Indian cooking for thousands of years. They are beautiful and should be planted around vegetable gardens as a beneficial insect attractor. They come in two forms, mounding and trailing. Some are larger than others. Use trailing types in pot arrangements and flower boxes as spillers. They also look beautiful flowing out of a garden bed and do a good job as living mulch as they spread over the ground. Mounding types are beautiful in the front of borders. They come in bloom colors ranging from deep maroon to very light pink and yellow tones. The leaves are usually a bright emerald green with interesting round form, but they can also be variegated.
One of most common eatable flowers, pansy blooms are very mild and slightly grassy tasting- almost sweet. They are beautiful in salads of course, but are also lovely in floating in pitchers of sweet summer drinks or sprinkled in tea. They can be used to decorate cakes and Easter confections. Pansy blooms can be candied or crystalized and can last in storage.
Violas or Johnny Jump-ups are smaller than Pansies but look very similar. They also taste similar and can be used in similar ways. There are often wild violas growing everywhere, so they’re easy to find foraging in the woods in the spring.
Alliums are a wide range of plants all related to onions and garlic. There are many kinds. You can obviously eat the bulbs of onions, but the edible leaves of many types of bunching onions and chives, as well as their beautiful and usually purple, white, or pink flower heads are often stronger in onion flavor than the rest of the plant and are quite delicious in salads.
When grown as an edible crop, the blooms are the main show, but the very young leaves can be eaten as well. Called Shingiku in Japan, they’ve been a main edible for a very long time, where they enjoy them tempura style or in salads. In China, they’re common in stir fries. They are quite delicious. Some are peppery, but often they taste much like cauliflower and are mild.
6-Dandelions Flower Buds and Leaves
Now becoming a popular overall edible and valuable plant, many people may remember in the past that it was thought of as an invasive weed. But the uses of dandelions happen to be numerous and when planted in mass, they are quite beautiful. They are now finding their places in edible gardens worldwide. The flowers are best eaten when they’re still small buds close to the leaf whorl, about the size of almonds. The young leaves and flower buds are both sweet and mild. They are wonderful in salads and are often made into wine.
You can find these common landscape staples everywhere. Their flowers are beautiful and taste mild and sweet like lettuce. They can be stuffed or eaten in salads or are absolutely beautiful when used on cakes. Not all lilies are edible and are considered to have poisonous flowers. Daylilies are safe to eat. Make sure you know what kind of lily you’re harvesting.
The seeds of calendula are recognizable- curly and sort of look like tiny spiny grubs. The plants themselves are easy to grow and absolutely beautiful- wonderful for children to grow. They have a sharp spicy flavor much like saffron. Eat only the flower petals sprinkled over soup and salads and scrambled eggs.
9-Hibiscus Blooms (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
Tropical hibiscus shrubs are beautiful and wonderful landscape plants in warm areas. They are also collected extensively for their absolutely exquisite flower blooms that range in all colors and many patterns. The flower- most notably the bud, tastes similar to roselle and is a very posh ingredient in exotic cold teas and drinks. They have a cranberry flavor that is very citrus and bright. The blooms can also be used as garnishes.
Roses are so wonderful. The hips are famous for making tea. But the blooms are delicious. Roses taste like mild yet complex apples and strawberries, with mint and spice flavor notes. The petals can be used directly in desserts and salads. The small ones look lovely as garnishes on cakes and pies. Freeze the petals in ice cubes and use them later in fruit punch and teas. They are also used to add scent to potpourri, spreads, butters, and they can be added to rose hip jelly which is absolutely divine.
Edible flowers are wonderful additions to food! Use flowers that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, and avoid harvesting from roadsides. If you’re harvesting from the wild, make sure you’re legally allowed to do so. Better yet, grow these wonderful plants in your own garden!