The Ultimate Guide to Edible Flowers
If you’re here, you probably love flowers as much as we do. A lot of people enjoy flowers in vases on their countertops and we particularly enjoy our flowers in teas, but flowers can also be enjoyed in a lot of different recipes. If you’re feeling lost with edible flowers, we’re going to share thirteen types of edible flowers you might enjoy, where to buy edible flowers, how to grow edible flowers, as well as our favorite edible flower recipes!
Types of Edible Flowers
Dandelion greens are actually some of the healthiest greens you can eat. They are full of nutrients and vitamins like iron, riboflavin, vitamin K and vitamin A. Dandelion greens can be sauteed and enjoyed in pasta or as a side. You can also use young dandelions as a salad.
Dandelions can be bitter and will get more bitter the older they are. Dandelion petals are also extremely versatile. You can add in petals to things like muffins, cookies, quiches, and cakes. They can even be enjoyed in savory meals like hamburgers, salads, and cheese spreads. Just like dandelion greens, the petals get more bitter the older they are. Younger dandelion petals have a more honey-like flavor.
Botanically speaking, pansies, violas and violets all belong to the genus Viola. This means that the plants have a lot of similarities and one of them is that they are all edible. They have similar flavor and taste pretty mild. Some people compare their flavor to salad greens with a light perfume depending on their variety. Pansies, violas, and violets can also be candied, which makes them a great addition to any dessert.
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Roses are enjoyed as a delicacy in cultures around the world. Countries like India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Japan, and China often use roses in their cooking. In the Yunnan region of China, locals enjoy whole flower roses in pastries and as teas. Roses can be used in a variety of ways. They’re petals can be enjoyed on cookies and cakes, but roses can also be used to make rose water and rose syrup, which can be used for a variety of cooking projects. Roses taste similar to their scent.
Most people have enjoyed a warm cup of chamomile tea with its gentle notes of apple and mellow, honey-like sweetness. But its flowers can actually be enjoyed on their own. You can warm a few chamomile flowers in butter and enjoy it on banana bread. Some also enjoy adding chamomile flowers to the crunchy topping that goes on top of apple crisp. Finally, you can also add a few flowers to your favorite salad. Just be careful if you’re allergic to ragweed because sometimes chamomile flowers can set off ragweed allergies.
There are some pretty delicious-looking recipes that include marigold. Unlike some of these other flowers, you should only consume marigold petals and not their leaves or stems. Not all marigolds are tasty either. For the best flavor, you can try Tagetes patula (French marigold), Tagetes tenuifolia (Gem marigolds) or Tagetes lucida (Mexican mint marigold). Edible marigold flowers can taste mildly citrusy or subtly spicy, depending on the variety. Marigold petals can be added to stir fries, cookies, and summer rolls.
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All Chrysanthemum flowers are edible, but like marigolds their flavor can change depending on the type. They’ve been known to taste tangy, bitter, and peppery. Our dried edible chrysanthemums have a mildly sweet, herbal flavor with notes of honey. Chrysanthemum can be enjoyed as a tea, but they can also be eaten in salads and as garnishes. The leaves and tender shoots can also be used to flavor stir fries, soups, stews, and hot pots. Chrysanthemums pair really well with sesame, soy sauce, lemon, garlic, rice vinegar, and other leafy greens.
Just like rosemary and thyme, lavender is an herb that can add flavor to a variety of dishes and drinks. Lavender has a distinct taste that goes well with oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage. It can also be used in meat marinades and breads. Since lavender is so popular, make sure your lavender was grown to be eaten and wasn’t made with any chemicals.
Fried, stuffed squash blossoms make a delicious summer dish, but squash blooms can also be eaten raw, baked, served with pasta or even in a quesadilla. Unlike some of our other flowers, these are best enjoyed in savory dishes. If you like squash, squash blossoms have a similar flavor, but they're softer and more delicate. You can also enjoy the squash blossoms from both winter and summer squashes.
Hibiscus flowers are usually used as a garnish, but the flowers are actually pretty tasty. It is known for its tart flavor that is almost like cranberry or pomegranate. A few different African countries enjoy a hibiscus drink known as bissap, but hibiscus also make a great addition to cocktails and even drinks like lemonade. We’ve seen some pretty delicious-looking quesadillas and enchiladas made with hibiscus. (1)
Organic whole blue lotus flowers are great for brewing in hot water to make tea, but the dried petals can also be sprinkled on top of oatmeal or greek yogurt. If you’re feeling even more adventurous you can try making blue lotus wine.
The eating and preparation of flowers, like carnations, has roots in Roman, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Indian cultures. Like marigolds, it is best to enjoy the petals of the carnations rather than the entire flower. Their petals can be used as a garnish or steeped in wine, pickled, or used to create a syrup. They have a sweet and spicy taste that also goes great on salads and in rice dishes.
Cornflowers have a beautifully complex flavor that has been described as slightly spicy with a subtle sweetness that is similar to cloves. You can mix cornflowers into spreads and dips and enjoy it in cakes. Its bright color makes a great addition to any meal or drink.
In the United States, orchids are mostly used as a garnish to add a beachy feel to any dish or drink. But cultures around the world have used parts of orchid plants to make sauces and stir fries. In Thailand, certain orchids are dipped in batter and then deep fried. In Hawaii, orchids are occasionally added to salads or sugar-coated as a floral candy. Orchid petals don’t have an overwhelming flavor, but are rather described as having a fresh, crisp flavor like endive or watercress. Just be careful with orchids because they can upset more sensitive stomachs.
Where to Buy Edible Flowers
Finding edible flowers isn’t always easy, especially in the winter. Checking your local farmer’s market might be the best place to get fresh edible flowers. You just want to make sure that the flowers aren’t grown with any pesticides or harmful chemicals. Whole Foods and other health foods also sell edible flowers occasionally.
There are a few online marketplaces that can ship fresh edible flowers overnight like Melissa’s, Marx Food, and Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, but it can get a little expensive. Dried edible flowers can also be a great option. You can buy dried organic roses, blue lotus flowers, and chrysanthemum flowers in our shop. These can be sprinkled on cakes, cookies, and even salads.
Growing Your Own Edible Flowers
When you’re searching for edible flowers you have to make sure the flowers were specifically grown to be eaten. Soil toxicity, pesticides, and other chemicals can very quickly make edible flowers inedible and even dangerous. When growing flowers on your own, you’ll be able to control the growing circumstances.
You can buy edible flower seeds from your local gardening store as well as online through marketplaces like Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Urban Farmer Seeds. Growing edible flowers isn’t much more difficult than growing herbs, depending on the type of flower. Pansies can be a good place to start!
How to Use Edible Flowers
Edible flowers can be used in a ton of different ways. They can be used in ice cubes, cookies, cakes, garnishes, teas, and more. We want to share some of our favorite floral recipes for dishes, desserts, and drinks.
Savory recipes with Edible Flowers
Green Salad with Edible Flowers: Nothing will make a simple salad pop like some beautiful edible flowers. This green salad pairs a light vinaigrette with baby salad greens and violas. (via Martha Stewart)
Marigold Butter: Compound butter can add something special to any meal. This butter recipe mixes mild marigold flowers, cardamom, and lemon juice and grows great with fresh bread. (via Eat Smarter)
Squash Blossoms Stuffed With Ricotta: Known as fiori di zucca in Italian, this tender squash blossoms are stuffed with ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and mint before being battered and fried. (via Epicurious)
Drink Recipes with Edible Flowers
- Flower Ice Sparkling Rose Lemonade: This refreshing sparkling rose lemonade will go great with summer festivities. (via The Qi)
- Hibiscus Iced Tea: Hibiscus Iced Tea, otherwise known as Agua de Jamaica, is an infusion of dried hibiscus flowers that makes a deliciously tart drink. (via Simply Recipes)
- Pimm’s Flower Cup: Pimm’s is a gin based fruit cup usually made with British liqueur with a recipe that is kept secret. This version adds a little twist by adding crushed flowers. (via The Qi)
Dessert Recipes with Edible Flowers
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- Edible Flower Cookies: These pressed flower cookies are made with pansies and mint shortbread. They’ll be sure to wow at any event. (via Two Cups Flour)
- Matcha Shortbread Cookies with Edible Petals: These tea cookies are the real deal made with matcha and dried flowers. (via The Qi)
- Rose Pistachio Dark Chocolate Bark: With just three ingredients, this dark chocolate bark makes a great late-night snack. (via The Qi)
We hope you enjoyed our ultimate guide to edible flowers and that you are able to enjoy some delicious edible flowers soon!
Disclaimer: Only eat flowers that you are absolutely certain are edible. If you see a flower being used as a garnish, it doesn’t always mean it’s edible. Also, never consume a flower that has been treated with a pesticide that isn’t intended to be used on food products. Finally, never consume flowers from florists or nurseries and all flowers should be consumed at your own risk.