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I’d like to use flowers in my home cooking. Which flowers are edible?

Last Updated: Apr 22, 2016  |  4 Views

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  • Many kinds of flowers are edible. As others are poisonous it is vitally important to identify a plant correctly before eating it.

Here is a partial list of edible flowers:

  • African marigold (Tagetes erecta)--stronly pungent flavor
  • calendula or English marigold (Calendula officinale)--sharp taste resembling saffron
  • carnation and pink (Dianthus spp.) --sweet; remove bitter white flower base
  • chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum spp.) – mild taste; remove bitter flower base and use petals only
  • clover (Trifolium spp.)--anise-like flavor; raw flower heads maybe difficult to digest; clover tea regarded as medicinal
  • cornflower or bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus)--clove-like flavor
  • dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)--flowers sweet and crunchy; leaves, best when picked young. used in salads.
  • day lilies (Hemerocallis spp.)--long used in Japanese and Chinese cooking; unopened buds or open flowers can be eaten;  flowers may be stuffed with bread crumbs and/or cheese and sautéed
  • nasturtium (Tropaeoleum majus)--popular addition to salads and as garnishes for cooked dishes
  • roses (Rosa spp.) – heirloom species taste best; dark red varieties can have too strong taste (Do not eat roses that have been sprayed.)
  • snapdragon (Antirrhinum spp.)--mild to slightly bitter taste.
  • violets and pansies (Viola spp.)--popular as garnish; V. odoratum (violets) scented and used mainly in deserts; pansies, particularly johnny-jump-up (V. tricolor), have mild pea flavor

Flowers of many herbs whose leaves are used as spices are also edible. These include alliums, arugula, chive, chervil, dill, rosemary, mint, sage, and thyme.

Other points:

  • Check the identity of the plant carefully.
  • Wash flowers before eating.
  • Use only the petals (although violas are best eaten whole).
  • Do not use large amounts at first. Introduce them into your diet slowly.
  • Do not eat flowers from florists or nurseries.
  • Do not eat flowers from plants that have been sprayed toxic chemicals or with herbicides.
  • Do not eat roadside plants.
  • Choose flowers that are at their peak.
  • Avoid plants that are poisonous or irritating. Some of these (although there are many others) are Alstroemeria, Cymbidium orchid, Gerbera daisy, grape hyacinth, hellebore, iris, Leucospermum, lily-of-the-valley, oriental poppy, Phalaenopsis orchid, buttercups, tulips). Some people are allergic to plants that others are not--proceed with caution.

There are a number of books on cooking with flowers, including:

  • The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy (Periplus Editions, 1999)
  • Good Enough to Eat: Growing Edible Flowers and Cooking with Them by Jekka McVicar  (Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1997)
  • Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate by Cathy W. Barash. (Fulcrum Publishing, 1993)

For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service

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