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