A Guide to Edible Flowers

By: Jessie Keith

Bombus on Borage

A bumblebee pollinates the edible flowers of borage.

Well-placed culinary blooms are surprisingly delicious and bring unique and elegant beauty to the table. Many edible flowers are common garden plants, which provides even more encouragement for everyday gardeners to take advantage of petaled delights. They are not just for chefs and connoisseurs.

Edible blooms can be broken down into two categories: herbal flowers and edible garden flowers. Herbal flowers are those of garden herbs, and most garden herbs have edible flowers—though you always want to double check before chowing down on any bloom. Some garden ornamentals also have edible flowers, but there are only a handful of these that are safe and tasty. Two easy-to-reference table guides of common herb and garden floral edibles are provided below.

There are a few caveats to eating edible flowers. First, never eat flowers from a florist as these have often been sprayed with chemicals. In turn, never spray your flowers in the garden if you intend to eat them. Even pesticides and herbicides approved for organic gardening are a no no.  Flowers are too delicate to wash, so if you intend to consume them, let nature tend to them.

For the cultivation of all the herbs and flowers highlighted in the tables, provide full sun, average moisture and a quality potting medium with good drainage. Black Gold® All Purpose Potting Soil with Controlled Release Fertilizer or Black Gold® Natural & Organic Potting Mix are great for potted herbs and will yield happy plants every time. Flowering plants also bloom most beautifully with the addition of a granular fertilizer formulated to encourage flowering.

Pretty chive flowers and a sweet onion flavor to fresh cucumber salad.

Pretty chive flowers add a sweet onion flavor to fresh cucumber salad.

A favorite springtime edible flower recipe is chive flower cucumber salad. It is very easy to make and will compliment lots of early season meal plans. To make the salad, just thinly slice 2 cucumbers (peel them if they are thick-skinned), then make a dressing that combines 2  tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1  teaspoon sugar, 1/3 cup heavy cream, 1 shallot finely minced,  1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill and salt and pepper to taste. Mix the dressing and cucumbers then toss with 2 to 3 chive flowers that have been trimmed and gently broken apart. The chive flowers lend a delicate onion flavor to the salad that makes it extra delicious!

 

Popular Edible Herb Flowers

Herb Look & Flavor  
Basil  (Ocimum spp.) If your basil plants flower in summer, eat the zesty purplish or white basil blooms and green buds. They taste lovely on salads and veggies.  Ocimum-basilicum-Cinnamon-JaKMPM-300x200
Borage (Borago officinalis) Pure violet blue and flavored like cucumber, these early summer flowers look and taste lovely on any fresh savory dish.  Borago-officinalis-1024x682
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) Beautiful tufts of mauve blooms with pure chive flavor bedeck these plants in spring. Break them apart and use in place of chives.  100
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) Umbels of lacy white flowers are the precursor to coriander seeds. Use the fresh tasting spring or fall blooms in place of fresh cilantro.  Coriandrum sativum2
Dill (Anethum graveolens) Yellow or chartreuse green dill flowers appear in spring or fall and taste as dilly as the leaves but add good looks to dishes.  Dill
Lavender (Lavandula spp.) Lavender is a common culinary herb in the South of France. The flavorful summer flowers add charm and flavor to grilled lamb or herbed goat cheese spread.  Lavender
Mints (Mentha spp.) All mints have wonderfully minty summer flowers that may be white or purplish. Add them to any dish calling for fresh mint, from tabouli to desserts.  Mentha
Oregano (Origanum officinalis) The purple or white summer flowers of oregano lend potent oregano flavor to savory dishes.  050
Thyme (Thymus spp.) The early summer flowers of thyme may be pink, white or purple and taste delicately of thyme. Sprinkle them on spring cream soups or salads.  Thyms.ashx
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Blooming intermittently in fall, winter or spring, rosemary flowers are white or purplish and pair well with grilled meats and savory salads.  Rosemary

 

Popular Edible Garden Flowers

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) These cheerful cool weather annuals have flowers in warm colors. Their petals have a spicy flavor and lend interest to salads.  Calendula
Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) Daylily buds and petals taste almost like lettuce. The summer blooming plants have colorful flowers in almost every shade but true blue.  Hemerocallis 'Red Razzle Dazzle' JaKMPM
Marigold (Tagetes spp.) True marigold flowers have a sharp, somewhat citrusy flavor that lend good flavor to heirloom tomato salads.  tagetes
Monarda (Monarda spp.) The zesty, somewhat minty flavor of summer blooming Monarda flowers can be used to decorate salads or desserts.  045
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) Summer blooming nasturtiums have flowers that are peppery tasting, like watercress. They are beautiful and add appeal to fresh savory dishes.  Nasturtium
Pansy (Viola hybrids) Violas are cool season flowers with a mild, sweet flavor and bright color. They can be candied and used to decorate desserts.  Viola Sorbet Lemon Chiffon JaKMPM
Rose (Rosa spp.) Rose petals can be used alone in fresh confections or used to make rose water. Be sure to only use garden flowers that have not been sprayed or treated in any way. Candied rose petals taste lovely with almond desserts.  Blushing Knock Out
Violet (Viola spp.) Spring blooming wild violets have a stronger sweet violet flavor than hybrid pansies, but they can be used in the same way.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.