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The idea of edible plants usually conjures up thoughts and images of fruits, vegetables, and herbs – everyday ingredients we love to eat.
But you might not be aware that there are dozens upon dozens of flowers to bring to the feast, too, and not just to display as pretty centerpieces!
Did you know that you can eat many types of beautiful blossoms?
Edible flowers have a stronghold in the culinary world – veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and artichokes are botanically flowers or buds.
But many still don’t realize you can incorporate brightly colored blooms often found in outdoor beds, gardens, and pots into your meals.
Before you start plucking petals to add to your garden salad, though, educate yourself. Not all blooms are edible, and some are poisonous if ingested.
Let’s go over some of the varieties you can transition from a homegrown bouquet to your plate, and how you can start incorporating them in your cooking and baking!
How to Add Edible Flowers to Your Cooking
The Best Edible Flowers
There are so many common edible blossoms. But what exactly can you choose as safe, non-toxic options?
Here are some of the highlights that you may already have growing at home, in your own garden:
- Bachelor’s Button
- Lemon Verbena
- Sweet Alyssum
Do you see any on this list that are a surprise to you? Maybe you didn’t know your marigolds and magnolias could be tasty treats?
For the best appearance and quality, pick them fresh soon before you will be preparing your meal, as they wilt quickly!
For a more extensive list with photos and detailed descriptions of each one, visit our sister site, Gardener’s Path.
If your curiosity is now piqued, let’s move on to gain some creative and tasty ideas to use when preparing a meal!
The herbal buds and blossoms in your herb garden provide a resource for numerous edible delicacies.
They are an easy choice for gorgeous garnishes on top of anything and everything you are serving, but their application can certainly go beyond a final beautiful topping.
The blooms are typically milder in taste than the leaves, and can work well to subtly season recipes that don’t require any cooking.
Herbal options are also useful for different cooking and baking techniques, such as adding rosemary blossoms to your bread dough or sage blossoms to savory dishes featuring lighter meats like chicken breast, seafood, and pork.
The gentler onion flavor of chive blossoms adds depth to broth, giving soups a boost of flavor when mixed in immediately before serving.
Make your homemade cakes stand out by adding a small amount of finely chopped lavender blooms to the batter or frosting.
We suggest you use any of these kinds sparingly – at least at first – as too much can cause a perfume-heavy taste and aroma, particularly in the case of lavender!
Lavender Cookies – Get the Recipe Now
Approach more unfamiliar blooms with some careful discipline – test any new recipes by taking note of how much you add to your first batch, starting with just a few teaspoons depending on what you are cooking.
Once you have a taste of the final result, make your adjustments for the next time you make the same recipe.
Using herbal buds and blossoms gives you an opportunity to create a landscape of aromatic taste and aromas for your meals that can carry from the first course to the last – your soups and salads can carry the hint of the herbal flavorings, and the stronger flavors from the leaves are present in the main course.
Imagine an outdoor summer dinner party, serving a fresh mixed greens salad garnished with tiny rosemary blooms presented in a gorgeous wooden serving bowl followed by roasted chicken seasoned with rosemary leaves served with roasted potatoes mixed with sage blossoms.
And with creme brulee infused with chamomile for the final dessert, and perhaps some warm mint and lemon verbena tea for the final drink, you’ll have the perfect seasonal multi-course meal!
When you are growing a variety of fresh vegetables in your home garden, chances are you’ll have one or two unexpected edible blossoms to try!
The zucchini flower is one of the more well-known edible types and it comes from a very prolific type of squash!
If you know your garden will produce too much zucchini in the summer season, or any variety of summer squash for that matter, this is your perfect opportunity to seize some of the blossoms, and utilize them in your well-crafted cookery.
The squash blossom has a delicate, herbal flavor to it. It can be prepared raw, sauteed, or mixed into soups and sauces.
Remove the stamens and pistils from each one when preparing them for cooking, and trim the stem. Other edible vegetable blossoms include pea and bean blossoms, radishes, yuccas, and the hibiscus-like blooms of the okra plant.
These, like the herbal varieties, are milder in flavor, and are ideal for use as garnishes, or in salads and other raw preparations.
Gorgeous garden blooms – they beautify any blank space, filling our yards and homes with breathtaking colors and heavenly aromas.
Many of them can also be enjoyed in recipes. We’ll focus on just a few basics here!
Just like you might with the buds and blossoms from classic herbs that are allowed to bloom, you can use many types of garden flowers to garnish a wide range of dishes and desserts.
Hibiscus blooms have a fruity and acidic flavor, similar to how a cranberry tastes. Pair them with juicy orange segments and butter lettuce for a delightful summer salad.
You might also like to infuse them in hot water for a caffeine-free tea. Keep in mind that hibiscus tea is made with a specific species of hibiscus, H. sabdariffa, also known as roselle.
Honeysuckle blossoms are sweet, as are impatiens, while pansies are more grassy and earthy in flavor. The flavors are all quite mild, and should be combined with other delicate food items, or used as a simple, natural garnish.
Sugared Flowers – Get the Recipe Now
The rose offers a wide range of flavors, from fruity to spicy! The type of rose, the growing conditions, and even the color may all factor into the final flavor of rose petals.
Use roses for salads, garnishes on top of your favorite homemade ice cream, and in syrups, jellies, and punches.
Still a little hesitant to incorporate these types into your recipes?
Erin French, head chef and owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, loves adorning her dishes with edible garden blooms, and incorporating them in creative ways into recipes. They are heavily featured throughout her menus dedicated to seasonal and local cuisine.
Erin French’s “The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine,” available on Amazon
French offers the perfect inspiration if you’re trying to think of playful ways to use an edible array of buds and blossoms. To study her cooking techniques and philosophies, and to view some beautiful food photography and styling, her cookbook, “The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine,” is available to purchase now on Amazon.
What to Avoid
A word of caution: not all blooms are edible!
Flowers bring varied levels of flavor and texture to your dishes, as well as visual delight. But this ingredient should be used with careful trepidation.
Some common plants that are toxic to humans and animals include:
- Castor Bean
- Easter Lily
- Lily of the Valley
- Stargazer Lily
- Sweet Pea
- Water Hemlock
Gardener’s Path provides additional detail on many of these common plants, if you want to further educate yourself on what exactly to avoid and how to identify them.
Even among the varieties we have listed here as safe, you should proceed with caution. Never use any blossom that has been exposed to pesticides, herbicides, or other chemical treatment.
And some options may also be dyed to a vibrant color – definitely avoid those as well!
If you don’t grow your own at home, obtain them from a reputable source.
Introduce them one at a time into your cooking. Those with allergies or sensitivities may react badly to some varieties, even if the herb or vegetable doesn’t cause a reaction.
Don’t be put off by the need for caution, however! With a little research and advance planning, you can add color, beauty, and exciting new flavors to your homemade cuisine, and enjoy using the plants you’ve lovingly tended in your garden in fun new ways.
A Bountiful Bouquet of Flavors
We are so excited for you to embark on your own aromatic adventures using edible flowers!
As long as you are educated on the varieties that are safe and edible to eat, and you begin by introducing them into your diet gradually, you will have so many colorful opportunities for creating visually stunning and uniquely flavored food experiences.
Experiment with the edible blossoms growing in your garden, and have some fun with this new discovery!
Do you know which types from our list you want to start incorporating into your recipes? Were there any described here that you were not expecting to see, maybe some that you have been planting or growing for years? Leave a comment below!
Inspired to find other fun ways to make deliciously stunning dishes? You’ll find some other nifty ideas in our collection of how-to articles. Get playful with the following tutorials:
- 5 Steps to Create the Perfect Meat and Cheese Board
- An Easy Frosting-Free Way to Decorate Cupcakes
- How to Blanch Almonds
Photos by Fanny Slater and Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock. Product photo provided by Amazon. Originally published on September 2, 2014. Last updated on June 29, 2023.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.