Add Edible Flowers to Your Cooking

Edible plants usually conjure up images of fruits, vegetables and herbs. A salad is made up of greens, lettuces, veggies and perhaps a sprinkling of nuts or seeds. If you want to make that salad really pop, try adding some blossoms.

Spoon full of edible flower blossoms

Edible flowers are gaining popularity in the culinary world, but adding these brightly colored blooms to cuisine isn’t a new idea.

American settlers included flowers in their food, and cooks in Victorian England highlighted their dishes with blossoms harvested from the garden.

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.

Edible Herbal Varieties

The herbal blossoms in your herb garden provide a resource for numerous edible delicacies. Use the petals from bee balm, chives, lavender, rosemary and sage for salads and garnish.

The blooms are milder in taste than the leaves and work well with lemony vinaigrettes.

Use the flowers in cooking and baking as well, adding chopped rosemary blossoms to your bread dough or sage blossoms to your bean dishes.

The gentler onion flavor of chive flowers adds depth to vegetable broth, giving soups a boost of flavor. Make your chocolate cake stand out by adding a small amount of finely chopped lavender blooms to the batter. Use lavender sparingly, as too much makes for a perfume-like taste.

Using herbal flowers also gives you an opportunity to create a flavor profile for your meals. Your soups and salads carry the hint of the herbal flavorings and the stronger flavors from the leaves are present in the main course.

Imagine a salad garnished with the petals from rosemary presented in a gorgeous wooden serving bowl followed by roasted chicken seasoned with rosemary leaves. With a hint of sage in the beans as a side dish and a lavender chocolate cake for dessert, you’ll feel like a culinary wonder.

Edible Vegetable Blossoms

The zucchini flower is perhaps one of the more well-known edible types and is very prolific. This squash blossom has a delicate, herbal flavor to it; it can be dipped in batter and fry it for a delightful and colorful appetizer or side dish or simply sautéed.

Stuffing various cheeses inside for either method is optional.

sauteed zucchini blossom stuffed with cheese on plate

Pumpkin blossoms are also edible, as are the blooms from summer squash. Remove the stamens and pistils from the flowers when preparing them for cooking, as well as trimming the stem. Pick just before cooking, as they wilt quickly.

Other edible vegetable blossoms include pea blossoms, radish flowers and the hibiscus-like bloom of the okra plant. These, like the herbal varieties, are milder in flavor, and are ideal for use in salads.

Edible Garden Flowers

Hibiscus blooms have a citrusy flavor, tending toward the cranberry. Pair them with orange slices and butter crunch lettuce for a delightful summer salad.

Eddible flowers with light oil dressing on purple plate

Honeysuckle blossoms are sweet, as are impatiens, while pansies are more grassy and earthy in flavor. The flavors, though, are quite mild, and should be paired with delicate greens and fruits.

The rose offers a wide range of flavors, from fruity to spicy; the type of rose, the growing conditions and even the color all factor into the final flavor of the rose petals. Use roses for salads, garnishes on top of your favorite homemade ice cream, and in syrups, jellies and punches.

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 caution.

Never use any blossom that has been exposed to pesticides, herbicides or other chemical treatment. If you don’t grow your own edible flowers, obtain them from a reputable source.

Introduce flowers one at a time into your cooking. Those with allergies or sensitivities may react badly to them, even if the herb or vegetable doesn’t cause a reaction. Those with allergies are also more likely to have a bad reaction.

Don’t be put off by the need for caution, however. Follow the guidelines offered by reputable sources such as the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension to ensure you use only those blooms that are safe for eating.

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

44 thoughts on “Add Edible Flowers to Your Cooking”

  1. Ahhh. The best part of growing your own squash is deep frying the blossoms! They are just so delicate and tasty!

    My mom grows nasturtiums and puts them on salad. They are sort of peppery and add great flavor and color. I used to eat sweet pea flowers when I was a kid, but it turns out I probably shouldn’t have! Ack!

    Such a pretty post, Lynne!

  2. I cannot say I’ve ever eaten any edible flowers- that I know of. The idea is a little daunting to be quite honest. Its sort of like with mushrooms- as much as I love them- I’m always afraid of trying those I don’t know.

    What kind of taste do they have? I’d always thought it would be a grassy bitter taste, but obviously not.
    And more importantly, how do you know which blooms are edible? Other than googling them?

    • Torreyy,

      The garden types usually taste like a less pronounced version of vegetable that they grow into. The roses, lilacs etc. give taste similar to the smell but less pronounced – I wouldn’t use too much of these as they can be a bit overpowering in abundance.

    • Also, there is a link at the bottom of the article that goes to a University of North Carolina extension page that lists many of the known varitiess of edibles.

  3. The dish with the blossoms really do look nice though. I think my curiosity is going to get the best of me here. I’m going to have to give edible flowers a try.

  4. Zucchini and pumpkin blossoms are probably the only edible varieties I feel comfortable with because I’ve been eating them since I was a child. I always get them at the farmers’ market. Next time I go, I’ll look for other types they might have. Thanks to your post, I now know what to look for :).

  5. As much as I would love to try this with my salads, I am not sure if I could. I will have to do some research before I try this out because I have allergies to pollen. I am not sure if pollen would make them flare if I were to ingest the flower whole. I have to take a few pills throughout the spring and summer and wear a mask when I mow the yard. If I don’t my eyes will swell twice their regular size and my nose will itch for days. I love the presentation and the color the flowers bring to the dishes though. It is very creative.

    • Right. I have terrible allergies, so I’ll have to check this out too. I’ve always wanted to put edible flowers on cakes, but I’ve been kind of afraid to try it. Just working with the flowers would probably give me fits in the first place, but if I can figure it out that would be great.

      I have seen some gorgeous dishes and cakes with edible flowers. What a fantastic way to dress up a meal.

      The photos here are so beautiful, it makes me want to try this even more.

  6. This is an absolutely beautiful way to spice up your salad. I think I have to give this a shot. I’m going to have to keep an eye out for some flowers. I’ve actually been pretty bored of salad lately. Does anyone else feel that way? This is a breath of fresh air for me.

  7. I’ve never tried edible flowers, except for honeysuckle where you take the stem out and suck the nectar out through the bottom. Though that’s only the nectar and not the plant itself. I’ve been told you can’t eat tomato flowers because they’re ”poisonous”. Irony is, you would probably need to eat a kilo of them to get poisoned by the plant. I’ve looked around and there’s no definitive answer. Anyone up for being a lab rat?

    • NyxKitty,

      Tomatoes blossom are PROBRABLY harmless since the mature into fruit but I’d be a little leery. Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family and the leaves are somewhat toxic. Same goes with potatoes…even green skins on these have some poisons.

  8. Yum! These look and sound so delicious. It’s no different than eating lettuce or vegetables, they just happen to look and smell a little prettier. 🙂 I’ll definitely look into this some more.

  9. Squash blossoms are a new favorite of mine. This past summer I saw them on so many tasting menus and was intrigued because I not only had never heard of them but was convinced I wouldn’t like them–I was wrong and loved them. I first had them with an herbed sheep’s milk ricotta filling and they were out of this world. I like adding edible flowers that are colorful to my salads because the presentation can’t be beat, but I think my absolute favorite addition is a chive flower because the flavor is explosive. Great pictures with this post, so vibrant!

  10. I was part of a cookery class last year that covered different flowers and we tried out some basic recipies. I love drinking rose flavored drinks.

    Great job on this post, it looks awesome and has some really useful information. I have shared it with the leader of the class I attended.

  11. Thanks for sharing this lovely idea! I have been hearing this before but at times, I am uncertain with the flowers that can be consumed safely as not are all edible. Flowers add so much to the appearance to the dishes as well as its scent, and I am now inspired to try flowers in my cooking!

  12. I had no idea that there are edible flowers out there…glad to be informed, might i add that the pictures above are adorable yet amazing :)…looking forward to incorporate what i have learnt here to my meals 🙂

  13. What a wonderful idea! I never thought about edible flowers, they make the food look so fun.

    Also the photos of in this post are beautiful. =)

  14. I feel like edible flowers has been a hot topic lately. I just found out that a local botanical garden in my area is offering cooking classes focused on edible flowers. I think the topic sounds fantastic and I plan on signing up myself. It would be a lovely skill to add to any chef’s repertoire.

  15. I’ve never had the pleasure of eating edible flowers before and it seems fun. There was an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s new show where he visited an acclaimed chef in Copenhagen who used lots of flowers. What drove me nuts about the episode though, is nobody described the flavors! I am so grateful of the link you posted to NC State University. They list all the flavors and I cannot wait to try some myself!

  16. When I was a growing girl, my Mother would make Petit Fours for a snack on Saturdays, for us. Incorporating edible flowers is such a sweet touch for a dessert. I will surprise her with a edible flower salad for lunch on tomorrow.

    • How nice that your mom did that for you. Those things can be a handful to make. Also, how very sweet that you want to return the favor now. I’m sure she will just love it.

      I know someone who owns a bed and breakfast that serves proper tea and throws tea parties. I’ll have to see if she’s onto edible flowers. What a perfect touch they would make for her delicate treats.

  17. I have never thought about eating flowers before. I mean I used to try and eat them when I was younger, but that never ended well. I got yelled at quite often because of it. Maybe that’s why I didn’t know that they were edible for years.
    My mother lied to me.

    I might have to try this. Adding edible flowers to my cooking sounds really interesting and really fun. I’m not sure where to start with this but I’ll have to read further. I might start with adding them to my salad and then go from there.

  18. I’ve only eaten a few flowers – nasturtiums in salad, lavender in cakes & ice cream and rose in drinks. I know there are many more but just never think of doing the research and harvesting at appropriate times…

    This does remind me of a story though. Some yeas ago, I organised a group to have lunch in a restaurant for my Mum’s birthday. I had been in early and given them a special cake with smooth chocolate icing sprinkled with some lavender flowers – stylish I thought. When the cake was brought out to surprise Mum, I got a bigger surprise as they had wiped off the flowers and sifted icing sugar all over my beautiful cake! It looked amateurish and nowhere near as special as I had worked so hard for. Obviously they didn’t recognise the beauty and edibility of lavender flowers!

  19. I saw your cover picture for this article and I thought to myself, “No way!” That salad looks absolutely incredible. I had no idea that there were edible flowers! Every other salad pales in comparison to this. My husband gets pretty nasty allergies though, so we’ll have to start slow over here. I’ll have to experiment on which flowers do best together and in what. Hopefully I’ll be adding a few of these to my garden next year!

  20. Hah, my friends dad always used to put these delicious purple flowers into my salads when I was younger. The first time he did it, I thought he was crazy, the next times, I would ask for them.

    Glad to see this article is out there to let everyone know how great flowers can taste!

    Thanks heaps Lynne, you’re a gem ^_^

  21. Interesting. I can’t say I’m convinced with eating flowers though! I already eat quite a bit of leaves (cabbage,spinach,lettuce) and berries. Maybe if I’m doing a special dish I might make a “special ingredient” some flowers to throw people a bit!

  22. Hmmm eating flowers. It’s hard to imagine them as an edible food source, however, the picture you posted of the edible vegetable blossoms look delicious! I can definitely see myself trying any types of vegetable-related blooms. The types that look like normal flowers would be great for presentation and then to top it off, you can eat too! One of my sisters is very allergic to pollen though, I’m not sure what would happen if she ate it.

  23. I can’t say I’ve ever eaten these flowers before and would be interested to know what they taste like. They do look great as a garnish though – they make the meals look really special.

  24. When I was younger I used to go around to find Lemon Clovers (or Oxalis Stricta). In retrospect, I knew nothing about whether this was a poisonous plant. All I knew was that they were delicious & no one wanted to join me in eating them. Later I learned that excessive amounts of it are unhealthy and can lead to digestive issues and or kidney problems. So, I’m glad you mentioned that we should be knowledgeable AND exploratory.

  25. One of my favorite restaurants used to sprinkle petals onto certain of their pizzas as a garnish. I believe they were nasturtiums. I always thought it was a lovely touch, but sometime within the past few years they’ve stopped. This post makes me wish they’d start again. Maybe I’ll look into the guide provided and start growing my own, I love the idea of garnishing soups and salads with edible flowers.

  26. I love the pictures in the article, and the idea of eating flowers. I agree with Torreyy, though, it does seem a bit scary. I have seen recipes and pictures of cakes with fresh flowers on top, and they look absolutely beautiful, though, so it might be worth it for me to take a chance on this, as long as I’m the only one eating them. I do eat wild raspberries at the park, and have also tasted the wild onions along the trails where I walk, so this wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

  27. Oh! I’ve always wondered about zucchini flowers! And now that I see the salad picture — wow, this looks beautiful and colorful!

    You talk about flowers in rosemary, I have a question — I read we should harvest the herb before the flowers come on. How does this change the way we should have flowers as food?

  28. I’ve known about the idea of adding edible flowers to cooking for some time but never heard anything past the term “edible flowers”. This is the first place I’ve ever seen an actual article on them. I bet a lot more people would be willing to grow and add these to their cooking if they were directed to this website! Thank you for mentioning several flowers throughout the article that are edible as well. I didn’t know that most of these could be consumed.

    I’m not too sure whether I’m fully sold on the idea of actually eating flowers, but it is interesting to learn more about it nonetheless. Thank you for sharing.

  29. I’ve been thinking for quite some time to add flowers to dishes. I haven’t tried it yet though. Edible list below;
    Rose
    Tulip
    Chrysanthemum
    Yucca
    Lavender
    Allium
    Angelica
    Arugula
    Carnations
    Marigold
    Borage
    Bee Balm
    Basil
    Bachelor’s Button
    Anise Hyssop
    Violets
    sunflower
    Squash & pumpkin
    Sage
    Rosemary
    Radish
    Pansy
    Rosemary
    Oregano
    Nasturtium
    Mint
    Lilac
    Lemon berbena
    Holly Hock
    Johnny Jump up
    Jasmine
    Impatiens
    Dandelion
    English daisy
    Fennel
    Fuchsia
    Gladiolus
    Hibiscus
    Chicory
    Cilantro
    Clover
    Citrus fruit flowers
    Chervil

  30. I’ve always wanted to grow a herb garden for going together with my cooking, but I didn’t know you could actually use flowers! It would certainly make the dish very pretty to look at and it would give the food more variety in taste. I wonder which flowers would go well with roasted meat, though…

  31. I’ve always thought that eating flowers is a bit crazy, haha. Probably because I still remember the disgusting taste of viola tricolor that I had to drink for my skin problems. You made me reconsider my opinion on edible flowers. But now that I think about it, sweets made from rose are delicious! I’ll have to say that they look definitely look dreamy, mixed into a salad.

  32. I always watch cooking shows that use edible flowers but I’ve never actually seen them in grocery or speciality stores. This article is an interesting read. If I hadn’t watched cooking shows I would have never thought to use flowers in my food. It definitely does make any dish more appealing.

  33. This is such an adorable idea! I had honestly never even considered this before, but it looks so attractive! The hibiscus blooms with orange slices sound like they would be so delicious, and would be perfect for the summer.

  34. Thank you for this information, I was so excited to see this article! I remember actually seeing some flowers in a plastic container alongside of some fresh herbs at an upscale grocery store once, have seen them used to decorate cakes, and saw an article in a magazine sometime B.I. (before internet) indicating some different uses and what can be used. This was a beautiful idea, but I could no longer remember which ones could be used this way safely, and it never seemed to cross my mind at a time that it was convenient to research. I was thrilled to find a lavender bush in the backyard of the house I bought a couple of years ag (which I love!) but to find out today that it is not only edible and but can be used with chocolate? It is almost too much! 😀

  35. Deep fried courgette (zucchini) flowers are very popular in France – stuffed, as you say, with cheese. Nasturtiums are my favourite on a salad.

  36. I remember that me and my family once ate in a restaurant whose dishes all have flowers. Yes, all. And it’s so amazingly delicious~ I first thought that the flowers were just for decoration, or that even if they’re edible, they probably have no taste. But I was wrong. Sure, some flowers didn’t have much taste, but all in all, they added to the delicious taste of the dish. Now that I think about it, I want to revisit that restaurant <3
    Just a question though, if I were to grow a flower, how would I know if it's the edible breed or not?

  37. This is so interesting! I haven’t really heard anything about adding actual flowers to a formal meal. The 6 years old me would be really excited right now.
    I really liked the salad recipe, I think that flowers can add this special touch when it comes to flavor and aesthetic. I can definitely picture myself picking flowers for the salad on a spring picnic.
    Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

  38. A grocery store near where I grew up used to sell packs of edible flowers, The little girl in me loves them! I love nasturtiums and chrysanthemums, especially chrysanthemum tea (which is hard to find outside Chinatown). I love rose jams, candies…anything! Rose syrup is available at Indian grocery stores, as is rose water and orange blossom water, and they work great in desserts. Maybe you can even make ice cream from them; I’ve never tried, but it sounds delicious.
    One question: if I wanted to make flower waters, such as lavender water, rose water, orange blossom water, etc., how would I go about doing that? Just add flowers to a container of water, seal, and wait, or do you have to add something else?

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