9 Edible Flowers to Grow In Your Garden

14.4.19


The use of edible flowers in cooking is a delight, with fragrance and beauty combining to create a visual and tasteful experience on your plate.

Flowers add a touch of whimsy to culinary creations, and in some cases, even surprising herbal benefits - even the tiny flowers of culinary plants in the mint family are edible. Basil, rosemary and lemon balm flowers are a delicate and flavourful addition to food. There are plenty of other lovely options to consider as well such as chives, scented geraniums, sunflowers, lilacs and so many more.

1. Pansy & Violet flowers (Viola spp.)

These delightful little flowers make an especially lovely decoration for desserts and salads. The flowers are cooling and provide a generous dose of vitamin C. Violas are used by herbalists to help soothe coughs, sore throats, digestive disturbances and inflammation especially for childhood woes. As a gentle nervine, violas help to ease grief and relieve tension.

2. Rose petals (Rosa spp.)

We cannot talk about edible flowers without mentioning the rose. As an addition to food, rose brings a lovely lilting flavour to dishes with an uplifting and even aphrodisiac quality. Rose petals and rose water have been used in culinary creations for thousands of years, and yet the properties of rose petals goes way beyond its usefulness in cooking. The petals are astringent and cooling as well as offering a calming nervine action, speaking to the emotional heart, calming and uplifting while soothing grief and anger. To use, gently pull the petals off of the flower base leaving behind the rest of the flower to mature into tasty rose hips in the autumn. Trim away the white nib from the base of the petal and enjoy.

3. Borage flowers (Borage officinalis)

I love borage - it's all over my garden, bringing the bees in and self-seeding for the next year - as I type already this years new plants are coming through. Borage boasts starry blue flowers that have a hint of cucumber to their taste. Used by herbalists to calm the nerves and ease melancholy, borage is a cheerful addition to beverages and food alike. As a cooling treat during the heat of summer, be sure to use borage fresh in salads and drinks - you can even freeze the flowers in ice cubes.

4. Calendula petals (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula are like a little ray of sunshine - every year I grow loads as companion plants to my vege beds, but the flowers are well known for their useful herbal properties, with the dried petals making a wonderful addition to soups, stews and teas during the winter months for their lymphagogue, antiseptic and immune building properties. To use, simply pull the petals from the flower head and stir in, or use as a bright decoration on desserts.

5. Hollyhock & Mallow flowers (Althaea spp.)

Hollyhocks and the common little malva we see growing in the hedgerows are directly related to the marshmallow that is more commonly used in herbalism. They all have edible flowers that are perfect to add to foods for decoration. Similar to the roots of these plants, the flowers are soothing and cooling, helping to ease mucous membrane irritation and inflammation.

6. Red Clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense)

Sweet, tiny mauve flowers comprise the larger blossoms of this common herb of the wayside. Used by herbalists to help detoxify the body, red clover also helps to soothe winter cough, even for children, and to help support women’s health. A fun way for children to enjoy this edible flower is to carefully pull the little flowers out of the bigger blossom and suck the sweet nectar out of the base of the flower - I used to do this as a child. Otherwise, use the full flower heads to make teas, chop them up and add them to food, or pull out the tiny flowers and sprinkle where you want them.

7. Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale)

Loved by herbalists, the humble yet vital dandelion offers its beautiful flowers that can happily grace any kitchen table. Though the root and leaves are most often used by herbalists, the flowers also have useful properties and can help relieve pain when taken both internally and externally. Like the rest of the dandelion plant, the flowers also benefit the liver. Dandelion fritters are a herbalists springtime treat - simply gather the flowers, rinse well with water then leave to dry. Meanwhile, mix egg and milk together, dip the dandelions in, then dredge them in flour and fry carefully in olive or coconut oil.

8. Nasturtium flowers (Tropaeolum majus)

These vibrant, peppery flowers are easy to grow and offer a great addition to the flower connoisseur’s palate. With bright yellow, orange, and red colors, nasturtiums look beautiful nestled into salads and other dishes. They offer a spicy kick to foods and are particularly fun to stuff with guacamole and soft cheeses. The spicy flavour along with a hint of bitterness highlights nasturtiums’ usefulness in warming the body and stimulating digestion, as well as nourishing the body with vitamin C.

9. Lavender buds (Lavandula spp.)

A treasured plant from the mint family, lavender's fragrant flowers are powerfully flavourful - a little goes a long way. I like to add a pinch of lavender to teas or a tiny sprinkle over desserts. The flowers are well known as a calming nervine, used to help ease spasms and as an antiseptic, both internally and externally.

How to Use Edible Flowers

Preserve them for later

Edible flowers lend themselves well to many forms of preservation - infuse them in vinegar and as a tasty dressing for greens. And, for a true herbal treat, try infusing your blossoms in honey.

Flowers can also be used to make syrups; red clover, violas, mallows and calendula are particularly useful as winter syrups. Syrups can also be used in teas, lemonades and sparkling water. A hearty drizzle of syrup on biscuits, ice cream and over pancakes is especially delicious.

For an extra lovely treat, try layering flowers in sugar or salt. This will add a delicate scent and flavour to the sugar/salt. Flowers can also be crystallized with an egg white wash and fine sugar coating, which helps preserve the flower’s shape and colour so you can use them for later decorations.

Spreadable

Add flowers to softened butter and cheeses, blending in well for a delicious accompaniment to meals. You can also add more herbaceous plants such as thyme, chives, basil and dill to increase the depth of flavour. Flowers are also a popular addition to jellies and jams.

Toss in a salad

This is probably where I use them most, as I have a huge salad every day for my lunch. It's perhaps one of the easiest ways to use edible flowers, which fills the plate with colours and textures.

Beverages & ice cubes

There are many ways to enjoy flowers in beverages. The possibilities are endless, and don’t forget to freeze some of those lovely blooms in ice cubes for an extra twist. Here are a few of my favourite ways to incorporate flowers into drinks:

  • Infuse flowers in hot drinks - rose petals infused in cacao with a hint of maple syrup is a staple at our house for a pre-bedtime drink.
  • Cordials are a tasty way to enjoy flowers - elderflower cordial is another staple in our house every year.
  • Flowers are a lovely addition to kombucha - dandelion and fennel is a popular one.
  • Lemonade becomes extra-special when flowers are part of the recipe. Simply infuse flowers in water, strain, and use this water to make your lemonade - it really couldn’t be easier.
  • And lest we forget, edible flowers make amazing wine as well ;-)

Desserts

Flowers are great to use in desserts. Add petals and blossoms to muffins, cookies, scones, cakes and biscuits, as well as creams, jellies and ice-creams. Use whole flowers to to add visual appeal too.

Tips for Enjoying Edible Flowers Safely

There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you enjoy your flowers safely:

  • Positive identification – be absolutely sure that you have positively identified your flowers—not every flower is edible and some are poisonous.
  • Know your source – enjoy flowers that have been wildcrafted or grown without pesticides and herbicides. Flowers from a florist or nursery are likely to be sprayed with harmful chemicals, which means they're not fit for consumption.
  • Allergic reactions – watch out for allergic reactions which are possible when consuming edible flowers. You may want to do a scratch test before eating any flowers that are new to your culinary repertoire. Simply rub a flower on the inside of your arm and then wait 24 hours. A reaction indicates potential allergic sensitivity, and that particular flower should be avoided.
  • Preparation – for some flowers, you will want to remove the stamens and pistils before consuming, and remember to remove the bitter white nib off the bottom of rose petals.

TaDah! Bring edible flowers into your kitchen this summer and enjoy sprinkling a bit of floral love into your dishes :-)