Enchanting Edible Flowers

Eating flowers has a long and venerable history. In Victorian England, rose tarts and candied violets were favorites. Citrus blossom tea was a treat in 17th century Versailles. In the Orient, “golden needles” are a key ingredient in many dishes. Golden needles are dried day lily buds. And here in the Southwest, Natives feasted on squash blossoms, cholla buds, and globe mallow blossom tea.

Ocotillo blooms taste lovely in tea. Collect fallen flowers on a sheet placed under the branches.

Try These Flavors

Some flower flavors are so delicate they defy immediate classification. Others have very pronounced flavors. The key thing is – do you personally like the flavor? Sample any of these and decide if you like them.

Tart or peppery flavors are great in salads. Flowers like nasturtium, radish, broccoli, mustard greens, oxalis (shamrock), or carnation, add color and piquant touch.


Sweet flowers like violets, pansies, ocotillo blooms, lavender, and roses all taste good with desserts like fruit compotes, or in cakes. Indeed, you can add many flowers to cakes. Lemon coffee cake is so much more festive with one-half cup of the lemony flowers of bee balm, calendula, or lemon blooms! Spice cake benefits from the nutty flavor of apple or apricot blooms (catch them on a cloth spread under the tree, thus you will still get fruit).

Mild flavored flowers that go with virtually anything include sunflower (“petals” only), calendula, and palo verde blooms.

edible-sunflower-petals-floretsThe mauve stars of borage flowers perk up any dish, and their cucumbery flavor is good in gazpacho, salads, or in refreshing cucumber water.

If you like anise-like tarragon, the flowers of anise hyssop, fennel, and sweet marigold (also called Mexican marigold) are delightful straight off the plant. They also taste good in egg dishes like quiche, omelets, or Eggs Benedict.

If you are unsure of this whole concept of eating flowers – start with the flowers of herbs. Basil flowers can go into any dish where you would use basil, and they look great in salads. Garlic chive and society garlic flowers taste garlicky, and are yummy in stir fry. Add some mint flowers to your next pitcher of iced tea.

Mint flowers are nectar rich and sweeten iced tea as they add a delicate touch of minty flavor.

Live a little! Just follow the Ten Rules for Edible Flowers below. Be bold. Experiment with taste and color. Flowers are fun, in the yard and on the table.

Ten Rules of Edible Flowers

1. Not all flowers are safe to eat. Some are poisonous.

2. Eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible.

3. Eat only flowers that have been grown organically.

Mild-flavored calendula grows well in the cool season garden.

4. Do not eat flowers from florists, or straight after purchase at a nursery, or garden center (they may have been sprayed).

5. Do not eat flowers harvested from the side of the road, or from other potentially harmful sites.

6. It is best to eat only petals. When possible, remove pistils and stamens before eating.

7. Flowers often come in many varieties. Depending on cultivar, location, amount of water received, soil pH, and freshness, flower taste will vary. Edible is not always palatable.

8. Humans differ. What one person can eat may not be the same for everyone.

9. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, use care when introducing flowers into your diet

10. Introduce flowers into your diet the same way you introduce new foods to a baby – one new thing at a time, and in small quantities.

jacqueline-soule-gardeningwithsouleIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures. Check our events page for locations and times. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada (Cool Springs Press, $26).  note- this link will take you to Amazon, where you can buy this book, and we will get a few pennies from the sale.

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