Edible Flowers

21/07/2012 14:57

Flowers have been used in cooking for centuries, traditionally used as subtle flavourings for foods. Particually fashionable in the Victorian times, the flowers were popular in salads - Violets, primroses, borage and nasturtiums, and also preserved in vinegar to be used in the winter months. Flowers are often used to decorate cakes, but they can also be used in a wide variety of cooking. Edible flowers are still used in many mediteranian and eastern dishes today.
Here are some of common edible flowers, most of which can be found in our gardens. But before you go raiding your flower garden for edibles you must make sure you are VERY familiar with poisonous flowers. if in doubt, do not eat!

~ Remember ~

*Only eat flowers that have been correctly identified as being edible.
* Ensure that no chemicals have been used in cultivation of the plant.
* people with allergies such as asthma or hayfever are better off avoiding eating edible flowers as it can set off a reaction.
* The petals are the edible part of flowers, not the centre of the flower. The pistil and stamen should be removed.
NOTE: Avoid the flowers of tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers and asparagus.


Nasturtium ~ one of the most popular edible flowers. The colourful flowers, leaves and seed pods of this annual plant are all edible. A deliciously spicy-peppery tasting flower. The leaves have a taste similar to cress, a great asset to any salad. Pick flowers throughout the summer for immediate use. The fat green seed pods can be pickled and used as an alternative to capers. Nasturtiums can be added to salads, pasta, meat dishes and vinaigrettes. The Leaves are best picked and eaten when still quite small and young. Try growing them together with your herbs in a windowbox or trailing from a hanging basket.

Pinks ~ The flowers taste similar to spicy cloves. They can be added to salads or fruit pies. Candied, pickled in vinegar and made into a syrup.

Lavender ~ is really a herb so not surprising that the flowers are edible as well as the leaves. This multipurpose flower can be used in jams, jellies, ice cream, biscuits and vinegar. The flowers can also be crystallised, added to salads or used to make a tea. Flowers are best picked when they first open, before seeds begin to form.

Sweet Violet ~ Has scented small blue or white flowers. They have a fresh flavour and are used to flavour and colour confectionery. I remember Parma violets sweets as a kid. The Ancient Greeks used to combine wine and violets for a pleasant drink. The deep purple petals of this flower are perfect for adding a little drama to chocolate dishes. Violet tea is thought to aid digestion and has even been used for medical purposes throughout history.

More on Violets
Most people are familiar with Sweet Violet - 'Viola odorata' also known as the English violet or common violet. Sweet violets are widely adapted perennials that have a delicate fragrance and taste. The Violets are fairly common in hedgebanks and shady places. Much cultivated in gardens and also found in wooded areas.

Sweet violets 'Viola odorata' can be candied or used in violet tea, violet cake, and violet syrup. While commonly added to salads, you can also use violet flowers to make vinegars, butters, spreads, and jellies. Sweet violet flowers are as beautiful as they are edible.

A little history
In the past sweet violet flowers were used quite extensively in cooking for their fragrance and decorative qualities. In the fourteenth century they were beaten into a ground rice pudding along with ground almonds - they still make a wonderful flavouring for rice puds today.

True Violets have been known for centuries with the ancient Greeks cultivating them about 500 BC or earlier. Both the Greeks and the Romans used Violets for all sorts of things such as for herbal remedies, and for wine 'Vinum violatum'

The Ancient Greeks considered the Violet a symbol of fertility and love, they used it in love potions. Pliny recommended that a garland of violets be worn above the head to ward off headaches and dizzy spells.

Crystallised Sweet Violets

Pick the flowers, with the stems attached, and dip them first into beaten egg-white and then into a bowl of caster sugar. Using a small paintbrush, coat the difficult cavities - its important to cover every part with sugar to preserve the flower. Let the flowers dry for a few days on some greaseproof paper before storing them in an airtight container in the fridge. Use them to decorate cakes for special occasions.

Violas and Pansies ~ Pansy flowers, which come in a huge range of colours, have a mild fresh flavour. Use pansies to garnish cocktails, desserts, soups and fruit salads. Also the flowers and petals of violas and pansies are pretty when sprinkled on top of salads or even as decoration on top of fairy cakes.

Pot Marigold ~ produce orange or yellow flowers, which come in a range of flavours- spicy, bitter, tangy or peppery. Petals can be sprinkled on soups, pasta, salads and rice. The Powdered petals, also known as poor man's saffron, can be added to give a golden hint to herb butter, spreads, soups and scrambled eggs. Pick flowers just as they open in summer for fresh use and for drying.

Rose ~The Rugosa roses have large single flowers and are the most flavoursome petals of all the roses. On selecting petals from hybrid roses remember that only fragrant roses have flavoursome petals and that some can leave an aftertaste, so sample a petal before taking it into your kitchen. Ensure when harvesting petals that the whitish petal base is removed, as it is quite bitter. Rosewater and rose petal jam are common condiments made with fresh roses. Rose hip jelly and rose hip syrup may also be used in a variety of dishes. Sugared rose petals are really lovely and can be used to decorate  many cakes and pastries.

Bee balm - Bergamot ~ This hardy perennial gets it common name from the bees love of its nectar. The red flowers are a mixture of interesting flavours, ranging from citrusy and sweet to hot and minty. Can be used to make tea and as an ingredient for cakes.

Dandelion ~ This common weed has a yellow flower that tastes of honey if picked young. It turns bitter when mature. The flowers can be made into tea, wine and beer. I believe Mr Scotts enjoys a drop or two of Dandelion wine. Danelions can also be used to garnish a salad. When serving a rice dish try using dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.

Chives ~ The purple onion-like flowers from this perennial herb provide an oniony, but not overpowering flavour. Harvest as flowers are just opening. The young developing seed-heads are slightly stronger in taste. Flowers can be used to garnish salads and added to sauces. Chives are among the most versatile edible flower in savory cooking.

Sage ~ A perennial herb with mauve-blue flowers in midsummer. The flowers have a milder taste than the sage leaf. They can be used in pesto, salads, soups and with fish dishes.

Borage ~ An annual herb with bright blue-purple star shaped flowers that taste midly of cucumber. The flowers can be tossed in a salad or floated on summer beverages. Also excellent as a garnish for both sweet and savory dishes and on iced soups. The flowers can also be crystallized for cake decorations.

Chervil ~ Flowers are a delicate white with an aniseed flavour. Chervil's flavour is lost very easily so sprinkle on salads or vegetables just before serving. The Chervil flowers can also be used to flavour cakes.

Many vegetable flowers are also edible, so give them a try.

Courgette, Squash, Marrow and Pumpkin ~ These large yellow flowers have a mild flavour. Remove the pistols before using. Excellent stuffed and deep fried in a light batter.

Sprouting Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mustard ~ If you don't get around to picking all your brassica crops the result will be bright yellow flowers. The small yellow flowers have a mild spiciness comparable to a mild brassica flavour. They are delicious in salads or used in stir-fries.

Radish ~ if left instead of being picked for salads will also flower, the flowers are similar in taste to the radish, but much milder.