How to Eat Flowers!

edible flower salad

Springtime salad made with edible blossoms

I think maybe I need to cleanse my palate after that grilled sausage.  Looking back on the past week or so I was shocked to see that it’s been sort of a mad blur of sweets, alcohol, fried foods and sausage. Yikes.

I’m pretty much retreating to the opposite end of the eating spectrum today.

It turns out that there are a lot more edible flowers than the few you probably already know about, (see the list at the end of the post.) I’ve occasionally seen nasturtiums in salads, and violets and rose petals on cupcakes, but did you know that you can also eat geraniums, impatiens, fuchsias, and peonies?  I had no idea.  But it really shouldn’t come as such a surprise, I mean, why should the edible parts of plants be limited to just the leaves, berries, seeds and fruits?

You can use clean flowers right from the garden, just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals.  If you have to you can gently wash your blossoms, and then dry them on a paper towel.  Pick them as close to when you want to use them as possible, or store them on top of a damp paper towel in a plastic or glass container in the refrigerator.

These dianthus are a small member of the carnation family.  All carnations are edible, but these are really common, come in tons of colors and stripes, and are a perfect small size for garnishing food.

I know what you’re thinking, and I agree, I have no interest in chowing down on a big bowl of hollyhocks, but think of the more subtle possibilities…scatter a few crimson geraniums across your next salad, top a bowl of carrot soup with a bright yellow nasturtium, or decorate a cheese plate with violets or pansies.  You, or someone you know, probably has a lot of these flowers right in their backyard, and if you don’t have a yard you can plant a container with a variety of edible flowers and clip them as needed all season long.  I was shocked that even now, in mid summer, there are lots of in season edible blossoms.

edible flower salad

I made a simple salad, and what goes into it is up to you.  I started with a base of watercress, and then layered on some pea shoots, fresh raw peas, tiny cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, a few sprigs of dill, and then my blossoms.  If you are going to decorate a salad with flowers, toss the salad with the dressing before you scatter on the flowers so they will stay fresh looking.  You can use the whole flowers or just the loose petals.  Marigold petals are great for scattering.

I used deep red, shocking pink, and variegated purple geraniums, golden nasturtiums, bright yellow and russet marigolds, coral impatiens, and white dianthus.  For my dressing I whisked together sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a grating of fresh ginger.
I’m not going to claim that edible flowers are the most wildly delicious things in the world, but they’re pleasant.  Some have a citrusy taste, others are mildly spicy.  But for me the biggest reason to use them is that they are so colorful and pretty, and they add an element of excitement to food.

* Here’s a partial list of common edible flowers:
Apple blossoms Bachelor button Bee balm Borage
Calendula Carnations Chamomile Chive flowers
Chrysanthemums Clover Dandelion Day Lily
Dianthus Fuchsia Hibiscus Hollyhock
Honeysuckle Impatiens Jasmine Johnny Jump-Ups
Lavender Lemon verbena Lilac Marigold
Mint Nasturtium Pansy Peach blossoms
Pear blossoms Peony Roses Sage
Shasta Daisies Squash blossoms Sunflowers Violets

source: National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Check out Part Two of How to Eat Flowers! HERE

22 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary
    April 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    What a fabulous article. I love edible flowers! You have some wonderful suggestions. I stumbled upon your site in search of foods that would go with a new organic non-alcohol martini called Altar(http://www.altarco.com/) If you have any ideas on snacks or flowers that would go well with great alternative drink it would be well appreciated. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    December 11, 2012 at 12:39 am

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  • Reply
    Anonymous
    October 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    It is always better to try the 100% organic certified edible roses, Nevado Roses Recomended to Chef Luigi Taglienti about the edible certified roses, please check the link….. http://www.nevadoroses.com/roses/cooking-with-roses.html
    or contact me patricio@nevadoroses.com this farm is produciong produtcs with organic ediblr roses, susch as; vinegar, mermelade, chocolates, tea, etc.

  • Reply
    cheffingit
    July 21, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Love this post! Thanks so much for compiling a list of edible flowers. The pictures are beautiful.

  • Reply
    Choclette
    July 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    That first picture of your plate of flowers is wonderful. I love flowers (who doesn’t) in the wild, in gardens, in vases and in food. You’ve got an amazing array though. Nasturtiums, roses, violets, pansies, borage, lavender, rocket and chives are all I’ve used and these only occasionally. Lovely post and good to find out I can eat the fushia and geranium flowers from our garden too.

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    July 18, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    This is so so beautiful. Look at all those varieties and colors! I’d love to use more edible flowers in my cooking. Looks like you have an abundance where you are! Looking forward to part II!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    July 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I find that my nasturtiums always have tiny black bugs in them even after washing so I’ve given up on using those flowers for edibles… :(

  • Reply
    A Trifle Rushed
    July 18, 2012 at 5:55 am

    What a great post Sue, like you I use edible flowers particulary to brighten up a salad or enhance the decoration on a cake. They just ghave such visual impact.

  • Reply
    Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes
    July 18, 2012 at 2:25 am

    What a fragrant salad! Thanks for the list! I can’t wait to try some of these!

  • Reply
    Ellen B Cookery
    July 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    What a wonderful summary. This has been so educational for me. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Reply
    Mary
    July 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I used flowers in a salad a couple times last year and they were just beautiful! Unfortunately, the ones I tried were less than tasty. :( I think I’ll try again and just keep trying the different varieties. Your salad is simply gorgeous!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    July 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    a mad blur of sweets, alcohol, fried foods and sausage < --- sounds like a good time at least :) And edible flowers – so pretty ! I almost feel bad eating something so pretty. I wish I felt bad about eating gooey brownies b/c I don’t :)

  • Reply
    hobby baker
    July 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    That is so gorgeous! What a feast for the eyes. I didn’t even think of the nasturtium leaves, and they are pleasing to the eye as well. I knew there was a reason I let my girls get all those dianthus and impatiens!

  • Reply
    Rose
    July 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    I love my salads with edible flowers in them! They looks so pretty!

    Please enter my giveaway here.

  • Reply
    Tricia @ saving room for dessert
    July 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    What a great post with terrific information. And your photos are out of this world beautiful! How interesting. Thanks so much!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      July 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      Tricia, you’ll be interested in Part Two, I’m working on sugaring the blossoms and petals for decorating desserts, but it’s not as easy as I hoped it might be :/

  • Reply
    Velva
    July 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Edible flowers make for a beautiful presentation. Awesome.

    Velva

  • Reply
    Tabitha
    July 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Sue that is the prettiest salad I have ever seen, I would love to be served that for lunch.

  • Reply
    Sue/the view from great island
    July 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    I had to resist the urge to go for an evening stroll around the block…with my clippers!

  • Reply
    Linda A. Thompson Ditch
    July 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    What a beautiful post! Now thinking of friends gardens to raid…;)

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