Edible flowers are a beautiful way to elevate any meal. They add a layer of artistry and dimension to dishes plus a sweet, spicy or floral flavor. With a wide variety of edible blooms and flowering herbs, it’s helpful to know where to find them, how to use them and the potential benefits of each. Let this guide serve as an inspiration to get creative in the kitchen and add more magic to your culinary creations!
A Guide to Edible Flowers
Edible flowers can be found in forests, fields, and your own backyard. You can also often find edible flowers at local farmers markets and health food stores. Many herbs like cilantro, basil, dill, and thyme offer flowers and seeds perfect for enhancing any savory dish. Common garden flowers like calendula and marigold add a pop of color to soups and salads and roses, lavender, and lilacs are lovely additions to sweet treats and beverages (or ice cubes!)
Flowers add a pop of color to desserts, smoothie bowls, salads, and savory dishes. They are the perfect way to add brilliance to a boring preparation and take dishes from simple to gourmet. It is best to use them as a compliment, consuming in moderation as overindulgence can lead to digestive upset.
Harvesting wildflowers can be a beautiful experience, allowing you to spend time in and connect with mother nature, though it’s best to grow your own to ensure they are not sprayed with pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. Before ingesting any wild plant, it’s essential to properly identify it. Be certain you know what it is, that it’s safe (not poisonous or sprayed) and ready for use.
Once you’ve harvested the flowers, it’s best to use them within a couple of days. You can store them in the refrigerator in water or a container with a moist towel to keep them fresh a bit longer.
Borage (Borago officinalis) - lilac-blue, mini star-shaped flowers
Flavor: the flowers have a sweet honey like taste
Benefits: uplifting and energizing.
Uses: add as a salad garnish, decoration for desserts. Freeze into ice cubes, and cocktails or create a flower essence.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) - from the marigold family- golden petals *only the flowers are edible
Flavor: peppery, bitter, tangy
Benefits: anti-inflammatory, soothing, calming, healing, supportive of immunity, and lifts the spirit
Uses: great to top soups, salads, salsa, and dips. Add them to egg dishes and freeze into ice cubes.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) - white and yellow mini daisy-like flowers
Flavor: light and floral
Benefits: relief of gas, bloating, cramps and spasms, promotes relaxation, improves sleep, reduces stress and calms the mind and spirit. Can also be used for its anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties
Uses: steeped as a tea/decoction on its own or with ginger and lemon to help with sleep, stress, and digestion, beautiful as a garnish on desserts and salads, or added to ice cubes
Citrus Blossoms (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat) - small white flowers
Flavor: citrus, lemon
Benefits: known to be uplifting, and energizing
Uses: decoration for desserts, cocktails or steeped in water to extract the flavor
Dandelion(Taraxacum) - orange and yellow composite flowers
Flavor: slightly bitter and sweet
Benefits: great for digestive upset, gas, bloating, acts as a diuretic, prebiotic, anti-inflammatory, and has liver cleansing properties.
Uses: steep as a tea/decoction, toss into salads. These can be made into jams and syrups or infused into wine.
Forget-Me-Nots(Myosotis)- tiny blue flowers
Flavor: mildly floral
Benefits: contains properties known to combat respiratory issues and may help alleviate nosebleeds.
Uses: add petals to cake and desserts or use in a flower essence.
Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) - pink 5 petaled flowers with prominent orange tipped anthers
Flavor: sweet, sour and astringent
Benefits: high in vitamin C and fiber; this can help reduce blood pressure, inflammation, and cholesterol. Also reduces digestive and immune problems.
Uses: can be used in jams, iced tea, desserts, or steeped as a tea.
Jasmine (Jasminum)- small white flower
Flavor: subtly sweet, astringent and powerfully fragrant
Benefits: supports the cardiovascular system, digestive system, and immune system.
Uses: steeped as a tea, infused in honey, incorporated into flower essences, or as cake decor.
*be sure to use the true jasmine as other varieties can be dangerous
Lavender(Lavandula)- purple flower buds
Flavor: floral with hints of rosemary and mint
Benefits: Known to be calming and soothing to the digestive and nervous system. It also is known to reduce stress and anxiety and promote relaxation and sleep.
Uses: steeped as a tea, used in a spice mix, or added to ice cream. They can be mixed in elixirs and are beautiful on cakes or desserts.
Lilac (Syringa)- several small purple flowers
Flavor: astringent, bitter and heavily floral
Benefits: high in carotenoids which may help to improve vision. The aromatic action may improve digestion and gastric issues such as gas and constipation
Uses: add to a pitcher of cold water for a beautiful presentation and subtle taste (steep for 1 hour), add pop of color to salads and a beautiful touch to desserts and cakes, or infuse with honey (fill a jar with lilac flowers, cover the flowers with your favorite local honey, close the jar and let it infuse for 6 weeks then enjoy)
Marigolds (Tagetes)- yellow & orange flowers
*only the flowers are edible *Most French marigold varieties are not edible.
Flavor: spicy, tangy, citrusy
Benefits: the carotenoids found in marigolds, specifically lutein, can help improve eyesight.
Uses: great to top soups, salads, and add to rice dishes. They can be added to pasta, and desserts as well.
*consume in moderation
Mustard Flowers (Raphanus raphanistrum)- small yellow, pink and purple flowers + seeds
Flavor: bitter + mild mustard flavor
Benefits: known to have anti-inflammatory properties; from the brassica family. Also high in selenium.
Uses: perfect for salads and added to savory dishes. They can also be mixed in Ayurvedic and Indian dishes.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum)- peach, orange, yellow, and cream color
Flavor: sweet and spicy with a bold and peppery tang
Benefits: contains a high concentration of vitamin c, which is known to have natural antimicrobial and antibiotic properties.
Uses: great to use on salads or in dressings (Infuse it with vinegar for several weeks then strain and transfer the vinegar to a clean jar).
Pansy Flowers (Viola tricolor var. hortensis)- blue, purple, pink, yellow flowers
Flavor: mild wintergreen, sweet, grassy, tart
Benefits: high in carotenoids and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Uses: adds a beautiful touch to cakes and desserts, fruit salads, salads, and soups.
Roses(Rosa) - a variety of colors and - all roses are edible but some taste better than others *use varieties that smell appealing
Flavor: sweet, astringent & floral
Benefits: the petals are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It can help relieve stress and tension headaches when consumed as a tea.
Uses: steep it as a tea, infused with honey or maple syrup. Add petals to cake and desserts, or use in a flower essence.
Squash blossoms(Cucurbita pepo) often called zucchini flowers- bright yellow & orange
Flavor: mild, sweet, squash and zucchini-like flavor
Benefits: high in vitamin C + A, which are great to support the immune system. It is also high in calcium and iron.
Uses: use them in multiple ways: stuffed, baked, added in soups, sauces, and savory dishes.
Violets (Viola) - pale purple, purple, blue (sometimes orange and yellow)
Flavor: sweet, aromatic, flavor
Benefits: helps alleviate pain, reduce headaches, and soothe coughs.
Uses: add it to cakes and desserts. Freeze into ice cubes or use in flower essences.