Edible Flowers

By: Elna Botes van Schalkwyk

Number One Flower Eating Rule! Before you eat ANY flower, please read this tip!

You must KNOW what you're eating. This seems basic, but it's amazing how many people will eat anything. You simply MUST know what you're eating. Identifythe flower you plan to eat. NEVER guess if it's edible or not. KNOW if it's edible. Many flowers are toxic, some are fatal if eaten!

Edible vs. Flavorful:
Understand that just because a flower may be edible, it may not be something you'd like on your salad. African marigolds are edible but you wouldn't want them on a salad! The same goes for fuschia blossoms, lovely, but awful. Use small quantities of any blossoms you end up using. A few petals of chive blossoms is great, but the entire flower would be grimace-inducingto try to eat at once! A sliver of a red tulip petal is delicious (tastes like a raw pea) and just lovely on a salad plate, but an entire flower? Yuck! Unless you want to taste an overwhelming pea flavor. Usually smaller is better.

  • Angelica/Angelica archangelica
    May be skin allergen to some individuals. Good with fish and the stems are especially popular candied. Tastes like: celery-flavored.
  • Anise Hyssop
    Agastache foeniculum
    Tastes like: sweet, anise-like, licorice
  • Apple
    Malus species
    Eat in moderation; may contain cyanide precursors. Tastes like: delicate floral flavor
  • Arugula
    Eruca vesicaria
    Tastes like: nutty, spicy, peppery flavor
  • Basil
    Ocimum basilicum
    Tastes like: different varieties have different milder flavors of the corresponding leaves. Tastes like: lemon, mint.
  • Bee Balm
    Monarda species
    Used in place of bergamot to make a tea with a flavor similar to Earl Grey Tea.
  • Borage
    Borago officinalis
    Taste like: light cucumber flavor.
  • Burnet
    Sanguisorba minor
    Tastes like: faint cucumber flavor, very mild.
  • Calendula
    Calendula officinalis
    Tastes like: poor man's saffron, spicy, tangy, peppery, adds a golden hue to foods.
  • Carnation
    Dianthus caryophyllus (aka Dianthus)
    Tastes like: spicy, peppery, clove-like
  • Chamomile
    Chamaemelum nobile
    Tastes like: faint apple flavor, good as a tea.
  • Chives: Garden
    Allium schoenoprasum
    Tastes like: mild onion flavor.
  • Chives: Garlic
    Allium tuberosum
    Tastes like: garlicky flavor
  • Chrysanthemum: Garland
    Chrysanthemum coronarium
    Tastes like: slight to bitter flavor, pungent.
  • Citrus: Lemon
    Citrus limon
    Tastes like: waxy, pronounced flavor, use sparingly as an edible garnish, good for making citrus waters.
  • Clover
    Trifolium species
    Raw flowerheads can be difficult to digest.
  • Coriander
    Coriander sativum
    Pungent. A prime ingredient in salsa and many Latino and Oriental dishes. 
    Tastes like: Some palates detect a disagreeable soapy flavor while others adore it.
  • Cornflower
    Centaurea cynaus (aka Bachelor's Buttons)
    Tastes like: sweet to spicy, clove-like.
  • Dandelion
    Taraxacum officinalis
    Tastes like: very young buds fried in butter taste similar to mushrooms. Makes a potent wine.
  • Day Lily
    Hemerocallis species
    Many Lilies (Lillium species) contain alkaloids and are NOT edible. Daylillies may act as a laxative. Tastes like: sweet, crunchy, like a crisp lettuce leaf, faintly like chestnuts or beans.
  • Dill
    English Daisy
    Bellis perennis
    Tastes like: tangy, leafy.
  • Fennel
    Foeniculum vulgare
    Tastes like: sweet, licorice flavor.
  • Fuchsia
    Fuchsia X hybrida
    Tastes like: slightly acidic.
  • Gardenia
    Gardenia jasminoides
    Tastes like: light, sweet flavor.
  • Gladiolus
    Gladiolus spp
    Tastes like: similar to lettuce.
  • Hibiscus
    Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
    Tastes like: slightly acidic, boiled makes a nice beverage.
  • Hollyhock
    Alcea rosea
    Tastes like: very bland, nondescript flavor.
  • Honeysuckle
    Lonicera japonicaBerries are highly poisonous. Do not eat them!
  • HyssopHyssopus officinalisShould be avoided by pregnant women and by those with hypertension and epilepsy.
  • ImpatiensImpatiens walleranaTastes like: very bland, nondescript flavor.
  • Jasmine: ArabianJasminum sambacTastes like: delicate sweet flavor, used for teas.
  • LavenderLavendula speciesLavender oil may be poisenous. Tastes like: floral, slightly perfumey flavor.
  • Lemon VerbenaAloysia triphyllaTastes like: lemony flavor, usually steeped for tea.
  • LilacSyringa vulgarisTastes like: lemony, floral, pungent.
  • Mallow: CommonMalva sylrestrisTastes like: sweet, delicate flavor.
  • Marigold: SignetTagetes tenuifolia (aka T. signata)Tastes like: spicy to bitter.
  • MarjoramOriganum majorana
  • MintMentha species
  • MustardBrassica speciesEating in large amounts may cause red skin blotches.
  • NasturtiumTropaeolum majusBuds are often pickled and used like capers.
    Tastes like: sweet, mildly pungent, peppery flavor.
  • OkraAbelmoschus aesculentus (Hibiscus esculentus)Tastes like: similar to squash blossoms.
  • PansyViola X wittrockianaTastes like: very mild sweet to tart flavor.
  • PeaPisum speciesFlowering ornamental sweet peas are poisonous.
  • Pineapple GuavaFeijoa sellowianaTastes like: similar to the ripe fruit of the plant, flavorful.
  • PrimrosePrimula vulgarisBirdseye Primrose (P. farinosa) causes contact dermatitis.
    Tastes like: bland to sweet flavor.
  • RadishRaphanus sativusTastes like: milder, sweeter version of the more familiar radish heat.
  • RedbudCercis canadensisTastes like: mildly sweet.
  • RoseRosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalisTastes like: sweet, aromatic flavor, stronger fragrance produces a stronger flavor. Be sure to remove the bitter white portion of the petals. Rose hips are also edible (see Rose Hips Recipes).
  • RosemaryRosmarinus officinalisTastes like: pine-like, sweet, savory.
  • Runner BeanPhaseolus coccineusTastes like: nectar, bean-like.
  • SafflowerCarthamus tinctoriusAnother "poor man's saffron" without the pungent aroma or strong flavor of the real thing.
  • SageSalvia officinalisSage should not be eaten in large amounts over a long period of time.
    Tastes like: varies by type.
  • Scented GeraniumPelargonium speciesCitronella variety may not be edible.
    Tastes like: varies with differing varieties from lemon to mint.
  • SnapdragonAntirrhinum majusTastes like: bland to bitter flavor.
  • Society GarlicTulbaghia violaceaTastes like: a very mild garlic flavor.
  • Squash BlossomCucurbita pepo species (aka Zucchini Blossom)Tastes like: sweet, nectar flavor.
  • SunflowerHelianthus annusTastes like: leafy, slightly bitter. Lightly steam petals to lessen bitterness. Unopened flower buds can be steamed like artichokes.
  • ThymeThymus vulgarisTastes like: lemon, adds a nice light scent.
  • Tuberous BegoniaBegonia X tuberosaONLY HYBRIDs are edible. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidneystones, or rheumatism. Further, the flower should be eaten in strick moderation. Tastes like: crisp, sour, lemony.
  • Violet.Viola speciesTastes like: sweet, nectar.
  • (Banana) YuccaYucca baccataFlowers (petals only) and fruit are edible. Other parts contain saponin, which is poisonous. Large amounts may be harmful. Tastes like: crunchy, fresh flavor Tastes like: crunchy, fresh flavor.

    Flowers to Avoid:

    Some flowers in particular to be avoided (but not a complete list) are: azalea, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, oleander, rhododendron, jack-in-the-pulpit, lily of the valley, and wisteria.