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Edible Flowers Guide

edible flowers guide
Flowers have been part of our diet for thousands of years.
Image: Shutterstock

Flowers have formed part of our diet for thousands of years. Chinese cooks were experimenting with edible flowers as far back at 3,000 B.C.E. and the Romans used violets and roses in their food as well as lavender in sauces. The practice is still going strong today, with many restaurants using petals to add a unique flavour and appearance.

But it’s not just restaurant chefs who can use flowers in cooking. You’d be surprised at how many edible varieties you can find in your own garden. Here are some of the most popular edible blooms, and ideas for how to use them.

How to prepare edible flowers

how to prepare edible flowers
If you can't eat them right away, store edible flowers in the fridge.
Image: Shutterstock

Edible flowers are always best when picked fresh from the garden. They’ll taste even better if you can pick them early in the morning before they’ve had too much sun.

But if that’s not possible, don’t worry. Put them straight in the fridge (in a plastic container) and try to use them within a few days.

Wash and dry them gently by dipping them in a bowl of water and gently shaking. This should also help remove any bugs or bees that might have stowed away within the petals.

Speaking of the petals – these are the best parts of many edible flowers. So remove the heel at the base of the petal (it’s bitter), as well as the stamens, pistil and calyx of larger flowers. Some, like pansies, however, you can eat whole.

What flowers to avoid

What flowers to avoid
Some flowers shouldn't be eaten.
Image: Shutterstock

If you’re in any doubt as to whether or not a flower is edible – don’t eat it. It’s a simple rule of thumb, but effective. Also, if you have pollen allergies, you might want to avoid eating edible flowers altogether.

Here are a few other important tips:

  • • Don't pick faded, dusty, old or discoloured flowers in your garden (or when foraging) that are near a road or an area that animals use.
  • • Don't treat your edible flowers with pesticides. Instead, if you have problems with pests, cut the flower back and encourage regrowth instead.

So, with that in mind, here are a few edible flowers you might already grow or choose to plant in your own backyard, plus a few to be sure to avoid!

10 Common edible flowers

10 common edible flowers
Colourful and peppery in taste, Hibiscus is a popular edible flower.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Cornflower – A sweet-to-spicy clove-like flavour.
  2. Dahlia – Flavours range from water chestnut and spicy apple to carrot.
  3. Hibiscus – Great addition to fruit salads or to make a citrus-flavoured tea.
  4. Honeysuckle – Enjoy the nectar fresh, or use petals make a syrup, pudding, or a tea.
  5. Magnolia – The young flowers can be pickled or used fresh in salads.
  6. Nasturtium – Tasting peppery, like watercress, these make a lovely salad addition.
  7. Pansy – Mild and fresh-tasting, they’re great in a green salad or as a garnish.
  8. Rose – Lovely in drinks, fruit dishes, jams, and jellies thanks to its delicate fragrance.
  9. Scented Geraniums– The flavours range from citrussy to a hint of nutmeg.
  10. Cape Jasmine – Extremely fragrant, they’re ideal for pickling, preserving, and baking.

10 Unusual edible flowers

10 Unusual edible flowers
The buds, petals and seeds of the sunflower are all edible - the petals taste a little nutty.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Forget-me-not– Delicious as a trail snack on its own or as a garnish.
  2. Sunflower– The mild nutty taste makes the petals good in salads or stir fries.
  3. Hollyhock – Remove the centre stamen (e.g. pollen) before eating.
  4. Lilac – Enjoy mixed with cream cheese or yogurt as a dip or spread.
  5. Camellia – Used fresh as garnishes or dried and then used in Asian cuisine.
  6. Fuchsia – Enhance the flavour by removing all green and brown bits and the stamen.
  7. Freesia – Great infused in a tisane with lemon juice and zest.
  8. Gladiolus – Mild in taste (similar to lettuce), they’re good in sweet or savoury dishes.
  9. Peony – The petals taste lovely fresh in salads, or lightly cooked and sweetened.
  10. Alpine pinks – Tasting of clove, they’re good in flavoured sugars, oils and vinegars.

10 Poisonous flowers you should never eat

Poisonous flowers you should never eat
Look but don't touch - the Oleander is a beautiful, but poisonous plant.
Image: Shutterstock
  1. Daffodil – Eating any part of a daffodil will cause distress due to the toxin, lycorine.
  2. Poppy – Give these a wide berth as all poppies are poisonous.
  3. Foxglove – These contain naturally-occurring poisons that affect the heart.
  4. Oleander – The whole plant is highly-toxic – one of the most toxic garden plants in fact.
  5. Clematis – Mild, but toxic, contact with clematis (mouth or skin) can cause irritation.
  6. Bluebell – All parts of the bluebell contains toxic glycosides.
  7. Rhododendron – Its toxins can impact heart rhythm and blood pressure.
  8. Larkspur – Its toxic alkaloids are fast-acting and potentially life-threatening.
  9. Hydrangea – The small amount of cyanide in Hydrangeas make them dangerous.
  10. Lily-of-the-Valley – Pretty, but they contain convallatoxin, which should not be ingested.

What kind of edible flowers are in your garden? Do you have any ways of using them that you’d recommend? Tell us on our Facebook page.