Not only are there many flowers that you’d be surprised are edible and nutritious, but there are also countless ways to use them: fresh or dried, whole or as a condiment, to infuse a dessert or drink, raw, cooked, and even pickled.
Flowers are best when eaten a few hours after picking, so growing your own makes a lot of sense. Growing flowers for your dinner table is really no different from growing flowers to feast on with your eyes.
Flowers, to be eaten safely, must be organic. Only use flowers from locations where no herbicides or pesticides have been sprayed. A lot of flowers that are sold at nurseries and florists are heavily treated with chemicals and not fit for consumption. If you intend to eat the flowers, growing your own edible flowers from seed is the safest option.
Using Edible Flowers in Cooking
The number one rule about edible flowers is to properly identify them. This is less of an issue when you grow them yourself but definitely for foraging, as there are often toxic lookalikes.
Also, not all varieties have the same culinary appeal, even if they are edible. For some flowers, the best cultivars for eating are included in the list below, yet often it is a question of trial and error to find out which flowers and cultivars please your palate. Similarly, what to pair the edible flowers with is very much up to personal taste.
How to Pick Edible Flowers
Pick edible flowers on a dry sunny day. Most flowers should be picked when they have fully bloomed and are not yet starting to wilt, but there are exceptions such as lavender, which should be harvested when only a portion of the florets have opened.
Time the cutting of the flowers when you know you will use them within a few hours, and when it’s cool in the early morning or late evening. If you cannot use the flowers right away, cut them with their stems still attached and place them in a bowl of water in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
How to Clean Edible Flowers
The purpose of cleaning edible flowers is not so much to remove dirt but more to get rid of the tiny insects which are often hiding inside the flowerheads. Unless otherwise noted, rinse the flowers quickly under cold water or swirl them gently in a large bowl of cold water and repeat as needed a couple of times to remove all the insects. Gently shake off any water clinging to them but not to the point of shaking so vigorously that you remove the pollen, which often has a lot of flavor.
How to Dry and Store Edible Flowers
Not all edible flowers are suitable for drying. (We've indicated which can be dried and stored on the list below.)
Place the flowers on paper towels or clean tea towels and spread them out generously in a single layer so they don’t overlap. Let them dry in a warm, well-ventilated place until fully dried, turning them over once or twice a day. Depending on the thickness and moisture content of the flowers, this can take several days.
You can also dry flowers in a dehydrator. Follow the gadget instructions and just like with air-drying, make sure not to overlap them.
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Annual with pink, yellow, orange, red, or white flowers. The flowers of all tuberous begonias (Begonia x typerhybrida) and wax begonias (Begonia cucullata) are edible. Tuberous begonias are superior for eating, whereas wax begonias have a slightly bitter taste. If you buy the plants from a nursery, they have been usually treated with pesticides so inquire about how they were grown.
- Taste: Tart, lemon-like with a crisp texture.
- Uses: Whole flowers sliced in salads, petals for garnish.
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A perennial with spiky pink, red, or white tubular flowers. Both the fresh leaves and flowers are edible. Recommended varieties include ‘Adam’, ‘Cambridge Scarlet’, ‘Croftaway Pink’, and ‘Snow White’.
- Taste: Earl Grey-like taste with citrus undertones.
- Uses: Compound butter, teas, garnish for salads, to infuse ice cream.
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Annual with deep blue star-shaped flowers. Only the petals are eaten; remove the hairy inner parts of the flowers with your fingertips.
- Taste: Subtle cucumber-like.
- Uses: Salads, garnish for soups and desserts. Flowers can also be candied.
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An annual with orange, yellow, or apricot-colored daisy-like flowers. Only the petals are used, so remove them from the flowersheads before using.
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- Taste: Spicy, tangy, peppery, or bitter depending on the variety.
- Uses: Compound butter, rice dishes, garnish for salads. Petals can be dried and added as a garnish to winter soups such as potato, leek, or winter squash soup.
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Both species of chamomile (German and Roman) are edible. German chamomile is sweeter and thus preferred for culinary purposes. The flowers can be dried.
- Taste: Flowery, earthy, apple-like, often described as slightly bitter.
- Uses: To infuse tea, cocktails, and desserts. Fresh or dried flowers can be fried in butter and stirred into hot cereal such as oatmeal.
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Both common chives and garlic chives are perennials with edible flowers. Harvest the flowers right after they open. The flowers of common chives should be harvested before they become dry and papery.
- Taste: Subtle onion or garlic flavor.
- Uses: Compound butter, sauces, scrambled eggs, salads, sandwich spreads. The flowers of common chives can also be used to infuse distilled white vinegar, which turns a pretty pink.
07 of 20
The flowers of this perennial are edible, but the potted mums that are sold each fall by nurseries and usually grown as annuals are treated with lots of chemicals and are thus not suitable for eating. As edibles, grow Garland chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) from seed so you can harvest both the leafy greens and the flowers. Both are widely used in Japanese cuisine under the name shungiku.
- Taste: Shungiku is tangy, herbal, grassy, and slightly bitter.
- Uses: Fresh or dried, to garnish soups and salads.
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All varieties of the common daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) are edible, including the orange daylily that is a native to Asia but has widely naturalized in many parts of the US to the point of becoming invasive. All parts of the daylily are edible, but opinions vary which parts are the most palatable. For starters, you might try the unopened buds and petals.
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- Taste: Sweet and floral to vegetal and slightly metallic when eaten raw.
- Uses: Add sliced petals to salads and soups. Unopened buds can be stir-fried in butter or oil.
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Perennial shrub with large, white, umbel-shaped flowerheads. Carefully remove any green stems, because like the rest of the plant (except for the flower), they are toxic.
- Taste: Floral and sweet with notes of pear and lychee.
- Uses: To infuse syrups, cordials, jelly, ice cream and other desserts. Flowerheads can be dipped in batter and deep-fried. Flowers can also be dried for tea.
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Both the leaves and flowers of these annuals are edible. All scents with the exception of the ‘Citronella’ variety are good for eating: apple, ginger, lemon, lime, nutmeg, peppermint, rose, and ginger.
- Taste: Citrus flavor combined with the variety’s scent.
- Uses: To garnish salads and for candying.
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The large, vibrant flowers of this tropical shrub can be eaten raw or dried.
- Taste: Cranberry- or pomegranate-like, subtly sweet and tart.
- Uses: To infuse drinks liked iced tea, cocktails syrup, ice cream, and other desserts. The dried flowers are used for tea.
12 of 20
A perennial that needs to be overwintered indoors in cooler climate. Make sure that what you have is a culinary lavender. ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’ are the most popular edible lavenders. Harvest the stalks with the flowers when only about half or one-third of the florets have opened. Do not wash them. Tie the stalks in bundles and hang them upside down to dry in a well-ventilated location.
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- Taste: Floral, herbaceous, and sweet with notes of mint, citrus and rosemary.
- Uses: Meat and poultry dishes and marinades, desserts, drinks, to infuse ice cream and other desserts, added to fruit jelly. Lavender can easily be overpowering and so use it sparingly.
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Of the different colors of the common lilac, fragrant purple and pink varieties are the best for culinary use. Before using, remove any leaves and stems.
- Taste: Floral and perfumed.
- Uses: Compound butter, to infuse drinks, syrups, ice cream, and other desserts, as a garnish for cakes. Flowers can be dipped in batter and deep-fried or candied.
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While these annual flowers are often at the top of edible flower lists, only a few are palatable, such as Signet marigold ‘Lemon Gem’, 'Tangerine Gem', and Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida). The flowers can be dried.
- Taste: Floral with citrus and pepper note, slightly bitter.
- Uses: To garnish salads, frozen ice cubes, sprinkled over egg dishes such as omelet.
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Apple trees have white to pink flowers, and they are all edible. However, apple trees are commonly sprayed with chemicals as part of an integrated pest and disease management, so they are not often fit for consumption.
- Taste: Floral—the more fragrant the blossoms, the stronger the taste.
- Uses: Ice cream, garnish for salads, to infuse jelly.
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An annual flower that comes in a rainbow of colors. Both the flowers and leaves are edible. The flowers can be dried, and the seed pods can be pickled as a caper substitute also known as “poor man’s capers.” The flowers can be dried.
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- Taste: Peppery.
- Uses: Compound butter, sandwich spreads, to infuse vinegar, as a garnish for salads, soups, and anything where you'd like to add a splash of color.
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A perennial with purple flower spikes.
- Taste: Sweet and lemon-like, mixed with licorice and mint.
- Uses: Salads, soups, sweet quick breads, iced drinks, to infuse ice cream and other desserts.
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Of the thousands of varieties of roses, heirloom roses such as ‘Cecile Brunner’ and Rosa rugosa are the most fragrant and thus the most flavorful. Caring for roses often involves a lot of chemicals for pest control, so if you plan to harvest the flowers, select a disease-resistant variety and grow it organically. The white portion of the petals is bitter and should be removed. Rose petals can be dried.
- Taste: Floral, sweet, earthy and slightly bitter depending on the variety.
- Uses: Compound butter, to infuse sugar, ice cream and other dessert, drinks, vinegar, syrup, honey, jelly; as a garnish for salads and cakes. Baby flowerheads and petals can be candied.
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The plants develop a flush of male flowers before female flowers which later bear the fruit. Pick the male flowers with their stems when the flowers are fully formed and swollen but before they open. The best time for picking is in the early morning. Rinse the flowers just before using them and remove the inner parts (stamen and pistil) and the sepals (the leaves right below the flower).
- Taste: Mild, delicate, reminiscent of summer squash and zucchini.
- Uses: Stuffed with cheese, rice, or beans, baked as a gratin, or coated in a tempura batter and deep-fried. For fritters and stuffing, leave the stems on.
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For gardeners, it might be a nuisance when this vigorously growing perennial shows up in unwanted places in your yard, such as in your lawn but for cooks, it’s a delight. The white, purple, or pink flowers can be used fresh or dried.
- Taste: Strong floral taste with a sweet note.
- Uses: Compound butters, as a garnish for salads, dessert and cakes, to infuse drinks, syrup, jelly.
These flowers are just a small selection of the many edibles flowers that you can grow as a gardener. Before planting or foraging any flowers for consumption, do your research to make sure that the flowers are not only edible but that the variety is indeed the tasty addition to your dinner table that you intend it to be.