Munching down on edible flowers has been a practice that dates back thousands of years -- the Chinese, Romans, and Greeks all enjoyed utilizing edible flowers in their food, and many cultures continue to use flowers in their cuisine today. For example, in the Oaxaca and Chiapas region of Mexico it's very common to find delicious squash blossoms either stuffed with queso oaxaqueño and grilled as an appetizer, or folded into one’s quesadilla.
In addition to traditional use, edible flowers have become THE hip decor for cakes, cookies, pastries, and all kinds of beverages for weddings, seasonal entertaining, and more.Whether incorporated into a cocktail, added to a salad, or sugar-coated for cake, edible flowers add a gorgeous whimsical touch.
Top 10 Edible Flowers List
1. Hibiscus: Hibiscus petals can be both tart and sweet with a cranberry-like flavor. Their ruby red color and bright flavor make them a popular addition in tea and cocktails (like the hibiscus champagne cocktail below) and their petals can also be used to make a concentrated Hibiscus syrup which can be used in almost anything.
2. Borage Blossoms: Borage blossoms are bright blue, star-shaped edible flowers, which look fantastic candied and added to cookies, cakes, and cupcakes as in the photo below. When served fresh, these edible flowers have a cucumber taste which makes them excellent additions to salads, as well as refreshing beverages like lemonade, cucumber water, and gin or vodka cocktails.
3. Marigold/Calendula: Signet Marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis) -- which is also referred to as a Pot Marigold or English Marigold -- are all wonderful edible flowers with colors ranging from golden yellow to red and orange. Their flavor profile can be spicy, peppery, tangy, or citrus, and only their petals should be eaten. Both calendula and marigolds can be substituted for saffron in some recipes, earning them the nickname, “Poor Man’s Saffron.” You can also sprinkle these edible flowers into pasta and rice dishes, salads, herb butters, scrambled eggs, soups, and more. Important Note: The French Marigold, Tagetes patula, is not edible, and should not be ingested.
4. Lavender: Lavender is well-known for its aromatic and antiseptic properties, and is popularly found in essential oils, soaps, skin care items, and natural cleaning products. As an edible flower, lavender possesses a similar taste profile to thyme, rosemary, and sage, and its spikes and leaves work well as a substitute for rosemary. The lavender flowers and buds are sweet, spicy, and slightly perfumey and look beautiful in champagne and cocktails as well as sprinkled over desserts, like chocolate cake or peach cobbler. Lavender doesn’t just have to be sprinkled though! You can also incorporate lavender into your recipes, as with honey lavender ice cream, lavender cookies, and the lavender-rosemary cake pictured below. Keep in mind, lavender’s flavor can be quite strong--a little bit goes a long way, so start with a little and adjust as needed.
5. Nasturtium: These popular edible flowers have a slightly peppery taste (similar to watercress), which make them excellent additions to salads, spring rolls, or (for the larger blooms) as a brilliantly colorful garnish. The edible blooms can also be stuffed with soft cheese, savory mousse, or any other dip for a savory treat.. All parts of the nasturtium -- its leaves, seed pods, and flowers -- are edible.
6. Pansies: Pansies are adorable edible flowers which look beautiful -- fresh or sugared -- on cakes, cupcakes, and appetizers. Pansies have a wintergreen flavor, so they mesh well in fruit salads and herbal summer cocktails.
7. Violets: come in a large range of colors and have a sweet, floral flavor. Like pansies, they look great in salads and iced beverages of all kinds (see the violet lemonade below). They can also be crystallized and used to top elegant cakes and other desserts.
8. Roses: Roses are famous for their strong scent; however, as edible flowers, their flavor is fruity and subtle. All roses are edible, and they look great scattered across salads, soups, and desserts, as well as incorporated into teas, jams, and made into rose water for countless other uses. The petals also perform (and look amazing) when candied.
9. Squash Blossoms: As mentioned before, the edible flowers of squash plants are typically eaten stuffed with cheese (like the lemon-ricotta recipe pictured below), but they can also be fried or added to almost anything (quesadillas and pizza come to mind!). They have a slightly sweet taste that is, of course, reminiscent of squash, and they look fabulous added to all summer spreads.
10. Sage, Rosemary, Chive, Cilantro, Dill Flowers: The blossoms of these culinary herbs make great edible flowers! You will find that their blooms possess a softer, milder version of the leaves’ flavor. Add these edible flowers to salads (like the super-fresh summer corn and tomato salad with dill flowers pictured below), savory tarts (like the aspargus tart below), desserts, and any refreshing herbal beverages you like!
While we have provided a list of the Top Ten Edible Flowers, there are many more! To see a full edible flowers lists, check out the wiki page here. When using edible flowers, try to avoid using blooms that have been sprayed with pesticides or other harsh chemicals. It’s recommended that you either grow your own or purchase food-grade edible flowers from the grocery store, local farm, or even online -- places like The Chef’s Garden or Gourmet Sweet Botanicals, which specifically grow flower for eating.
Above all, Bon Appétit!