Looking for a unique garnish for cakes, salads and desserts? Try edible flowers. Your options include more than the commonly used nasturtiums and violets. But use caution: Some flowers are poisonous. Always identify flowers accurately before consuming them and be sure that the flowers have not been treated with pesticides.
- Angelica: This herb has lacy white flowers and tender stems. Angelica’s taste resembles celery. Use angelica in salads or to garnish fish and soup.
- Anise Hyssop: Use the flowers and leaves of this plant to give food a slight licorice, or anise flavor. Use in salads, as a garnish or in Chinese cuisine.
- Apple: The delicate, floral flavor of apple blossoms complements light spring desserts. Use moderation, though, as the blossoms may contain cyanide precursors.
- Arugula: Sometimes called garden rocket, arugula is commonly grown as a salad green. It produces yellowish or white flowers that add a peppery flavor to salads.
- Basil: This common garden herb produces small clusters of white flowers that may have a mint, chocolate, or traditional basil flavor, depending on the variety.
- Bee Balm: This perennial plant produces clusters of tube-like flowers. The flowers are often used dried as a replacement for bergamot tea, and have a mild citrus flavor.
- Borage: The flowers of this mint-like plant are usually blue, but may also be pink or white. They have a refreshing cucumber taste that pairs well with canapés, salads and fish dishes.
- Broccoli: As broccoli heads mature, they open up to reveal tiny yellow flowers. Pinch the flowers back to encourage more growth, or use the slightly spicy flowers in salads and cooked dishes.
- Chrysanthemum: Blanche the petals and sprinkle them over salads, soups and sauces for a spicy, peppery taste. Avoid the flower base, which is bitter and difficult to digest.
- Calendula: The dried flowers of calendula are sometimes referred to as “poor man’s saffron.” Use this plant to add a spicy, peppery taste to food.
- Carnation: Add small pesticide-free carnations to salads for a peppery taste, or place whole flowers on cakes and desserts as a garnish.
- Chamomile: The yellow or white daisy-like petals of chamomile have been used for centuries to make a soothing herbal tea. Use the petals only. Some people may experience an allergic reaction to chamomile.
- Chervil: Use the white flowers of chervil in salads or main dishes to impart a mild licorice taste. Add the flowers right before serving and don’t heat them, which dilutes the flavor.
- Chicory: Chicory grows wild in many parts of the United States. The blue flowers add a peppery taste to salads; pickle the buds as you would capers.
- Chives: Add the small purple flowers of chives to salads for a mild, onion flavor. The flowers emerge in mid-spring.
- Cilantro: The leaves are more commonly used, but try the flowers for a fresh, herbal taste. Some people find the taste of cilantro soapy and unpleasant, others can’t get enough of it. Use it in Mexican dishes.
- Cornflower: Also known as bachelor’s button, these small pom pom shaped flowers make charming garnishes. The flowers are usually blue and have a sweet or spicy taste.
- Dandelion: Served fresh in salads, dandelion have a slightly sweet or peppery taste. When cooked in butter, they take on a taste similar to mushrooms. Buds or young flowers taste the best. Mature flowers tend to be bitter.
- Day Lily: Eat day lily blooms in moderation because they may have a laxative effect. Avoid other lilies, which may be toxic. Day lilies have a faint vegetable taste that has been compared to lettuce or beans.
- Dill: Use the flowers and leaves to flavor salads, soups and sauces. Dill has a tangy, warm, aromatic flavor and dries well.
- Elderberry: Elderberries grow wild in the Pacific Northwest and parts of the Midwest and New England and may also be cultivated. The creamy blossoms of these plants have a sweet fragrance and taste. Use them to garnish desserts, but do not wash them, because doing so removes most of the flavor. The roots and leaves of this plant are toxic. Raw berries may also cause illness.
- English daisy: These cheerful flowers have a spicy, slightly bitter taste and are best used as a garnish. Eat the petals only.
- Fennel: Fennel has a mild anise taste that improves when it is cooked. Use the star-shaped yellow flowers in salads and sauces.
- Fuschia: The unique shape and bright colors of fuschia make them an eye-popping garnish for desserts and fruit trays. The fruits are edible, as well.
- Garden sorrel: Garden or French sorrel is an easy to grow salad green, but allow it to go to flower and you have a lovely, lemon-flavored garnish or addition to salads, sauces, desserts and main dishes.
- Garlic: Like chives, garlic produces purple flowers in mid-to-late spring. Add the flowers to salads for a mild, garlic flavor.
- Ginger: Use the petals in salads and desserts to add a spicy, mild ginger flavor. Eat ginger raw or cooked in stir fries and soups.
- Gladiolus: Fill gladiolus flowers with mousse for an interesting presentation, or mix individual petals in salads. Gladiolus have a bland taste resembling lettuce.
- Hibiscus: Hibiscus has a tart, slightly bitter taste and is generally used dry as a base for herbal teas. The dried flowers add color, as well as flavor to teas.
- Hollyhock: Hollyhocks make charming garnishes, but the flowers lack flavor and texture. Use them decoratively instead.
- Honeysuckle: Children have long known the pleasure of sucking the nectar out of these white and gold flowers. Honeysuckle has a sweet flavor, but avoid the berries, which are poisonous.
- Jasmine: Use true jasmine to flavor teas with its sweet scent, but beware of false jasmine, also known as woodbine, yellow jasmine or Jessamine, trumpetflower or Carolina jasmine. This plant is not related to jasmine and is toxic. True jasmine produces waxy, white flowers and shiny oval leaves.
- Impatiens: These fragile, annual flowers have a sweet flavor well-suited to drinks or desserts. Float them in a punch bowl for instant color or freeze them in ice cubes.
- Lavender: Lavender is used dried in baked goods, but may also be used fresh to add a light, citrus or floral taste to champagne or desserts. Do not use lavender oil unless it is food-safe.
- Lemon flowers: Use these waxy, fragrant flowers as garnishes, but eat them sparingly. Use untreated lemon leaves as a base for canapés, roasted meats or desserts.
- Lemon Verbena: Lemon verbena is a woody herb that produces leaves with a strong citrus scent. Use the small, creamy flowers to add a citrus flavor to iced teas, lemonade, sauces or desserts.
- Lilac: The taste of lilac varies depending on the type. Most lilacs have a slightly bitter, lemony taste. Use them to decorate desserts.
- Marigold: Add the cheery flowers of marigolds to salads for a bright color and slightly peppery flavor. Marigolds grow easily in almost any condition.
- Marjoram: Use the small, white flowers of this flavorful herb as you would the leaves. Add the mild tasting flowers to salads and sauces.
- Mint: Mint flowers have a minty taste, but may also have chocolate, lemon or apple undertones, depending on the variety. Use mint in tea or lemonade or in Greek salads.
- Okra: This odd looking, thorny vegetable produces hibiscus-like flowers. Saute or fry them for an exotic treat.
- Orange flowers: Use these as you would lemon flowers, sparingly, and as a garnish. Flavor water by soaking the blooms.
- Oregano: The tiny white flowers of this herb have a milder taste than the leaves. Use them in Italian dishes, salads or on meat.
- Pea Blossom: Snap peas, snow peas and English peas all produce white, or occasionally pink, blossoms. The blossoms are sweet, tender and delicious in salads. Eating the blossoms will diminish your harvest so plan accordingly.
- Rosemary: Treat this perennial herb as an annual in cold climates. Use the flowers to flavor meats, seafood or salads.
- Safflower: The dried, yellow leaves of this plant’s flowers are used as Mexican saffron. This spice has a milder flavor than Spanish saffron and is used primarily as a coloring.
- Sage: The gray-green leaves of sage are traditionally used in stuffings and to flavor chicken and meats. The delicate blue, white or pink flowers have a mild flavor and are good in salads.
- Summer Squash: Use the first tender blossoms of yellow summer squash or zucchini. These flowers are males and won’t produce fruit. Identify the females by the small bump that forms at the base of the flower. Stuff, fry or bake summer squash blossoms for a sumptuous feast.
- Viola: Also known as Johnny Jump-Ups, these tiny purple, yellow and blue flowers have a mild, wintergreen flavor. Use them decoratively on cakes and desserts, add them to salads or float them in drinks.
Want to learn more? Check out this YouTube video about growing your own edible flowers.
The possibilities are endless for using edible flowers. Pick them immediately before use if possible and grow your own to avoid the risk of pesticide exposure.
you forgot to mention roses, the flowers are used in the middle east to make rose petal preserves as well as rose syrup
Dayna McEvoy says
Surprised you left out Nasturtiums!! Leaves and flowers make a lovely salad – FDR’s favorite salad, in fact!
Yes! nasturtiums are delicious, after my first taste of them in a salad, I couldn’t get enough.
Irene Haugen says
Actually they are mentioned! I grow them and give them to my chickens as treats also.
Please use botanic names as well as common names otherwise mistakes can be made with exceptionally bad consequences.
neither lilies or daises are edible all of both categories are POISON
Some Day Lilies are edible…..original single color orange and yellow; hybrids are potentially poisonous….all parts are toxic to cats…
mia link says
I read daisies are edible.
And you show Dianthus on the cupcakes but don’t mention them…
The benifits of eating and drinking hollihocks are remarkable! Dried they taste sweet and soothe a belly ache in being a diuretic and emollient. All plants have medicinal properties but and this one is recognized in Herbal Academy.