Edible Flowers

by frankbeswick

Some plants grown for beauty can also grace our tables and flavour our drinks.

Planet Earth is a wonderful place, rich in the blessings of nature. There is a great variety of edible plants to enjoy. We can savour their leaves and petals in salads, we can dine on their roots, and we can use them in drinks. Sometimes flowers make a delightful garnish. In this article I am focusing on garden plants, for I am conscious that while I am writing in the UK most of my readership is American, so there is a difference between the wild plants in the two countries.

Picture of a dahlia courtesy of Stevebidmead, of Pixabay

Common Edibles

Most of us eliminate dandelion from our gardens, as we call it a weed,but in fact most parts of it are edible. I have read different opinions of the stem. Some say that no plant with a milky sap in the stem is edible, but others make an exception for dandelion. I have played it safe by never eating the stem, but I have consumed dandelion leaves in salad, finding them tasty, and I have made their flowers into wine. Just a word of advice here, two glasses of it make you want to urinate! The roots of dandelion used to be picked to make dandelion coffee.  

One common garden flower that was originally introduced as an edible is the dahlia. Its great variety of flower shape conceals the fact that it is related to the daisy and the sunflower, and we know that the latter produces edible seeds. Dahlia petals can be used in salads, but use only the petals,not the reproductive organs. The bulbs are edible. Initially they taste like celery, though they become sweeter with storage. Tuberous begonias are also edible,you can eat the leaves, flowers and stems. However, those with gout, rheumatism or similar conditions should avoid eating begonias as they contain oxalic acid. 

The Rosaceae, the huge family to which roses belong contains a great variety of edible plants, including apples,  pears and quinces,as do plums, damsons and cherries. Rose petals can be added as a garnish to salads, though darker cultivars are said to have the stronger flavour. These petals can be used to provide a subtle flavour to a homemade wine. Take a pint of petals, soak them for three days and then add sugar, yeast and yeast nutrient. Leave to ferment out and mature.Some cooks garnish ice cream with rose petals. Rose hips, the little swellings behind the flower are full of vitamin C, they are made into rosehip syrup,but the seeds inside have to be filtered out as they are an irritant. This syrup can be made in  a domestic kitchen.

Some other members of the Rosaceae are eaten or drunk. Potentilla repans, cinquefoil, has petals that are brewed into a herbal tea. Another member of this family is Potentilla anserina, sometimes known as Argentina anserina, popularly called silverweed, is known for its edible tubers. Before the advent of the potato silverweed was a staple food in the Celtic regions of the British Isles, where it was known as the seventh bread.

Pumpkins and Others

Pumpkins, known as Squashes in the UK, and Zucchini, along with marrows, have lovely flowers that are perfectly edible and are highly  prized by chefs. They can be fried in a tempura/batter, but also stuffed with soft cheese and honey or with an olive tapenade, a kind of sauce. They can be eaten raw, but take out the stamens etc from the middle. The pumpkin will happily grow on after the flower has been taken.

Another quite large plant, all parts of which are edible, is fennel, a popular medicinal herb. There are two main types, bronze fennel and florence fennel. All parts of the plant are edible and it is known to have medicinal uses, being a remedy for stomach pains. An infusion of fennel is sometimes given to babies as gripe water to cure wind. Florence fennel has a large, edible root,but bronze fennel is grown mainly for seeds. The flowers and leaves of both kinds can be used in teas or infusions. Fennel pollen is a popular addition to soups and stews, to which it adds great flavour. This large herb is used in conjunction with many dishes, but it has a longstanding association with fish dishes.

Another large plant common in gardens with edible leaves, flowers and fruit is hibiscus. It is commonly said that all varieties of hibiscus are edible, but it is also worth noting that there are many hybrids of hibiscus with other flowers, not all of which may be edible. Hibiscus is used to make a tea which has a good medicinal reputation. Herbalists recommend it for bringing down high blood pressure and for weight loss. Some claims that it can lower blood sugar are made, which would make it a useful ingredient in the diet of a prediabetic keen to prevent their becoming diabetic. It is also said to be good for the liver. As it is rich in anti-oxidants it might well have anti-cancer properties.   

Lavender petals are edible and can be used to make a fragrant tea. Flowers and flower buds can be sprinkled on cakes or ice cream to provide extra flavouring.No other part of the lavender is edible.

A beautiful blue flower is the herb borage, which grows in gardens. It is a prolific self-seeder which will easily spread in your garden.The leaves make a a kind of tea, and they remind me of cucumber, but the flowers make a garnish which adds both taste and beauty to a summer salad.Salads can also be augmented by nasturtium leaves, which add a slight peppery flavour.



I have left out some plants intentionally. One is honeysuckle, whose berries are sometimes eaten, because although some species of this plant, whose technical name is Lonicera, are edible, some varieties are toxic and can cause heart problems. It takes a very knowledgeable person to know which is which, and I do not think it is worth the risk. Similarly, I have omitted calendula, marigold, because although calendula petals have medicinal value, there is another plant,  tagetes, which has the name marigold, which does not have the same medicinal value. Bear in mind also that not all plants that are edible for humans can be eaten by our domestic animals, so if you keep pets, even horses, do your research on what they can eat. 

This article focused on garden plants, but it is not exhaustive, and anyone taking an interest in edible flowers should get themselves a good book on the subject, because there is always a danger of misidentifying less common plants, especially hybrids. Flowers are part of the great blessings of Mother Earth, we can enjoy them and sometimes eat them.

Updated: 05/20/2020, frankbeswick
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frankbeswick on 03/21/2022

Some plants poison the ground around them to kill other, rival plants, eg rhododendron, walnut and yew, but I have never heard of this happening with cherry. More likely is the possibility that the cherry is out-competing the elder and the wineberry for light and nutrients. Tired--looking leaves suggest a shortage of nutrients.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/21/2022

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) describes all parts of the black cherry tree (Prunus serotina) -- apart the fruit -- as poisonous.

Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) and wineberries (Rubus phoenicolasius) grow amid a lone black cherry and two eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) in the central-north yard. The elderberry and the wineberry fruits look fine -- but not quite as lovely as those growing around the west yard's creek. The leaves always look a bit tired, not quite as green as the latter.

Would toxicity in black cherry roots be communicated to the berry plants and somewhat affect their growth? If not or if so, would it be safe to eat them?

frankbeswick on 03/19/2022

All hyacinths are toxic

DerdriuMarriner on 03/19/2022

Daffodils and grape hyacinth are prettifying the yard. I know that the former are not to be drunk or eaten. But what about the latter?

frankbeswick on 03/05/2022

There are three edible parts of the dandelion: the roots, which are ground to make a substitute for coffee; the leaves, which are used in salad and which like all leaves may be used in tea, though I have never heard of it; and the yellow flower heads, which are used in wine-making, and can be used for tea.

Use the flower heads. Fill a large container, maybe half a litre, with yellow flower heads. Soak in hot water. Some users leave it soaking for up to three days. Strain off. Then when you want a cup of dandelion tea pour a cupful. Heat in the microwave or to be traditional in a cauldron or pan. Add lemon juice and/or sugar as your taste buds see fit. Stir. Your leprechaun will like this. Of course leprechauns like a drop of the hard stuff, so maybe adding some Irish whiskey will not go amiss. Leprechauns, I am assured, like a quality single malt, Irish preferably. It's very good for them and us [that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!]

DerdriuMarriner on 03/04/2022

Thank you!

In a somewhat related direction, I just finished reading a book about leprechauns. It mentioned how much leprechauns like dandelion tea. You wouldn't happen to know -- and this isn't being facetious, I'd like to know -- what their recipe is supposed to entail, would you? in other words, how would I make a dandelion tea fit for a leprechaun?

frankbeswick on 03/02/2022

Traditional flower wine-making involves soaking a pint container of petals in water for three days to get the flavouring. Strain off the petals to leave the flavoured water; Add this water to two pounds of sugar and a pound of raisins, which add body to the wine. Then add the yeast starter and ferment to completion.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/02/2022

Thank you for the information about doubling petals linking with scentless-ness, which I don't recall knowing before.

I wouldn't want the wines that hopefully I make and turn out to be overwhelmed by another flavor. But what kind of wine would I make to accommodate rose-petal flavoring, and how would I integrate the petals: floating or ground-up or some way else?

frankbeswick on 03/01/2022

Yes, we have multiflora. It gives plenty of petals for flavouring, but you will find that plants bred to have double the amount of petals per flower head lack scent. This affects their role in the garden, but not their wine-flavouring potential.

Flavouring the wines that you mention with rose petals is beyond my experience, but I suggest that as the wines that you mention are very flavoursome a large amount of rose would be required to avoid its flavour being overwhelmed.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/28/2022

Revisiting this article caused me to connect it with your article, Making Your Own Wine, on wine-making.

You describe roses as flavoring wine. Do you have mulfiflora rose (Rose multiflora) on your side of the pond? What do you think of it as a flavorer of the blackberry, mulberry, raspberry, strawberry, wineberry wines that I'm considering?

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