A garden should be a place of beauty. It should be visually appealing, even relaxing. Flowers can add splashes of color even when your veggies aren’t in bloom. I don’t like giving up any of my limited garden space for plants that are only decorative, so I’m looking for flowers that are edible.
There are a few precautions when it comes to edible flowers. Make sure the flowers you’re about to eat are actually edible. Many non-edible flowers look just like the edible varieties. I recommend only eating flowers that have been grown specifically for eating. Harvesting flowers from plants you happen across in the wild can be dangerous.
Make sure the flowers you eat have not been treated with any pesticide that is not labeled for use on food products. Some of those chemicals can be pretty nasty! Also avoid eating flowers from florists as they are often dyed and otherwise treated to make them look better and last longer.
For the most part, only the petals of the flowers should be eaten. There are exceptions, of course. I’ll point out some of the flowers that are entirely edible below.
The best time to harvest flowers is in the cool of the morning. If you’re not going to be using them right away, keep some stem attached to the flowers and place the stem in water until you’re ready. This will keep them from drying out and wilting.
Herb Flowers – Most people only use the leaves of their herbs and occasionally the seeds, but the flowers of herbs can be eaten and taste very much like the leaves. Herb flowers make great additions to salads or any dish where that herb is used. Popular choices include basil, bee balm, chives, cilantro (leave some flowers on the plant so you can harvest coriander later!), fennel and even garlic (I know, it’s not really a herb, but the flowers are tasty!).
Pansy – Quite possibly the most popular edible flower, it’s used mostly as a garnish. The entire flower is edible and has a nice minty flavor to it. It’s also great for candying (coating with sugar).
Dandelion – The scourge of lawns everywhere, the flowers (and other parts) are edible, and are best when young and tender. There are specially varieties available developed to have a low bitterness. Be careful eating the dandelions from your lawn – make sure no pesticides have been used. Some pesticides commonly used on lawns can linger for years, so it’s best to grow your own if you’re interested in eating them.
Nasturtium – Actually members of the genus Tropaeolum, every part of the plant is edible, including the peppery flowers. Often used to infuse vinegars or even vodkas.
Calendula – Also known as Pot Marigold, the petals can be eaten fresh or cooked. When chopped and sauteed they give a very nice color and can be used in place of saffron for coloring dishes.
Gem Marigold – Only two varieties of this plant have edible flowers – the Lemon Gem and Tangerine Gem. As the names suggest, they have a citrusy flavor to them and are very brightly colored.
Borage – Often used in salads, these blue flowers have a cucumber flavor. A great plant to grow indoors during the winter to give fresh cucumber taste to your salads and other dishes.