Edible flowers

Information sheet

Many flowers can be eaten. Grow some in your school garden or pick those you have already growing there.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, Art&DT

Guidelines on eating flowers

  • Always check what you are eating is safe to eat
  • Eat young, fresh flowers
  • Avoid cropping flowers in areas frequented by livestock or dog walkers
  • Always wash them first
  • It is often just the petals that you eat, and if they have a white base to them remove this first as it will be bitter
  • Some people may react to certain flowers. It often depends on underlying medical conditions.

Edible flowers from your borders

Don’t use bought flowers, unless they are specifically sold for eating, as they may have been treated with chemicals. Here are some good ones to try from the garden:

  • Cottage pink (Dianthus caryophyllus) – has a spicy, clove-like flavour and is known as gilliflower in old recipe books. Other pinks are milder.
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) – add the petals or buds to salads or fry the buds with mushrooms, a popular dish in Japan
  • Marigold (Calendula officinalis) – this is the pot or English marigold, sometimes referred to as poor man's saffron. Add the petals to cooked rice, use to colour mayonnaise, or sprinkle on salads
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – the brilliantly coloured flowers will liven up the dullest green salad and have a mild peppery taste
  • Pansy (Viola) – try floating them in a fruit salad or setting them in jelly
  • Rose (Rosa) – freeze the petals in ice cubes to use in summer drinks or crystallise them.

Edible flowers from your veg plot

Don’t assume all vegetable flowers are edible. Some such as potato are poisonous. However some are delicious. Flowers in the list below are safe to eat:

  • Courgette, marrow or squash – eat stuffed and baked, fried in a light batter, or added to stir fries. It is best to eat some of the male flowers, leaving the female ones to produce fruit
  • Leek or garlic flowers – garnish summer soups or salads
  • Rocket – gently spicy, sprinkle over rice dishes or baked potatoes
  • Beans and peas – many are colourful and make a tasty addition to leafy salads.

Edible flowers from your herb garden

All culinary herb flowers are edible and generally taste like a milder version of the leaves.

  • Dill and fennel – a delicate lacy look and a mild aniseed flavour
  • Borage – vivid blue, has a hint of cucumber and looks brilliant in summer drinks
  • Basil, mint, rosemary and thyme – all work well sprinkled over cooked vegetables just before serving
  • Chives (purple) – use them to add an extra dash of flavour and colour to potato salad; garlic chives (white) are a good partner for green beans
  • Lavender – make a tea by infusing a very few freshly picked flowers in hot water, or use to make lavender biscuits.

Edible flowers from the hedgerow

  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) – the flower buds are said to taste like mushrooms when they are fried in butter
  • Elder flower (Sambucus nigra) – adds a muscat flavour to stewed fruit such as gooseberries and makes great fritters dipped in batter and fried
  • Primrose (Primula vulgaris) – use to decorate cakes or trifle
  • Sweet violet (Viola odorata) – pretty sprinkled over puddings.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) – use either the petals themselves (a bit on the bitter side) or unopened flower buds; said to taste like globe artichokes, to which sunflowers are related.

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