How to Pick Edible Flowers

Indulge your tastebuds by eating pansies with your salad. image by Misocrazy/everystockphoto.com, Fred/everystockphoto.com, Nakae/everystockphoto.com, Randen Pedersen/everystockphoto.com, Normanack/everystockphoto.com, Com Evolution/everystockphoto.com

Overview

It's shocking how many flowers you can eat. You'll never look at a bouquet the same way again. Consuming flowers can be traced back to medieval Europe and to Native American times. Nowadays, eating a mixed salad with pansies and chrysanthemums is considered fun, taboo, exotic and a culinary indulgence. Important note: All flowers should be organic, meaning no chemicals, pesticides or sprays have been used on them.

Flower Research

Step 1

Picking an edible flower versus a poisonous one is serious business. Print out a list of both edible and poisonous flowers from Rosalind Creasy's "The Edible Flower Garden." She provides an extensive, well researched list.

Step 2

Decide whether you'd like to grow a small edible flower garden or head to a greenhouse or farmers' market to choose your flowers. Either way, you'll narrow down your selections to a few flowers that pique your interest.

Step 3

Each flower has specific directions for preparation. For example: With roses, you'll remove the bitter white part off the base of the petal. With squash blossoms, you'll need to remove stems, stamens and stigmas. Lilacs? Pick the heads off the flower soon after they open. Following Creasy's advice will save you from eating and cooking the wrong part of the flower.

Step 4

Flavor: Obviously each flower offers distinct flavors. Doing your research ahead of time can save your taste buds disappointment. Lavender, the rock star of edible flowers, has a strong lemony taste. It can be used in many ways, most notably in syrup, flavoring sugar, jelly, custards and in many desserts. In comparison, tulip petals offer a sweetness like a pea. "Mustard flowers add a bite to a mixed salad," Creasy says.

Step 5

If the idea of eating and cooking with flowers intimidates you, try an easy recipe like Nasturtium Butter (only four ingredients: butter, nasturtium flower and leaves, chive leaves). Other recipes that can be found in Creasy's book: Rose Petal Sorbet, Lavender Shortbread cookies, Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini Flowers and more.

Tips and Warnings

  • According to Rosalind Creasy, you should never risk eating any flowering plant unless it's on a edible list. Never make assumptions. Remember heating and cooking remove some toxins, not all. So don't think you can turn a "bad" flower into a "good" one. "Never use a flower as a garnish if it's not edible," Creasy says. Animals can eat plants and flowers that are fatal to humans. Here is a partial list of poisonous plants: amaryllis, autumn crocus, azalea, belladonna lily, bird of paradise, buttercup, clematis, daffodil, delphinium, foxglove, hydrangea, iris, lily of the valley, lupine, monkshood, narcissus, oleander, poinsettia, rhododendron, star of Bethlehem, sweet pea, wisteria.

Things You'll Need

  • Pots
  • "The Edible Flower Garden" by Rosalind Creasy
  • Soil
  • Seeds
  • OR
  • Access to a farmers' market or greenhouse
  • A recipe

References

  • The Edible Flower Garden; Rosalind Creasy; 1999

Who Can Help

  • The Edible Flower Garden; Rosalind Creasy; 1999
Keywords: edible flower, picking and eating flowers, eat flowers, edible flower recipes

About this Author

Michelle Bermas has been a freelance writer since 1994. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the "Boston Globe Sunday Magazine," "2008 Writer's Market," "The Social Cause Diet" anthology, "South Shore Living Magazine," "Hudson Valley Life," "The Boston Globe," "The Patriot Ledger Newspaper" and more. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Pace University, New York.

Photo by: Misocrazy/everystockphoto.com, Fred/everystockphoto.com, Nakae/everystockphoto.com, Randen Pedersen/everystockphoto.com, Normanack/everystockphoto.com, Com Evolution/everystockphoto.com