Edible flowers have been used as side dishes and flavorings for thousands of years. The flowers are a good source of vitamins. They may taste sweet, spicy or nutty. The small amount of pollen contains protein and the nectar is a natural source of sugar. Several varieties of edible flowers can be grown in Georgia, including annuals and perennials, as well as weeds. The flowers should be harvested in early morning before the bees and insects deplete the supply of nectar. The pistils and stamens should be removed from most flowers to prevent a possible allergic reaction. Edible flowers should not be treated with pesticides or any other chemicals. Flowers should not be used from roadsides or florists because of possible chemical contamination.
Although many people consider dandelions (taraxacum officinale) weeds, some people grow them for their many uses in foods. Young dandelion leaves are used in salads; older leaves may have a bitter taste. Dried leaves and flowers are used to make tea. The flowers are also used to make wine. Boiled dandelion taproots taste similar to turnip roots. The taproots are also pickled.
Daylilies are grown as food crops in China and Japan. All parts of the plant are edible, but the flowers are used most often. The green flower buds taste somewhat like green beans. The buds and flowers are used in salads or cooked as a side dish. Withered flowers are dried and used to thicken soups and sauces. The young shoots have a sweet flavor when cooked. The roots have a nutty flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Nasturtiums have a spicy, peppery taste similar to watercress. The flowers and leaves can be used in salads, vinegars, sauces and vegetable dishes. The pickled seeds are called capers.
Rose petals have a delicate flavor and are used in salads or as garnishes. The petals are crystallized in sugar or preserved in syrup for use as a flavoring or garnish in sweet dishes. Dried petals are used to make tea or to flavor deserts. Rose hips (berries) are eaten raw or cooked. They are also used to make tea or to flavor jams and jellies.
Violets (Viola species) are used in salads, vinegars and jellies. They are use as garnishes on deserts and vegetable dishes. The foliage can be steamed like spinach.
Wild garlic and wild onions (allium species) may be weeds in the lawn, but they can be used the same way store bought garlic and onions are used. The wild varieties often have a stronger scent and flavor than store bought ones do, so a smaller amount will be adequate. The young greens are eaten raw or added to salads, but the older greens are tough and bitter. The cloves or bulbs can be chopped and added to stews, soups, sauces and vegetable and meat dishes.