Flowers have formed part of our diet for thousands of years. Chinese cooks were experimenting with edible flowers as far back at 3,000 B.C.E. and the Romans used violets and roses in their food as well as lavender in sauces. The practice is still going strong today, with many restaurants using petals to add a unique flavour and appearance.
But it’s not just restaurant chefs who can use flowers in cooking. You’d be surprised at how many edible varieties you can find in your own garden. Here are some of the most popular edible blooms, and ideas for how to use them.
Edible flowers are always best when picked fresh from the garden. They’ll taste even better if you can pick them early in the morning before they’ve had too much sun. But if that’s not possible, don’t worry. Put them straight in the fridge (in a plastic container) and try to use them within a few days. Wash and dry them gently by dipping them in a bowl of water and gently shaking. This should also help remove any bugs or bees that might have stowed away within the petals.
Speaking of the petals – these are the best parts of many edible flowers. So remove the heel at the base of the petal (it’s bitter), as well as the stamens, pistil and calyx of larger flowers. Some, like pansies, however, you can eat whole.
Here are only a small selection of the flowers and plants that you could find in your garden.
Flowers can be used as garnishes. They are alsocan be dried and then cooked in Asian cooking.
All Dahlia flowers and their tubers are edible. You'll find the flavours and texture can vary due to the soil conditions. The flavours found to range from water chestnut through to carrot and spicy apple.
Best infused in a tisane with lemon juice and zest. The peppery scent and colour are a good pick me up.
Ideal as a green or fruit salad garnish. They look decorative when inserted into jelly or crystallized. The berry's are edible and can be made into jam.
The best part to use is the rolled up leaf as it emerges in the Spring. Cooking depends on the size. Small ones can be fried for a couple of minutes as well as being good in stir fries. Thicker ones are better boiled.
The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and added to salads. The plant is an ingredient of the drink, Vermouth.
The flowers are the only edible part of the plant that can also be made into an aromatic wine.
Intensely fragrant flowers that are traditionally used for scenting tea. Can also be added to shellfish dishes.
NOTE: Only Jasmine officinale is edible. The others are of a completely different genus which are poisonous for human consumption.
Mix fresh flowers with a little cream cheese and serve on crackers. Stir flowers into yogurt, add a hint of lemon. Can also be used as a garnish for cakes, sweets and scones.
Just some of the poisonous plants that you should never eat.
Daffodil – Eating any part of a daffodil will cause distress due to the toxin, lycorine.
Poppy – Give these a wide berth as all poppies are poisonous.
Foxglove – These contain naturally-occurring poisons that affect the heart.
Oleander – The whole plant is highly-toxic – one of the most toxic garden plants in fact.
Clematis – Mild, but toxic, contact with clematis (mouth or skin) can cause irritation.
Bluebell – All parts of the bluebell contains toxic glycosides.
Rhododendron – Its toxins can impact heart rhythm and blood pressure.
Larkspur – Its toxic alkaloids are fast-acting and potentially life-threatening.
Hydrangea – The small amount of cyanide in Hydrangeas make them dangerous.
Lily-of-the-Valley – Pretty, but they contain convallatoxin, which should not be ingested.