The wonderous florets of cauliflower, broccoli, calabrese and artichokes are only the beginning when it comes to which flowers we’ll happily nibble on! Familiar faces such as pansies and nasturtiums are wonderful adornments for cakes, salads and more . Why not give some of these more unusual edible flowers a whirl too?
Are all flowers safe to eat?
Not all flowers are edible, some can even be poisonous, so stick to the ones on our list below or make sure you do your research thoroughly! Here are our top tips for choosing edible flowers safely:
- A lot of flowers look very similar, so only eat flowers if you are certain they are edible.
- In this guide the whole of each flower listed is edible, with the exception of calendula where only the petals can be eaten. Make sure you remove the calyx, pistil and stamens of these before consumption.
- If you suffer from hay fever, pollen or plant allergies either remove the stamen from the flowers before eating or avoid entirely.
- Avoid picking blooms from the side of the road or where they may have been sprayed with fertilisers or pesticides.
Calendula (pot marigold) The petals add a lovely bright-orange dash to plant and cooking pots alike. Sprinkle over salads or try using them with rice, where they bring a taste similar to saffron… for a fraction of the price! Be careful not to confuse them with marigolds (Tagetes species) which is best kept as a companion plant.
Viola Thanks to their fantastically long flowering periods, the pansy-like faces will bring a colourful, sweet and fragrant twist to salads from mid-summer right through to winter. They’re also a stunning addition to baked goodies and desserts.
Pansies Unlike violas, their taste is a quite savoury; slightly salty, peppery but fresh taste. Try adding them to cabbages, carrots and fish dishes in all their rainbowiness.
Borage Eating these beautiful blue flowers is said to make us more courageous by stimulating adrenaline release! Tasting a little like cucumber they’re brilliant in salads or frozen into ice cubes for summertime Pimms. They’re also supposed to help us forget our troubles… which coincidentally is a rather great side-effect of Pimms too.
Nasturtiums Curiously this super easy-to-grow flower is a cousin of the Brassica family, the young leaves, flowers and fresh seeds are edible and have a pleasant, sweet, peppery flavour. The leaves make a great pesto and the fresh seeds are super duper tasty when pickled like capers.
Cornflower With a slightly spicy, clove-like flavour and subtle sweetness their blue petals look especially lovely mixed with calendula in summer dishes. They’re wonderful sprinkled over ice-cream like confetti too!
Sunflower Not only do the large lemon-yellow petals look fab in salads, they also add a mild, nutty, bittersweet flavour. In fact, you can eat everything from root to leaf, sprout to stalk! Steam whole flower heads and eat them like artichokes, crunch on the celery-like stalks with hummus or peanut butter or steep the leaves for sunflower tea. After that there are the seed kernels which can be eaten raw or toasted… or share them with the birds!
Herb flowers The flowers of most herbs are edible; you’ll find they taste very similar to the leaves but usually a little stronger or milder. Fennel, dill, thyme, oregano and chive flowers are all rather delightful.
Courgette If you need a little easing-in to the idea of eating your floral friends, try courgette flowers stuffed with cream cheese, deep fried or simply steamed and marvel at their peppery scrumptiousness.
Top tiPS For using edible flowers
- Harvest young buds and flowers in the morning to keep their intense colours and flavours, before the midday sun can dry them out.
- When harvesting edible flowers, make sure you wash them thoroughly before use. Dip them in a bowl of water and gently shake to remove any stubborn insects that may be hiding inside.
- Flowers taste and look their best on the day of picking but you can pop them in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
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