Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Plant Based Diet: 16 Edible Flowers to Grow

Search

Plant Based Diet: 16 Edible Flowers to Grow

June 19, 2018

The beauty of flowers sometimes makes us believe that appearance is all they have to offer. But like other edible plants, flowers can bring to our plates (and glasses) elements of texture, aroma, and flavor. While some edible flowers have better looks than flavors (I’m looking at you, violas), many others have herbal or sweet personalities that make them valuable ingredients in everything from cocktails to salads to dessert.

Read on for 16 edible flowers that taste as good as they look.

Photographs by Marie Viljoen

Arugula (Eruca sativa)

 Allow your arugula to bolt just to enjoy its peppery flowers. In fact, skip the black pepper altogether when using these to finish a salad or enliven a creamy soup.
Allow your arugula to bolt just to enjoy its peppery flowers. In fact, skip the black pepper altogether when using these to finish a salad or enliven a creamy soup.

See more growing tips in Arugula: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

And not just arugula: all brassica flowers are edible. Upland cress flowers are wasabi-hot, and horseradish&#8
Above: And not just arugula: all brassica flowers are edible. Upland cress flowers are wasabi-hot, and horseradish’s white blossoms taste like the root in miniature form. Add them to your green gazpacho for a pop of pepper.

Barberry (Berberis)

Barberry is better known for its sour, late-summer fruit (and in the Northeast it is notorious for harboring ticks), but in early spring its pretty yellow flowers are a delectable treat. Drape them across vinegary boquerones as a bright appetizer, drop them into miso broth, or simply steep them in hot water for a fragrant tea.
Above: Barberry is better known for its sour, late-summer fruit (and in the Northeast it is notorious for harboring ticks), but in early spring its pretty yellow flowers are a delectable treat. Drape them across vinegary boquerones as a bright appetizer, drop them into miso broth, or simply steep them in hot water for a fragrant tea.

Begonia (Begonia)

Summer&#8
Above: Summer’s begonia flowers add an unexpectedly tart and crisp bite to any dish that calls for acid. I like to add the petals whole or torn apart to warm weather ceviches and cold soups. The sour flowers work very well in salads featuring thinly sliced fennel and warm potatoes (standing in for lemony sorrel).

See more growing tips in Gardening 101: Hardy Begonia.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

The clear blue of borage&#8
Above: The clear blue of borage’s sputnik-blooms sings cucumber. Drop the flowers into ice cube trays and freeze to chill a jugful of Pimm’s Cup. Or add a handful of the summer flowers to crushed chunks of cucumber dressed with slivered mint, salt and sugar.

See more growing tips in Borage: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Milkweed  (Asclepias syriaca)

A North American native perennial, milkweed is one of the most fragrant flowers of early summer. Adding common milkweed to your meadow garden will give monarch butterflies a boost (their larvae feed on its leaves).
Above: A North American native perennial, milkweed is one of the most fragrant flowers of early summer. Adding common milkweed to your meadow garden will give monarch butterflies a boost (their larvae feed on its leaves).

The unopened flower buds are a delicious cooked vegetable, and the fragrant open flowers can be fried into celebratory beignets. Milkweed cordial is a delicious drink, a deeply tinted dark pink; to make it, see Recipe: Milkweed Flower Cordial Captures Summer in a Glass.

Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria)

Its many common names (including bishop&#8
Above: Its many common names (including bishop’s weed and goutweed) are an indication of ground elder’s usefulness to humans. The flowers are assertively flavored: lovage meets carrot tops and celery heart. Ground elder is highly invasive, so this is not a perennial to cultivate; there is plenty around to harvest.
Scatter ground elder flowers across an early summer radish salad. The flowers infuse gin with their herbal fragrance, and also make a very good fresh herb salt.
Above: Scatter ground elder flowers across an early summer radish salad. The flowers infuse gin with their herbal fragrance, and also make a very good fresh herb salt.

Hyssop  (Agastache)

Hyssop has labiate (it belongs to the funnel-flowered mint family) blossoms that taste like peppermint or anise. Nibble to test.
Above: Hyssop has labiate (it belongs to the funnel-flowered mint family) blossoms that taste like peppermint or anise. Nibble to test.

The minty blooms are fantastic in fruit salads as well as mixed drinks, while the anise-flavored flowers work well in savory dishes, especially with grilled fish or in fennel-and-citrus salads. See more growing tips in Hyssop: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

June in my Brooklyn neighborhood smells particularly good: Japanese honeysuckle and linden trees bloom at the same time. Make a honeysuckle syrup by infusing a jarful of simple syrup with the flowers, overnight. Strain and keep in the refrigerator. Dilute with seltzer and a squeeze of lime for cool, long drink.
Above: June in my Brooklyn neighborhood smells particularly good: Japanese honeysuckle and linden trees bloom at the same time. Make a honeysuckle syrup by infusing a jarful of simple syrup with the flowers, overnight. Strain and keep in the refrigerator. Dilute with seltzer and a squeeze of lime for cool, long drink.

Lavender (Lavandula)

Best known as an aromatic and calming essential oil, lavender&#8
Above: Best known as an aromatic and calming essential oil, lavender’s fresh flowers add bold flavor to dishes ranging from home-cured duck prosciutto to infused syrup for ice creams. Add a teaspoonful of flowers with rosemary to a rub for your next grilled rack of lamb.

See more growing tips in Lavender: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Locust (Robinia)

North American native black locust flowers (Robinia pseudoacacia, which are actually white) are called acacia in Europe, and make the famous acacia honey (well, the bees make the honey). The flowers are richly fragrant as well as delicious.
Above: North American native black locust flowers (Robinia pseudoacacia, which are actually white) are called acacia in Europe, and make the famous acacia honey (well, the bees make the honey). The flowers are richly fragrant as well as delicious.

Dip them in a batter for a decadent fritter, or eat them raw in salads.  Southwestern R. neomexicana has pink flowers, and is equally edible.

Magnolia (Magnolia)

Your first bite of a magnolia blossom will be startling. It is not sweet at all, but wildly herbal. Pair it with strong flavors. Fish sauce, lime, mint. I sliver the succulent petals and toss them over grilled, sliced steak that has marinated in unpasteurized soy sauce. Or I infuse a good vinegar with the flowers.
Above: Your first bite of a magnolia blossom will be startling. It is not sweet at all, but wildly herbal. Pair it with strong flavors. Fish sauce, lime, mint. I sliver the succulent petals and toss them over grilled, sliced steak that has marinated in unpasteurized soy sauce. Or I infuse a good vinegar with the flowers.

Use large-petaled blooms (like endive in texture) as edible receptacles for a herbed chicken salad, or a shrimp cocktail.

Which magnolia tree would look prettiest in your garden? See our guide to Magnolias: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Wild Pea (Lathyrus)

Contrary to folklore, wild pea flowers (including Lathyrus latifolius, above) are not poisonous, but perfectly edible. Tossing a handful into a salad brightens the bowl and gives you that distinctively snap-pea freshness.
Above: Contrary to folklore, wild pea flowers (including Lathyrus latifolius, above) are not poisonous, but perfectly edible. Tossing a handful into a salad brightens the bowl and gives you that distinctively snap-pea freshness.

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)

This invasive shrub&#8
Above: This invasive shrub’s intensely sweet scent is welcome in late winter, when nothing else is in bloom. Its lemony fragrance is easily captured in an infused simple syrup (or vodka), and the flowers themselves offer a light and sweet crunch when scattered across a plate thinly sliced, marinated raw winter root vegetables.

Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), (W. frutescens)

Perfumed like musky grapes, the gorgeous blossoms of wisteria have a luscious texture as well as a typical raw legume sweetness.
Above: Perfumed like musky grapes, the gorgeous blossoms of wisteria have a luscious texture as well as a typical raw legume sweetness.

See more growing tips in Wisteria: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Wrap wisteria flowers in summer rolls (you can also use Solomon&#8
Above: Wrap wisteria flowers in summer rolls (you can also use Solomon’s seal, brassica, and chive flowers), add them to creamy tahini-dressed chickpeas, or ferment them to make fizzy drinks and even vinegar. The green parts of wisteria, including the bean-like pods, are considered toxic.

Wisteria frutescens is a North American native, and less aggressive than the invasive W. sinensis.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

These lovely early spring ephemerals have a seashore flavor—best raw—that makes me think of fresh oysters. Dress those shucked mollusks with the flowers and a floral sauce mignonette, or stir them through cold soba noodles with a slick of soy and sesame oil.
Above: These lovely early spring ephemerals have a seashore flavor—best raw—that makes me think of fresh oysters. Dress those shucked mollusks with the flowers and a floral sauce mignonette, or stir them through cold soba noodles with a slick of soy and sesame oil.

Yucca (Yucca)

The stalks of stately yucca (which belongs to the Asparagus family) give rise to midsummer flowers whose petals remind me a floral iceberg lettuce. Deploy them in exactly the same way. The pistil and stamens can be bitter, so nip them out of the large flowers if their flavor bothers you.
Above: The stalks of stately yucca (which belongs to the Asparagus family) give rise to midsummer flowers whose petals remind me a floral iceberg lettuce. Deploy them in exactly the same way. The pistil and stamens can be bitter, so nip them out of the large flowers if their flavor bothers you.

Tell us your favorite edible flower stories. What are you eating, and how?

When you grow the food you eat, it tastes better—and you know exactly what you are eating. Browse our Plant Based Diet archive for recipes. Don’t miss:

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

From our network