Yes, dear friends, we think it’s time for us all to consider growing flowers in our “yardens” (yard-gardens) for food. Why? Well, other than all the good they do for other critters that need flowers to survive (and who we need around for our own survival), flowers are delicious, packed with nutrition and best eaten within hours of picking. This high degree of time-sensitivity between harvest and optimal ingestion means that you won’t find fresh edible flowers in your local grocery store. The good news: this understanding should give you yet another reason to grow food on whatever parcel of dirt you have access to, even if that’s a simple window pot.
How to Eat Flowers
Not all flowers are edible, so just as with learning to drive, you have to know the rules of the road: when to stop, go or yield. Be warned: once you start driving, you’ve got a lifetime of fun and adventure ahead of you.
There are thousands of varieties of edible flowers to choose from and nearly infinite numbers of ways to eat them raw, cooked, dried or in teas. At Tyrant Farms, our flowers tend to get eaten about 2.5 seconds after picking them or added to a fresh salad full of equally fresh herbs, berries, salad greens and other veggies.
So, rather than try to review all of the edible flower options that we grow or that are available to you, we’re just going to share a few of our favorites and ask you to share any of your favorites that we didn’t include in our list using the comment section at the bottom of this page. So, without further ado…
Our Favorite Edible Flowers
Spring/Summer Month Flowers (*we live in Greenville, SC USA, aka Agricultural Zone 7B, so what you can grow will vary depending on where you live)
There are multiple sub-varieties of each of the species below. Unlike modern industrial agriculture, nature seems to love biodiversity.
- Nasturtiums – These are a beautiful, low-growing flower ideal for the front row of any garden bed. Nasturtiums have so many benefits: their leaves (which look like miniature lily pads) are also edible, offering a wonderful sweet-peppery flavor to any salad. The flowers are stunningly beautiful and slightly sweeter than the leaves, allowing them to do a spice & nectar dance on your taste buds. You can also grind up the seeds and use them in place of pepper.
- Fun Fact – Nasturtiums are great interplanted with other plants for natural insect control. They’re often used medicinally as an antiseptic or to clear congestion. Read more about Nasturtiums here.
- Lavender – These beautiful, knee-high herb grows small stalks of purple flowers in the summer that are not just great in food, but also delightful in teas that you can enjoy year round. They’re also a fairly hardy perennial, so the plant gets bigger and more productive each year.
- Fun Fact – You can put lavender flowers (dried or fresh) inside your pillow case or next to your pillow to help relax and go to sleep. Lavender has been used to treat pretty much every disease and ailment that has ever existed. Read more about lavender here.
- Borage – What’s great about borage? In a word: yum! This is one of our favorites to eat fresh right in the garden. It tastes like nectar with a subtle sweet pea aftertaste and the flowers are so purple they almost glow at night. They also make wonderful flower jellies.
- Fun Fact – For women looking for natural remedies to treat the symptoms of PMS or menopause, borage flowers might offer a great remedy. Read more about borage here.
- Cannas – One of our favorite edible landscaping plants, some varieties of cannas that we have at Tyrant Farms grow to be about 10 feet tall and have gorgeous tropical-looking flowers that taste mild and sweet (although our hummingbirds like them so much that we usually don’t eat them). They also produce large underground potato-like tubers that we use in soups and stews.
- Fun Fact – Canna tubers were once the staple food of the Inca Indians in modern day Peru. If you’ve ever seen “arrowroot flour” at a grocery store, you’re looking at the dried, ground powder from canna tubers. Read more about cannas here.
- Roses – Yes, a rose by any other name might very well be edible… and delicious. Many varieties of rose pedals are quite tasty. However, our favorite parts of our edible roses are the “hips,” the ripened fruit that comes after the rose flower has long passed. Get the right variety of rose and you’re in for a sweet & tangy edible delight that will pack you full of high quality Vitamin C. Two varieties that we’re excited about growing this year are Frau Dagmar and Rosa rugosa Alba.
- Fun Fact – Rose hips are used to successfully treat pain symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. For those interested in using rose hips for Vitamin C, eat them fresh off the plant since much of the Vitamin C is destroyed during processing and drying. Read more about edible rose hips here.
- Daylilies – Common in American landscaping, the unspotted orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) was originally imported to North America in the 1600s. It had the dual distinction of 1) being the only daylily on the continent for a few hundred years, and 2) having edible flowers and leaves. Since breeders began creating new varieties in the early 1900s, there are now non-edible daylilies, so be careful to make sure you’re eating a variety that you’re sure is edible (we mostly grow and eat the yellow Lemon and Hyperion daylilies). Many of the original edible orange daylilies have naturalized throughout the countryside and roadways where we live in South Carolina.
- Fun Fact – Many people enjoy cooking the small, young daylily leaves, which taste like a mild onion, but don’t eat too many because they can be a hallucinogenic. Yikes! Read more about daylilies here.
Fall/Winter Month Flowers:
- Johnny Jumpup Violas – These small plants produce some of the most stunning flowers you’ll ever see. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible, so you can make a full salad off of a single plant!
- Fun Fact – Johnny Jumpups have been used to treat epilepsy, asthma and eczema, plus they make an appearance in at least two Shakespeare plays: Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Read more about Johnny Jumpups here.
- Pansies – A close relative of Violas, pansies (a very commonly used landscaping plant) are small cold-hearty flowering plants that bring a splash of intense color to any winter yard not buried in snow. Eat their flowers and dream of warmer days.
- Fun Fact – Since the late 1800’s, the pansy has been the symbol of Freethought due to its resemblance to a human face which nods forward in the warm weather months as if in deep thought (hence the French origin of its name, pensée, which means “thought”).
Other Edible Flowers
Here is a list of other common garden plants with edible flowers (some of which we haven’t tried yet): Anise hyssop, Apple, Arugula, Basil, Bachelor’s button, Bee balm, Broccoli, Calendula, Chamomile, Chervil, Chicory, Chives, Chrysanthemum, Dandelion, Dianthus, Dill, Elderberry, English daisy, Fennel, Hibiscus, Hollyhock, Honeysuckle, Ice Plant, Lilac, Linden, Lovage, Marigold, Mint, Okra, Passion flower, Pineapple sage, Red clover, Rosemary, Sage, Scarlet runner bean, Scented geraniums, Signet marigold, Snapdragon, Squash, Sunflower, Sweet woodruff, Thyme, Tulip, Violet.
Warning: Never eat anything that you’re not 100% sure you’ve positively ID’d or you can get sick or die. The same rules apply with eating flowers. Also, only eat flowers that you’re certain were grown without pesticides. Actually, that rule applies to anything else you eat as well.
Thanks for reading, and as always Know It or Grow It!