Adding edible flowers to your garden provides food for humans and pollinators alike – and adds beauty to any landscape. Here are some of our favorite edible seasonal flowers.
Flowers sure are nice to gaze at and smell. Bees, other beneficial insects, and hummingbirds like them too. But flowers as food for people?
Yes, we think it’s time for us all to consider growing edible flowers in our “yardens” (yard-gardens) for food. Why?
Well, other than all the good that flowers do for other critters who need flower pollen and nectar to survive (and who we need around for our own survival), flowers can be delicious and packed with nutrition.
What’s the most challenging part about growing edible flowers?
Most edible flowers are best eaten within 6-12 hours after picking. After that, they tend to become limp and less palatable.
This high degree of time-sensitivity between harvest and optimal consumption means that you’ll rarely if ever find fresh edible flowers at the grocery store.
The good news: if you grow your own edible flowers, you don’t have to worry about the deficit at your grocery store — and you can eat your edible flowers within minutes of harvest!
How to eat your edible flowers
Not all flowers are edible, and some flowers are even poisonous! As a first rule, don’t ever eat anything (flowers included) that you’re not 100% certain are safe to eat, whether from your garden or foraged wildflowers.
Thankfully, there are thousands of varieties of edible flowers to choose from. And there are edible flowers that will grow in virtually any climate and season.
Across all the varieties of edible flowers available, there are nearly infinite numbers of ways to eat them: raw, cooked, dried, candied, made into cordial, or used 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 are available to you, we’re just going to share a few of the favorites from our garden. After all, a full list of every edible flower would include thousands of plant species!
Our Favorite Edible Flowers
Edible flowers for spring and summer months
We live on the outskirts of Greenville, SC (Agricultural Zone 7B). Edible flowers you can grow in your garden will vary depending on your Ag Zone.
There are multiple sub-varieties of each of the species below.
Nasturtiums are a beautiful, low-growing flower ideal for the front row of any garden bed in the spring – early summer. Nasturtiums have so many benefits!
- Nasturtium 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 spicy nectar dance on your taste buds. You can also grind up the seeds and use them in place of pepper or pickle the immature seed buds after the flowers have been pollinated.
Nasturtiums are great interplanted with other plants for natural insect control. They’re often used medicinally as an antiseptic or to clear congestion.
Lavender is a beautiful, knee-high herb that produces small stalks of purple flowers in the summer. Lavender flowers aren’t just great in food, they’re also delightful in teas that you can enjoy year round. The plants are fairly hardy perennials, so they get bigger and more productive each year.
Many people like putting lavender flowers (dried or fresh) inside their pillow cases or next to their pillow to help relax and go to sleep.
What’s great about borage? In a word: yum!
Borage is one of our favorite edible flowers to eat fresh right in the garden. They taste like nectar with a subtle sweet cucumber aftertaste. Borage flowers are so purple they almost glow at night. They also make wonderful flower jellies.
Cannas make a strikingly beautiful edible landscaping plants. Some varieties of canna we have at Tyrant Farms grow to be about 10 feet tall and have gorgeous tropical-looking red flowers that taste mild and sweet (although our hummingbirds like them so much that we usually don’t eat them).
Cannas also produce large underground potato-like tubers that we roast or use in soups and stews. In fact, canna tubers were once a staple food crop for the Incan civilization in modern day Peru.
Yes, a rose by any other name might very well be… food (and drinks).
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.
We love edible roses so much, that we have an entire article talking about how to grow, harvest, and use them – plus top recommended edible rose varieties.
For those interested in using rose hips for Vitamin C, it’s best to eat them fresh off the plant since much of the Vitamin C is destroyed during the cooking process.
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:
- being the only daylily on the continent for a few hundred years, and
- having edible flowers, leaves, and tubers.
Since breeders began creating new hybrid varieties in the early 1900s, there may now be 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.
Small, young daylily leaves taste like a sweet mild onion, but don’t eat a huge pile of them because they can be mildly hallucinogenic!
Edible flowers for fall and winter months
1. Johnny Jumpups / 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!
Viola flowers taste like lettuce crossed with wintergreen, and offer a delightful silky texture.
Pansies are basically a bred variety of viola. They’re much larger and come in a huge array of colors and sizes.
They’re a cold-hardy flowering plant that bring a much-needed splash of intense color to a winter yard. Eat their flowers and dream of warmer days.
Interesting pansy fact: since the late 1800’s, pansies have been the symbol of Freethought due to their 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 we enjoy:
- anise hyssop,
- bachelor’s button,
- bee balm
- Brassica flowers (including kohlrabi, broccoli, kale florets, etc)
- elderberry/elderflower (which make an amazing sparkling cordial)
- English daisy
- ice plant
- passion flower
- pea flowers
- pineapple sage
- red clover
- scarlet runner bean
- scented geraniums
- signet marigold
- sweet woodruff
Warning: Never eat anything that you’re not 100% sure you’ve positively ID’d. Also, only eat flowers that you’re certain were grown without pesticides.
Now go grow and enjoy some edible flowers!
Other edible flower articles you may enjoy:
- Hibiscus: a tasty addition to your edible landscape or yard
- How to make sparkling elderflower cordial
- How to have your butterfly garden and eat it too
- Three of our favorite wild edible flowers of spring
- Stop and eat the roses
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SustainahillbillyMarch 12, 2013 at 11:51 pm
Greenville got switched to zone 8a recently, though perhaps you’re on the colder side of the county and still count as 7b? Don’t worry… just add more pavement. 😉 http://www.appalachianfeet.com/2012/02/28/how-to-find-out-if-your-usda-plant-hardiness-zone-changed/
Love your edible flower post! Didn’t see redbud trees on here and that’s a really good one, too. Plus you can eat the early seed pods in the same recipes as snow peas. Later on, the dried seed pods can be eaten like lentils (but aren’t easy to harvest).
AaronMarch 13, 2013 at 12:23 am
[email protected]: Yep, you downtown Greenville folks are now 8a, but we’re 7b a mere ten miles away in 29617. It’s always interesting driving in to town this time of year and seeing the noticeable difference between how much further along spring is there versus out here in the “country.” Also, our morel spots downtown have been 7-10 days ahead of our spots out here, so the Ag Zones do seem to correspond with reality, at least in this area.
Thanks for the addition of redbuds! You and Nathaniel are going to have to walk us through that one a time or two, as we have not had pleasant experiences thus far. Perhaps it’s a matter of knowing exactly when to harvest. We’d love to know your redbud secrets since we have several mature redbud trees in the forest behind Tyrant Farms that we’d like to be able to develop a better relationship with. 🙂
Jennifer ReeseMarch 12, 2013 at 6:01 pm
Our 10-year-old Great Dane loves to eat flowers, especially roses! We asked our vets (who are also our neighbors) if it was safe for her to eat them, and they said, “Well, we know she’s getting plenty of Vitamin C!” We have to be careful on walks because she will casually stroll over to a yard with roses & help herself to a “to go salad” if we let her. 🙂
AaronMarch 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm
Ha! Smart dog! The fresh roses have much more bio available vitamins than the powdered supplements.