Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Growing Edible Flowers in Your Garden

by Charlie Nardozzi

While gardeners love flowers for their beauty outdoors in the garden and indoors in a vase, few raise them to eat. That’s a shame because many flowers are edible and bring lively flavors, colors and textures to salads, soups, casseroles and other dishes. Eating flowers is not as exotic as it sounds. The use of flowers as food dates back to the Stone Age with archeological evidence that early man ate flowers such as roses.

Of course flowers have been used to make teas for centuries, but flower buds and petals also have been used from China to Morocco to Ecuador in soups, pies and stir-fires. Rose flowers, dried day lily buds and chrysanthemum petals are a few of the flowers that our ancestors used in cooking. In fact, many of the flowers we grow today were originally chosen for the garden based upon their attributes of aroma and flavor, not their beauty.

Some flowers are high in nutrition as well. Roses—especially rose hips—are very high in vitamin C, marigolds and nasturtiums also contain vitamin C, and dandelion blossoms contain vitamins A and C.

Eating Flowers

Any flower that isn’t poisonous or causes reactions such as allergies is considered edible. However, just because a flower is edible doesn’t necessarily mean it tastes good. Since looks have as much to do with taste as the actual flavor, beautiful flowers tend to be the ones selected to eat. But before you go munching through the flower garden and window box, there are a few criteria you should keep in mind.

  • Be sure to positively identify a flower before eating it. Some flowers have look-alikes that aren’t edible.
  • Don’t eat flowers if you have asthma, allergies, or hay fever.
  • Only eat flowers that have been grown organically and have no pesticide residue.
  • Collect flowers for eating in the cooler parts of the day -- preferably early morning after the dew has evaporated --- or later afternoon.
  • Choose flowers that are at their peak, avoiding those that are not fully open or are starting to wilt.
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