So much of what my family eats comes from my garden and lately I’ve been going further afield than my vege patch when sourcing food for the kitchen by looking to the flowers in my garden too. I love that edible flowers are back in fashion as they can really bring a ray of sunshine and a touch of whimsy to a plate. I’ve showcased some of my favourite ways to use edible flowers in my new summer annual A Free Range Cook: Celebrate Summer!
It’s so important to be super fussy about identifying edible flowers carefully though, as not all flowers are suitable for culinary purposes – see below for lists of edible and non-edible flowers.
When sourcing edible flowers make sure you’re buying flowers that are specifically labelled as edible
– and preferably organic. You’ll often find mixed packets of edible flowers at specialty food stores.
Avoid flowers from florists or garden centres as these might have been treated with sprays that aren’t safe for food crops. Flowers from the side of the road might have been sprayed too, so don’t use these either as you can’t be sure of their suitability.
Growing your own is a good way to be totally confident about your edible flower source. Avoid using chemical fertilisers or pest control sprays and to avoid any chemical drift plant them away from other plants that might require these products.
Pick flowers at their peak for maximum flavour and colour, and don’t harvest flowers that aren’t fully open or that are past their prime. Remove all stamens and pistils before using so that those with a pollen allergy won’t have a reaction and remove the white tip on rose, dianthus, marigold and chrysanthemum petals as these taste bitter. Keep them cool until you use them. To learn how to coat them in sugar for a special occasion see my Candied Petals tutorial.
Flowers are a great way to add colour, flavour and texture to dishes but are best used as a garnish
– even edible varieties might cause stomach upset if eaten in large quantities.
If you think someone has eaten a flower that they shouldn’t have, call the National Poisons Centre immediately on 0800 764 766 for advice. This is a 24-hour freephone service.
Herbs with edible flowers
Lily of the valley