The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Edible Flowers – A Tasty Treat

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

What flower should be eaten every day? Despite the senior President Bush's declaration of distaste, broccoli is a nutritious addition to any diet. Unlike meat products we generally do not ask for a flank of flower or a stem steak when it comes to vegetables. However, flowers can add flavor and color to any meal.

Flower flavors can vary from sweet to bitter. Look for recipes to try before you start grazing through your flowerbed. Also be sure you can positively identify a flower as edible. A few flowers that should not be eaten include iris, foxglove, hydrangea, morning glory and amaryllis.

Also be careful of common names. I had a client call once who casually told me she had made a spaghetti sauce using Russian sage. At first I'm thinking "ugh! Sage in spaghetti sauce?" then I thought, I'm not even sure if Russian sage is edible. It's culinary sage's "distant cousin who lives in another state". I asked her if her family was showing any signs of unusual behavior. She proceeded to tell me about her son's inability to eat foods unless they begin with the letter "S" so I figured all was right with the world.

Do not eat commercially available flowers from florists or garden centers unless you know they were grown for eating. Odds are these flowers were treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops. Beware of using roadside flowers. Grow edible flowers organically or only use pesticides with proper labeling and follow appropriate days between application and harvest.

Pick flowers in their prime. Store in refrigerator. Wash gently before use. Remove any interior pistils and stamens (the boy/girl parts). With flowers such as sunflowers or mums, just use the petals. As with any new foods, start out moderately. In other words don't sit down to a bowlful of daylilies the first time you eat them. Ok, enough of the fine print, on to the fun stuff.

A few flowers pretty enough to eat:

  • Beebalm, Monarda didyma - minty
  • Calendula, Calendula officinalis - spicy, peppery
  • Daylily, Hemerocallis spp. - sweet
  • Hollyhock, Althaea rosea - slightly bitter to bland
  • Signet Marigold, Tagetes tenufolia - spicy to bitter
  • Petunia, Petunia hybrida - green leafy
  • Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus - peppery
  • Rose, Rosa spp. - sweet
  • Snapdragon, Antirrhinum majus - bland to bitter
  • Sunflower, Helianthus annus - green leafy

Here are some recipes compliments of Donna Falconnier, U of I Extension nutrition educator. We have additional recipes in our office.

Hollyhock or Nasturtium Nibbles

3 dozen hollyhock, daylily or nasturtium blossoms – washed and drained

1 jar (5 ounces) cream cheese and pineapple spread

¼ cup whipped cream cheese with chives

¼ cup ham salad spread or similar salad

With a small spoon carefully stuff each blossom with a small amount of one of the three fillings. Line serving tray with nasturtium leaves if desired and top with filled blossoms. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Turkey Calendula Roll-Ups

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons low fat or fat free mayonnaise

1-tablespoon horseradish

2-3 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons diced sweet pickle relish

1 tart apple, peeled cored and finely diced

1-cup calendula or marigold petals

4 twelve-inch tortillas

8 ounces wafer thin turkey or ham slices

Lettuce leaves and calendula or marigold petals for garnish

In a bowl blend the cream cheese with mayonnaise, horseradish, lemon juice and pickle relish. Gently stir in apple and flower petals. With a spatula spread the mixture evenly over each tortilla. Cover spread with a single layer of turkey or ham. Roll filled tortilla, jellyroll style. Cut immediately or wrap tightly in plastic wrap to chill. To serve, cut to desired thickness and arrange on a serving platter over a bed of lettuce. Sprinkle with additional flower petals.

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