How to Eat Edible Flowers
May 28, 2019 Virginie Maenhout By Virginie Maenhout

How to Eat Edible Flowers

Do you also get hyped when discovering glossy flowers mixed into your fresh salad? Or do you feel extra excited when you spot a fancy flower drifting on your mocktail? Nature gives us such beauty. But wait a second, is this flower even edible!? *Carefully reaches for flower, puts on the edge of the glass, carries on sipping*

Décor or Delicious?

You probably have seen flowers in your salad before.1 What did you do? Did you eat them, or did you just remove them to the side thinking they were just for decoration?

We’ll explore with you how to distinguish edible from non-edible flowers.

Mm, Delicious: Oh, the Flowers You’ll Taste

Edible flowers add a special taste to a variety of dishes. This explains their wide use in salads, soups, cakes, ice-cubes, teas, jams, dressings and drinks.

The tasty bit of the flowers usually comes from the petals. You should avoid eating the stalk as it could contain unpleasurable juice or can be difficult to chew. And remember: if you are allergic to pollen make sure to remove pistils and stamens.1,4,5

The taste varies widely from flower to flower. Chamomile can taste like apples, Begonia has a sharp citrus flavour, Calendula’s aroma goes from peppery to bitter, Day lilies have a melon, cucumber-like taste and Nasturtium’s flavour is sweet and peppery.5

But which flowers are edible?

The location can already give you a clue. In restaurants and bars, you might be more certain that the flower on your dish is edible (as they abide to HACCP rules1). 

Unfortunately, there are no specific characteristics to determine the edibility of a flower.3 The only certainty is in the Latin or botanical name of the flower. Once you know the name, you can easily determine the possible hazards in botanical books.3 Naturally you can also search by the flowers’ commonly used English names, but Latin gives you more certainty.

So, best to go and consult a flower expert in your midst or rely on your own advanced flower power Sherlock skills.

Then which flowers aren’t edible?


Eating a Lily of the Valley can evoke vomiting, stomach ache and diarrhoea

But first, what is the worst that can happen when you eat an inedible flower?2,3

  • Possible poisoning
  • Allergic reactions
  • Creates oversensitivity to sunlight
  • Vomiting, stomachache, diarrhoea
  • Induce lower blood pressure
  • Effect heart rate, weakened pulse in wrist

Ok, so…not nice.

Wild Flowers

In the wilderness, it’s hard to spot non-edible flowers. You need to be extra careful, because the leaves and stems of flowers can be poisonous. Keep in mind: there are no specific characteristics that indicate poisonous flowers or plants.3 But there are a few signs that you can’t (and shouldn’t) eat certain flowers:

  1. A big no go are shiny, thick leaves2
  2. Stay away from umbrella-shaped flowers2
  3. If a flower gives you minor skin irritation, it might give you minor gut irritation. And you don’t want that, do you?2,6

Store-bought Flowers

Do not eat flowers in bouquets purchased from florists or garden centres—they might contain pesticides!4,5 Pesticides are generally used to keep the flowers from being damaged by weeds, insect plaques or microbial diseases carried by animals.7  

Finally, don’t be fooled by Instagram or Pinterest food images with flowers8. Aesthetically pleasing? Yes. But edible flower? Not really.

Below you will find lists with common edible and inedible flowers.1,5,6,8

Give me a try Do NOT eat me
Basil Flower Aster
Begonia Bishop's Weed
Borage Blanket Flower
Broccoli Flower Buttercup
Calendula Daffodil
Chamomile Datura
Chicory Dill
Chives Digitalis
Clover English Yew
Dandelion Fleabane
Day lily Giant Hogweed
Dianthus Hyacinth
East Indian Cherry Hydrangea
English Daisy Iris
Fennel Leadwort
Hibiscus Lily of the valley
Hollyhock Mistletoe
Lavender Oleander
Marigold Rhododendron
Mint Water hemlock
Nasturtium
Pansy
Primula
Rose
Squash Blossom
Violet
Zucchini Flower

So now you’re ready to decipher delicious from décor. And next time you see an edible flower, I dare you to try and taste it!

References

  1. Gregory, A. (2016). Looks Great & Tastes Good Too: How To Grow Edible Flowers. 1millionwomen. Accessed on 15th April 2019.
  2. Hunter, J. (2019). How to Tell if a Wild Plant is Safe to Eat. PrimalSurvivor. Accessed on 6th May 2019. Wood, Z. (2017). Blooming tasty – edible flowers are summer's hottest food trend. The Guardian. Accessed 15th April 2019.
  3. Blindeman, L. & Van Beule, Y. Expert Interview, 3th May 2019.
  4. Kelley, K. (2007). A Consumer's Guide to Edible Flowers. Penn State Extension. Accessed 15th April 2019.
  5. Macdonald, M. (2019). List of Edible Flowers. WestCoastSeeds. Accessed on 15th April 2019.
  6. Strauch, I. (2017). Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and 7 Other Plants That Can Give You a Rash. Accessed on 15th May 2019.
  7. EPA (2017). Why we use pesticides. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Accessed on 6th May 2019.
  8. Wood, Z. (2017). Blooming tasty – edible flowers are summer's hottest food trend. The Guardian. Accessed 15th April 2019.