While flowers are beautiful but did you know that they can be edible too?
Edible flowers are 95% water and contain almost no calories at all! They are, however, rich in vitamins and minerals. Roses, for example, are high in vitamin C (rose hips), while dandelion blossoms are rich in vitamins C and A. The leaves of the dandelion are loaded with iron, calcium and phosphorus.
One caution most sources give is that some flower blossoms, like some plants, can contain powerful allergens or even be poisonous. So it doesn’t hurt to do a little investigating before you start tossing tansy with your turnips.
Here’s a list of some of the flowers that are often considered to enhance a meal, usually in salad or as garnish but also in other ways too. From various sources, we’ve listed some common flowers that are used as edibles. We included some description and also information from Jonathan Lust’s The Herb Book as far as some of the healing properties these flowers have.
- Borage (Borago officinalis) – – McGranaghan: “We serve these a lot. It’s a star-shaped blue blossom. Easy to grow.” It has a light cucumber flavor. Lust: Flowers are medicinal, anti-fever, restores vitality in recuperation, diaphoretic, antidotal, calmative properties. Good for pleurisy and anti-inflammatory… – shouldn’t be used for long periods.
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Actually the marigold, but the ornamental variety is not the best for eating. Choose hybrids grown for such. Tastes a little like saffron, spicy, tangy, peppery, adds a golden hue to the plate. Lust: Anti-spasmodic, flowers good for colitis, cramps, ulcers; for fever and anti-nausea.
- Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) Has a faint apple flavor, good as a tea also. Lust: medicinal properties soothe asthma, help against insomnia, decoctions ameliorate toothache.
- Chicory (Cichorium intybus) Earthy, eat either the petals or the buds. Lust: digestive aid, good for spleen problems, jaundice, excellent appetizer as it stimulates appetite.
- Dandelion This dandy lion is the king of the nutrition jungle. Flowers are excellent tasting, leaves are wonderful in salads and sources tout the powerful blood purifying properties of the plant. Don’t eat the ones out of your yard if Chem-Lawn has you on their route!
- Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) Very bland tasting flavor. Lust: Used to soothe sore throat, can heal mouth inflammation.
- Lavender (Lavendula species) Floral, slightly perfumey flavor. Lust: Soothes migraine headache, flatulence, dizziness. Note: This is one of the blooms that some sources say may be harmful in large amounts.
- Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) My Omaha favorite. Has a distinct lemony taste with floral, pungent overtones. Great in salads.
- Common Mallow (Malva sylrestris) Has a sweet, delicate taste like – – guess what? — Yep, marshmallow. Chew the thick twig stem or use the blossoms. At certain times of the year when the twig stem is moist, you’ll swear you’re eating a marshmallow. Blossoms are sweet.
- Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) This is a McFoster’s regular. A delicate trumpet-shaped bloom. Buds are often pickled and used like capers. The blossom petals have a sweet, mildly pungent, peppery flavor. Tom Foster: “You can eat the stems like a stick of candy. They have a sweet but spicy streak to them.” You can serve the whole blossom as a salad garnish. Lust: Excellent chopped and blended with cream cheese or butter. Medicinal qualities include antiseptic, expectorant, good for chest cold, promotes formation of new blood cells.
- Rose (Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis) Rose petals have a sweet, aromatic flavor. The stronger the fragrance, the stronger the flavor. The lower (whitish) part of the petal is bitter. Rose hips are also edible. Note that rosehips are often included in supplemental vitamins as a premium ingredient. Lust: Remedy for headache, dizziness. Excellent blood purifier. Good source of Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants.
- Violets Hardly a shrinking addition to salads or floating gently in a bowl of soup. Sweet and subtle, the small blossoms are crunchy if served fresh.
There are a number of commonsense thoughts that should guide your diet regardless of its direction and the same holds true of eating flowers.
Some parts of blossoms have more allergens than the petals. You may want to avoid the internal workings such as the pistils and stamens where the pollen is formed and stored.
Eat in conservative amounts so that you know which flowers agree with you if you’ve never enjoyed trying them before.
Some flowers are just plain considered poisonous. Some of those are azalea, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, oleander, rhododendron, jack-in-the-pulpit, lily of the valley, poinsettia and wisteria.
Eat flowers from a proper source. You wouldn’t eat a hamburger you found lying by the side of the road. Don’t presume it’s ok to pick the flowers there either.
Quinoa Stuffed Squash Blossoms
Makes 6 servings
12 squash blossoms 1 cup quinoa 2 cups water
1 sweet red pepper, finely chopped 1 sweet bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon walnut or olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh snipped marigolds
salt and pepper to taste
1. Rinse quinoa to remove the coating of a bitter substance called saponins.
2. Bring 2 cups water to a boil
3. Stir in quinoa, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
4. Remove the pistils and stamens from the squash blossoms and rinse well.
5. Sauté the peppers and cooked quinoa in walnut or olive oil over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in the snipped marigolds.
7. Stir the quinoa and add salt and pepper (if desired).
8. Stuff the blossoms with some of the quinoa. Spread the remaining quinoa on a serving plate; place stuffed blossoms on the bed of quinoa.
Nutrition facts: 140 cal; 21gm carbs; 4gm pro; 4gm fat
For more great recipes with edible flowers, check out Herb and Wisdom