How to Use Edible Flowers from Your Garden

Freshen up meals with edible flowers found in your own backyard.

Please do eat the roses—plus the violets, pansies and daylilies. Many easy-to-grow flowers are both beautiful and delicious, adding delicate flavors and bright colors to fresh or baked foods.

Petals are the tastiest part of most flowers. The white base of a rose petal can be bitter, so tear or cut it off first. But feel free to eat entire squash blossoms, nasturtiums, violets, sage, pansies, chives and violas.

Keep in mind, though, that not all flowers are edible, so nibble only on those types you know are safe to consume. And always be sure to double-check that they’re grown organically—no pesticides, please.

How to Cook With Flowers

The absolute easiest way to use edible flowers is as garnish on plates or on soups. The tastiest way? Mix them in salads, dips, quick breads and butters. Spicy nasturtiums add a peppery bite to greens, while chopped petals look gorgeous blended into a sour cream dip or cream cheese spread. Add flavor to softened butter by stirring in snipped chive blossoms or tiny thyme flowers. Top a white frosted cake with colorful violas or sunflower petals. (Read more: 9 Peppers to Grow in Your Veggie Garden)

What Edible Flowers to Plant

Every year, sow seeds of flowering annuals such as nasturtiums, calendulas, pansies and violas, plus vegetables like zucchini squash. Perennials with edible blooms include roses and daylilies, plus herbs such as chives, sage, lavender and mint. (Read more: 9 Little-Known Herbs You Should Grow)

If you purchase a plant that’s blooming in a garden center, hold off on taste testing petals until new flowers form so you know for sure that they’re chemical-free.

These are the best plants to grow for a mocktail, cocktail or tea garden.

How to Store Edible Flowers

Because edible flowers wilt quickly, harvest them immediately before using. You can dry flower petals by hanging entire stems in a warm space with good air circulation, or by simply placing individual flowers or petals on a fine mesh. Store the dried blooms as if they were spices, in airtight glass containers kept in a dark space. Lavender is a favorite for drying.

Daylily petals are firm enough to be blanched in boiling water for three minutes, patted dry, cooled and kept frozen until you’re ready to use them in a meal. (Read more: How to Dry and Store Herbs)

Foraging Basics

It’s fun to find natural, free food. Just follow these guidelines.

  • Ask permission to forage on private property and public lands near you.
  • Be certain the food was grown without any chemicals or pollutants.
  • Leave some behind for wildlife and to renew the source.
  • Test new food in small amounts to learn if it agrees with you.
  • Pick carefully. One mistake could endanger your health. If in doubt, contact your county extension office.

Deb Wiley
Deb Wiley, a fellow of Garden Communicators International, is a writer and editor who specializes in gardens. Her wooded backyard in Des Moines, Iowa, is fenced against hungry hordes of urban deer.