Edible flowers are the annuals and perennials that can add taste, colour and a little excitement to sweet and savoury dishes and fruity summer drinks.
In this guide to edible flowers, we will learn more about where you can find them, how to pick them and the different ways they can be used. We’ll also provide an ultimate list of edible flowers in the UK so you don’t miss a trick!
So, join us as we explore the world of edible flowers and learn more about this colourful, creative and flavourful world where food and floristry collide.
What are edible flowers?
Quite simply, edible flowers are flowers that you can eat. This practice has been around for more than 5,000 years, with Chinese cooks experimenting with edible flowers in their food and sauces. Now, with people spending more time in their gardens and really caring about the origins of the food on their plates, more of us are taking an interest in edible flowers than ever before.
Edible flowers can be sprinkled on a salad, candied for a cake or cooked into a curry. They can even be used to add a welcome twist to your summer cocktails. Whatever you choose to use them for, they’re sure to add some colour, spice and taste to your plate.
Why use edible flowers?
The use of edible flowers in cookery is much more than an elegant finishing touch to boost the aesthetic appeal of a dish. Edible flowers can be powerful ingredients in their own right, with many having distinctive flavours and being packed with antioxidants that can make them a worthwhile addition to any plate. The key to using edible flowers successfully is knowing how to pick and prepare them and which blooms and buds are the perfect accompaniment to your dish.
How can you use edible flowers safely?
Before you go rummaging in your garden, you must do your research and learn what flowers and what parts of those flowers are safe to eat. Here are a few simple rules that you can follow:
1. A lot of flowers look similar, so only pick a flower to eat if you’re completely sure of its identity.
2. Usually, it’s only the petals of the flower that are edible, so be sure to remove the stems, stamens, pistils and calyx of edible flowers.
3. If you’re buying edible flowers rather than growing your own, always make sure they come from a reputable source.
4. When picking edible flowers, always wash them thoroughly before use. You should avoid eating shop-bought flowers or flowers from the roadside that could have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals.
5. If you suffer from hayfever or a pollen allergy, always remove the stamen of the plant before you eat them.
How to pick and prepare edible flowers
Edible flowers in the UK are best picked fresh from your garden and used within a few hours. However, if that’s not possible, pop them into a plastic container and put them straight in your fridge. There they’ll stay fresh for at least a couple of days.
Edible flower dos:
1. Pick young buds on dry mornings before they’ve had too much sun and when their taste and colour is most intense.
2. Use flowers immediately whenever possible. Frozen and dried flowers should be cooked.
3. Wash the flowers thoroughly before use to remove stubborn insects and residue.
4. Introduce edible flowers into your diet gradually as they may aggravate allergies.
5. Separate the flower petals from the rest of the flower shortly before eating to reduce wilting.
Edible flower don’ts
1. If you’re in doubt as to whether or not a flower is edible, DO NOT EAT IT!
2. Do not use pesticides on edible flowers. If you have problems with pests then cut the flower back to encourage regrowth. If you do have to use a pesticide, only use products that are labelled for use on edible crops.
3. Don’t pick faded, dirty, old or discoloured flowers in your garden that are near the road or areas that are used by animals.
4. Share your edible flowers with the bees and other insects. Do not take all of that vital nectar and pollen away.
The ultimate edible flowers UK list
Although comprehensive, there are edible flowers that are not included in this list. If you find one that you think we’ve missed, please research it thoroughly before you eat it.
●Agastache - Both the young leaves and purple flowers can be eaten
●Angelica - The flowers and stronger tasting leaves are good to eat
●Apple - Only try flowers from trees that have not been sprayed
●Arugula - Enjoy its spicy white or yellow flowers
●Basil - The leaves and whole flower are edible
●Begonia - Tuberous and wax begonias have edible flowers with a sharp citrus flavour
●Bergamot - The flowers and young leaves have an intense minty flavour
●Borage - Its furry leaves and blue, star-shaped flowers have a cooling, cucumber-like flavour
●Calendula - The flower petals of‘pot marigolds’ have flavours ranging from peppery to bitter
●Chamomile - Its daisy-like flowers have a vague ‘appley’ flavour
●Chervil - Both the leaves and white flowers had a liquorice-like taste
●Chicory - The petals of these sky-blue petals are perfect with salads and the unopened buds can be pickled
●Chives - These ball-like flowers can be separated and scattered onto salads
●Chrysanthemum - The edible leaves and daisy-like flowers have a tangy taste
●Cilantro - Otherwise known as coriander, this leafy herb’s white flowers have an intensely herbal flavour
●Clover - The edible flowerheads have a mild liquorice flavour
●Cornflower - Eat the beautiful blue flowers for a spicy, clove-like taste
●Dame’s Rocket - The petals can be added to salads and have a mildly bitter flavour
●Dandelion - The humble dandelion is entirely edible but only eat those found in chemical-free gardens
●Day Lilies - Lovely to look at and delicious to eat - the petals are sweet with a mild melon flavour
●Dianthus - The bright red and pink petals have a mild clove flavour
●Dill - The small, yellow flowers are stronger in flavour than the leaves
●English Daisy - The flowers have a bitter flavour but are entirely edible
●Fennel - The attractive, tiny flowers have a mild liquorice flavour
●Fuchsia - These bright, slightly acidic flowers make a great garnish
●Garlic - Pick these pink and white flowers for a mild garlic zing
●Hollyhock - These bright petals have no real flavour but they look great on salads and desserts
●Honeysuckle - The long flower tubes are edible but avoid all other parts of the plant
●Impatiens - Enjoy the sweet taste of these brightly coloured flowers
●Johnny-Jump-Up - Serve the whole flower on cakes and salads
●Lavender - The clustered flowers deliver an intensely floral flavour so use with restraint
●Lemon Bergamot - Use portions of the flower conservatively due to its bitter taste
●Lilac - The intensely floral flavour of these flowers means a little goes a long way
●Mint - The minty, edible flowers can be sweet and even lemon-scented
●Nasturtium - All parts of this plant have a sweet and peppery taste
●Pansy - The petals are highly decorative but have little flavour
●Pea - The edible flowers are perfect in salads but avoid the poisonous Ornamental Sweet Pea
●Primrose - These colourful flowers are bland but make summer salads pop
●Rose - Its intensely perfumed petals have a subtle and fruity flavour
●Rosemary - The deep pink and purple flowers have a similar taste to its leaves
●Safflower - These yellow petals look great in soups, salads and sauces
●Sage - These deep blue flowers have a mild, sage-like taste
●Sorrel - Their lemony flavour makes sorrel flowers perfect for salads and sauces
●Squash - The flowers of the squash and zucchini plants have a faint squash flavour
●Sunflower - Both the petals (quite bitter) and the unopened buds (artichoke-like) of the sunflower can be eaten
●Violet - Many varieties of violets are excellent for decorating cakes, drinks and salads
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