Don’t forget to stop and eat the roses! And the pansies… and the marigolds!
Flowers are food! Not only for the bees, but for humans too. While we tend to focus only on their aesthetic and aromatic appeal, we have forgotten that many of them are surprisingly flavorful, not to mention medicinal.
They’ve been used in a wide variety of cuisines around the world for thousands of years.
Ancient Romans and Greeks garnished their dishes with rose petals, Native Americans chewed echinacea flowers in sweat lodge ceremonies, chrysanthemums were used in ceremonial beverages and cooking in ancient China, while lotus flowers have played an important role in Indian cuisine since time immemorial.
Below is a list of flowers commonly found in American backyards, that you might not have known were edible.
Ancient Greeks, Romans and Persians all cooked with roses. Today their petals are commonly used in desserts, salads, beverages, jam and butter. They can be candied and thrown in granola, or made into a simple syrup and used to flavor into just about anything. They’re great for infusing honey and vinegar.
All 150 varieties are edible, but the darker colors tend to be sweeter.
Violet petals can and should be used in just about all the same way rose petals can. Their petals are sweet and their leaves taste like spinach, with twice the vitamin A of spinach and twice the vitamin C of oranges.
Lavender is goodfor not only aromatherapy, but taste-bud therapy. It’s great in baked goods, ice cream, herbal teas and cocktails. Lavender pairs especially well with chocolate, berries, citrus and savory herbs.
4. Marigolds (calendula)
It’s important to first note that only calendula marigolds are edible, not Flowers of Tagetes marigolds. They add a peppery pop to pastas, breads, salads, and iced teas.
Some varieties pansies have a lettuce-like, mildly sweet flavor, and some a more wintergreen flavor, making them great for savory dishes and desserts.
Daylilies are used in all kinds of Asian cuisine. The buds and flowers taste similar to asparagus. They taste great in soups and stir-fries and can even be made into stuffed fritters.
These bright orange and yellow flowers have a slightly spicy, peppery flavor similar to watercress. They go great on salads or as pickled snacks.
The tart flowers of tropical hibiscus flowers are most often used to make a dark pink tea, made even more delicious with tart and lime.
We hear more and more about the health benefits of all parts of this super-food “weeds” roots and leaves. The flowers are also tasty and nutritious. Dandelion flower wine was used by the Celts as a digestive aid. The flowers are colorful toppers to salads, especially dandelion green salads. They can also be fried, made into fritters or used in desserts.
10. Elderberry flowers
Elderberry flowers have a light, honey-like aroma and taste. They’re often used to flavor white wine, champagne, lemonade, iced tea, and other summery drinks. Strange as it may seem, these flowers are also fried and made into fritters.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the intoxicating scent of lilac, you can imagine how sweet they taste. They’re great in sweet treats, summery drinks, frozen yogurt and hot tea.
Not all flowers are edible, and some are pretty toxic (like daffodils), so be sure to identify and research before you taste!