In your cutting garden there is more than just cutting flowers. There’s food for the bees, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects. But there’s also food for you!
A lot of cutting flowers are edible. And while they aren’t a staple food, edible flowers add flavor, texture, and a fun touch of color and whimsy to many dishes, drinks, and desserts!
Here is a list of edible cutting flowers:
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Here is a list of edible cutting flowers:
- Asters: A good flower for fall, use only petals. They’re a bit bitter, so use in small quantities, in salads, as a garnish, and on cakes.
- Bee Balm: Use fresh in salads and as a garnish, or dry to use in the off season. If very dry, you can crumble them to make a colorful dusting on a cake.
- Breadseed Poppies: Harvest the seeds from their cool pods and use them in baking, sauces, and salad dressings.
- Calendula: Use fresh or dried in salads, sandwich fillings, and on cakes.
- Carnations and dianthus (e.g., Sweet William): Sweet with a clove-like flavor to add to salads and cakes. Remove the base of each petal to remove the bitter part.
- Chrysanthemums: Another fall flower to use; its dense array of petals hide insect visitors, so rinse well. Then remove the petals with your fingers and trim off the base of them, that’s the most bitter part of the flower. Overall, these are on the strong side, so you may want to use them sparingly.
- Cornflowers: (aka Batchelor’s Buttons) Beautiful blue flowers are excellent fresh, in their early bloom season and dried for later. Toss into salads, into sandwich fillings, bake into cakes and cookies for fun color, or decorate a cake with them for their rare blue color. Also, add to herbal tea blends for their flavor and color for visual appeal. Pull the petals off for use. Dry them in a warm spot on a screen or in a dehydrator.
- Dahlias: All are edible but not all taste good. Both the flowers and tubers are edible, so you can taste what ever ones you have to try them to see which ones taste good to you.
- Daylilies: The petals are edible but pull out the stamens and pistil and stamens because they don’t taste good at all. And be sure you have daylilies and not true lilies because lilies are poisonous!
- Echinacea: On the spicy side, some don’t like them. Try them to see if you like them before serving them. I like them, but I like anything that comes from my garden.
- Lavender: The flowers have the same strong flavor as the fragrance. The Munstead English lavender has what I think is the gentlest flavor. Any of the lavenders can be used in a variety of ways, fresh or dried. They can be dried ground and put into spice mixes, such as Herbes de Provence, used in cookies and pastries, fresh in salads, in cocktails, and more. Recipes abound on using lavender!
- Marigolds: I use the African marigolds for eating. The flowers are full and petals are plentiful. With a twist they tear off and are ready to use fresh as a garnish, in salads, and on cakes. Dry some to cheer up winter salads and cakes, too. Tangerine Gem and Lemon Gem marigolds are sold as culinary marigolds. They have more pungent flavors and are lower growing plants. I tried but didn’t like them. And the African marigolds are such good cut flowers.
- Ornamental oreganos: The flowers are edible and can be used as a garnish.
- Peonies: The petals are edible and big. Different varieties taste differently, some sweet and others spicier. So, try them. They can be used in salads, punches, and as a garnish.
- Roses: The petals are removed and used fresh or dried. The fragrance of the rose indicates how the petal will taste, and the stronger the fragrance the stronger the flavor. Except for the David Austin roses and a few other types. Cut off the bottom of the petals to remove bitterness.
- Saffron: Saffron grows from the saffron crocus bulb. Pull out the orange stamens that are in the light purple flower, which blooms in the fall. There’s usually 3 per flower. Dry them and store them in an airtight container for use in recipes.
- Safflower: Petals are edible fresh or dried. When dried the petals are sometimes used as a “substitute” of a filler for saffron, but they do not have flavor. I strongly recommend against this but do recommend using them for garnishes and salads for their orange color. Besides, you can grow your own saffron—it’s easy!
- Snapdragon: Edible! They are a bit bitter, as is the bitter greens we love in our salads, so use snapdragons instead when you have them.
- Sunflowers: The whole plant is edible, but you can just pick the petals off and use them in salads, and as a garnish.
- Yarrow: (This applies to the common yarrow Achillea millefolium, not the Achillea fillipendulina) These flowers have an herbal flavor with a little kick of oregano. good both fresh or dried, in teas, cocktails, or in pasta dishes. Use the youngest flowers for best flavor.
- Zinnias: Use the petals. They’re a bit bitter but use that to perk up a salad or a sandwich or a cake
There are so many other edible flowers you may have in your landscape already
And since you’re gardening, many other bedding flowers and herb flowers are edible, too! Here’s a list of edible flowers you may already have in your garden or that you may want to add:
Herbs and Veggie garden plants with edible flowers:
- Agastache: There are many different species of Agastache. All are sweetly aromatic and all the flowers are edible, so is the foliage. You’ll get a taste of the flavor by gently rubbing the foliage and smelling the oils left on your fingers. Use fresh in salads, sandwiches, as a garnish, and to decorate a cake.
- Basil: When your basil starts blooming in summer you can use the flowers to garnish and add flavor to salads, sandwich fillings, and drinks, including lemonade.
- Borage: This is a flower that easily gets out of hand, but its flowers are loved by bees. They’re blue and fuzzy and have a flavor similar to cucumber making it a great addition to summer salads or as a garnish for cooling summer drinks.
- Chives: The pretty pink chive flowers lend a chive taste to salads, sandwiches, and appetizers. More: infuse them in white wine vinegar for a pretty pink, chive-flavored vinegar for table use!
- Mint: Trim the flowers off the stem when your mint flowers and toss them onto soups, salads, and drinks.
- Oregano: They offer the flavor of oregano with some extra color to many fresh dishes.
- Thyme: Nice clusters of thyme flavored flowers add color to salads, soups, and sandwiches.
- Sage: The flowers add their herb’s flavor to fresh dishes with the extra pizzazz of their color. Note: the edible sages are the Salvia officinalis and all its varieties. But also, Salvia elegans, the pineapple sage and its varieties are edible…red flowers tasting like pineapple!
- Rosemary: Add rosemary flavor with much less of the intensity of the foliage. You can even candy them and add them to cookies, quick breads, and cakes.
- Lemon Verbena: Add fresh sprigs of lemon verbena flowers to drinks, punches, and cold soups for extra lemon flavor.
- Citrus: All citrus flowers are edible and they all taste about the same. Add them to anything that can use a citrus touch. But remember you are sacrificing fruit by taking the flowers.
- Violets: Eat fresh or candy them for confections.
- Pansies and violas: Use fresh in salads and on cakes. Or candy them for confections, cookies, and cakes.
- Nasturtiums: Peppery leaves and flowers add a kick to omelets, salads, and sandwiches. Use fresh only.
- Squash/pumpkin, Cucumbers, and melon flowers: They each taste similar to their vegetable. Pick the male flowers so you can get the fruits from the female flowers. The female flower has the infantile bulb of a fruit at the flower base and the male is straight.
And less common ones: Chervil, angelica, arugula, chamomile, chicory, clover, dill, dandelion, fennel (or wait till the seeds ripen and collect them!), and dill all have edible flowers.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’ve included the flowers most likely to be in a cutting garden.
Here is a brief list of flowers commonly found in home landscapes (again, not exhaustive)
But here is a brief list of flowers commonly found in home landscapes (again, it’s not exhaustive):
Other landscape and bedding plants:
- Begonias: wax and tuberous are best. These are crunchy with a note of citrus, nice with salads, sandwich fillings, and on cakes.
- Impatiens: the cultivated ones, not the wild ones in North America
- Sweet Alyssum