Eat the Rainbow: Edible Flowers for Beautiful Meals

There’s a shortage of parents who tell children to eat their flowers.

It’s always fruit and vegetables that get the glory of parental harping.  (And even though my 3-year-old son is growing up on a farm, there are still a handful of vegetables we have to convince him to eat—these days it’s potatoes and cooked spinach).  Edible flowers are a different story.  Their bright beauty draws him in, and it’s completely normal to see him stroll through the field eating dandelions.

Just yesterday, he picked a bouquet of dandelions and told me to put it in a cup of water.  Then he promptly told me to eat them.  I’d say he asked me to do these things, but in reality he’s more of a director than a permission-seeker.  In the long-term, I think this instinct will serve him well.  Right now, it teaches me how to infinitely increase my patience.  But that’s another topic altogether.  Now back to edible flowers…

I’ve seen lists of up to 42 flowers that are safe to eat, but I’ve yet to try all of them.  While there are many out there, it’s important to be sure that a flower is in fact edible before eating it.  Do a little research.  If you’re one for field guides (and I am) I recommend both the Peterson’s Guide to Edible Wild Plants and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.  Most garden varieties will note on the seed pack if they are edible.

My favorite edible flowers:

  • Calendula
  • Nasturtium
  • Chives
  • Anise Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Dandelion
  • Borage

These flowers are easy to grow (we all know you don’t have to do anything for dandelions to grow!).

Here are my favorite ways to eat (or drink) them:

Calendula

This bright flower adds a splash of beauty to salads, and is commonly used in herbal teas.  To make a calendula tea, boil water and pour over fresh flower heads or 1-2 tbs dried flowers; let it steep for 10 minutes.  Also known for it’s skin-healing properties, you can infuse calendula in olive oil to use as a base for homemade salve.

Nasturtium

This flower has a spicy kick to it and is great on salads or stuffed with goat cheese.

Chives

Another salad all-star!  Adds a ball of purple beauty and onion flavor to salads.

Anise Hyssop

Both the leaves and flowers are edible on this licorice tasting herb.  Infuse the leaves for tea and sprinkle the flowers over cake for a sweet decoration.  (Note: as long as we’re eating our fruits, vegetables, and flowers, we should eat cake, too).

Lavender

My favorite relaxation herb!  Not only does lavender’s scent instantly calm me, it’s also delicious in baked goods (see note above about cake).

Dandelion

Dandelion roots, leaves, and flowers are all edible.  Use the flowers to adorn salads, or make dandelion fritters (or do as my son does: just pluck the petals and eat them while sauntering through and open field.  It’s quite bucolic).

Borage

These blue-purple flowers taste like fresh cucumbers.  Ilove them most added to cold water on a hot day.  Make borage ice-cubes by adding 1-2 flowers per section of water.  When frozen, use these to add a cooling cucumber flavor to your drinks.


 

nasturtium flower kale salad

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