From Hendry County Extension Service, University of Florida
by Gene McAvoy
Hendry County Horticulture News
Edible Flowers - Have Your Flowers and Eat Them Too
notion of edible flowers may call to mind an idyllic vision of the
lotus eaters referred to in Greek mythology. Actually the consumption
of flowers may not be as strange as it may first appear. Broccoli and
cauliflower are both edible flowers.
Flowers have traditionally
been used in many types of cooking: European, Asian, East Indian,
Victorian English, and Middle Eastern. Early American settlers also
used flowers as food. Today, there is a renewed interest in edible
flowers for their taste, color, and fragrance. Edible flowers can be
used fresh as a garnish or as an integral part of a dish, such as a
Squash flowers can be fried in light batter or cornmeal. Some
flowers can be stuffed or used in stir-fry dishes. Edible flowers can
be candied; frozen in ice cubes and added to beverages; made into
jellies and jams; used to make teas or wines; minced and added to
cheese spreads, herbal butters, pancakes, crepes, and waffles. Many
flowers can be used to make vinegars for cooking, marinades, or dressings
for salad. Herbal flowers normally have the same flavor as their
leaves, with the exceptions of chamomile and lavender blossoms, where
the flavor is usually more subtle.
Be sure to exercise caution,
not all flowers are edible; some may taste bad and some are poisonous.
Eat flowers only if you are certain they are edible. A flower is not
necessarily edible because it is served with food. The flowers of most
culinary herbs are safe to use.
A partial list of flowers that
are considered to be edible includes apple, arugula, basil, calendula,
chamomile, chives, chrysanthemum, dill, elderberry, hibiscus, lavender,
lemon, marigold, mint, nasturtium, okra, orange, pansy, passion flower,
rose, strawberry, water hyacinth, water lily and yucca.
decide you might want to broaden your diet to include flowers, remember
that pesticides for use on fruits and vegetables have undergone
extensive testing to determine the waiting period between treatment and
harvest and potential residuals on food. Pesticides used on flowers and
ornamentals have not been evaluated to determine their safety on food
crops. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, garden centers, or
flowers found on the side of the road. Consume only flowers that you or
someone else have grown specifically for that purpose. If you have hay
fever, asthma or allergies, it best not to eat flowers since many
allergies are due to sensitivity to pollen of specific plants. It's
best to introduce flowers into your diet one at a time and in small
Growing edible flowers is essentially the same as
growing flowers for ornamental purposes. Most flowers require a
well-drained soil with a pH around 5.5 to 6. Soil test. Use a 2- to
3-inch layer of mulch to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture, maintain
uniform soil temperatures, and reduce the amount of soil splashed onto
the plant during a heavy rain. Irrigate to keep plants actively growing
and flowering; most plants will need 1 inch of water per week. If
possible, avoid overhead irrigation because moisture on the leaf
surface for extended periods of time can increase the chances of
disease development. Irrigating with a soaker hose works well.
for pest control should be avoided. Hand-pick harmful insects.
Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and praying mantids, can be
used to decrease insect populations. Growing different flowers together
provides diversity to support a good beneficial insect population and
keeps pest problems low. Many gardeners locate their edible flower
garden away from other plants to avoid chemical spray drift. Many
edible flowers can be successfully grown in containers.
can vary with growing conditions and cultivars. Marigolds are bitter
nasturtiums have a peppery flavor. Conduct a taste test before
harvesting large amounts of a particular flower. Flowers should be
picked in the cool of the day, after the dew has evaporated. For
maximum flavor choose flowers at their peak. Avoid flowers that are not
fully open or that are past their prime. To maintain maximum freshness,
keep flowers cool after harvest. Long-stem flowers should be placed in
a container of water. Short-stemmed flowers, such as orange blossoms,
should be harvested within 3 to 4 hours of use, placed in a plastic
bag, and stored in a refrigerator. Damp paper towels placed in the
plastic bag will help maintain high humidity.
Because pollen can
distract from the flavor, it's best to remove the pistils and stamens.
Pollen may cause an allergic reaction for some people. Remove the
sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. For
flowers such as calendula, chrysanthemum, lavender, rose, tulip, and
yucca, only the flower petals are edible. The white base of the petal
of many flowers may have a bitter taste and should be removed from
flowers such as chrysanthemums, dianthus, marigolds, and roses.
flowers may or may not be the thing for you. However, if you try
flowers and find that they are not to your taste, with some advanced
planning, you will still be left with a lovely cutting garden. Good
luck and good gardening.
Other Edibles General Page