Most herb flowers have a taste that is similar to their leaves, but spicier. The use of edible flowers is not new; flower cookery has been traced back to Roman times. Today, many restaurant chefs garnish their entrees with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance.

To use the flowers, harvest the blossoms as you would fruit. The fresher the flower, the more flavorful its taste, so pick as closely as possible to food preparation time. All blooms should be thoroughly rinsed. If you are using whole-bloom flowers such as squash blossoms, nasturtium, or Johnny jump-ups, immerse them in water to remove any insects or soil. Then lay the flowers gently on paper or cloth towels and dab dry or gently spin dry in a salad spinner. If necessary, layer blooms between moist paper towels in the refrigerator until mealtime. Do not use flowers treated with pesticides.

The following are a few well-known edible flowers:
* Daylilies-Slightly sweet with a mild vegetable flavor, like sweet lettuce or melon. Their flavor is a combination of asparagus and zucchini.
* Hibiscus-Cranberry-like flavor with citrus overtones.
* Lavender-Sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. Flowers look beautiful and taste good.
* Pansy-Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals, the flavor is extremely mild.
* Roses-Flavor reminiscent of strawberries and green apples. Sweet, with subtle undertones ranging from fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavor being more pronounced in the darker varieties.

Thea Runnebaun, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service



You can see it now—your worst nightmare come true. Precious, innocent little Johnny has been in the process of discovering the outdoor world. Suddenly he swoops down, scoops up, and EATS that scrumptious-looking golden dandelion in the middle of the front yard!

Perhaps your fear can be allayed a bit by the assurance that the dandelion, along with many other often more desirable flowers in the garden, is completely edible. Although many people now include flowers in cooking today and think that they are being progressive, flowers have consistently been used as a delightful source of nutrition, flavor, and color in food dishes throughout the ages. The culinary use of daylilies, for example, dates back to the ancient Chinese.

Many flowers frequently found in East Texas landscapes, such as roses, marigolds, pansies, and violas, can be numbered among this group. The usefulness of these flowers is endless, and many recipes are readily available. Caution is, of course, advised, because although a great many flowers are scrumptious and safe, a good many others, such azaleas and oleanders, are poisonous. Also, one must be careful to avoid using pesticides on the plants that produce flowers that will be used for consumption.

Before experimenting, look for references on edible flowers, and on poisonous plants to learn what you can and cannot eat. Then, the next time that Johnny decides to nibble on something from the flowerbed, you might try a taste too.

Rebekah Frasier, former Smith Country Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service



The tradition of eating certain flowers is a long one. They have been used not only for decoration but also for flavor in a variety of foods.

* Using flowers or flower petals in salads produces a striking appearance and an unusual taste. Flowers to try in a green salad include chives, marjoram, nasturtium, borage, and pot marigold petals.
* Another common use of edible flowers is to crystallize them for decorating desserts. Lavender, borage, pansies, hearts-ease, and johnny jump-ups are all great flowers to use. To crystallize flowers, paint them with lightly beaten egg white, sprinkle with super-fine sugar, and let dry.
* Rose petals also have many uses. They can be crystallized or used to make rose petal jelly. Many Southern cookbooks have recipes.
* Zucchini and daylily blossoms can be dipped in batter and fried – a delicacy that’s enjoyed in many parts of the country.

Various seed companies offer packets which contain a selection of some of the most commonly used edible flowers. The exact contents of these packets vary based on company and season. Edible flowers can be planted in the kitchen garden or harvested from the ornamental garden. As with anything eaten from the garden, care must be taken when using pesticides.

Carmen Mulraney, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service



Try this okra cousin for the beauty of its hibiscus-like flowers and the fruit which is used to make into Jamaica tea or drinks. Best of all, use the flesh calyx and very young fruit to make a jam that makes a great cranberry sauce substitute.

You can grow rosella or Jamaica flower just like okra as it is an annual that makes an ornamental plant that is three feet high and two-to-three wide. Since it is a tropical, it loves our long, hot summers. Start it in the garden after the soil is warm and frost is well past. It requires good soil, good drainage, and lots of water, but not too much fertilizer.

Pick the fruit a day or two after the blooms fold. They should be less than an inch long. You can store them in the refrigerator until you have enough. For your sauce, grind or chop the fruit with calyx left on, add a bit of lemon juice and sugar, and cook down into a sauce.

David Gay, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Annuals, Roses