I get a lot of questions related to sourcing and using edible flowers. Here are a few of the things I do to ensure I have a supply throughout the year.
I like to use edible flowers - both fresh and dried - in my cooking. The fragrance, the color, the range of petal shapes - it all makes them irresistible to me. Spring and summer are when I encounter the widest range of edible blossoms, and because I get a lot of questions related to sourcing and using edible flowers, I thought I'd write up a few of the things I do to ensure I have a supply throughout the year.
Before consuming any flower, check with a medical or plant expert. You need to know exactly what you’re consuming. Also, please keep in mind, not all parts of the flower are edible, and some varietals should be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing. There are some many good online and offline references, so be sure to read up.
Books About Edible Flowers
Books about edible flowers are a great way to learn about this rich topic and there are some wonderful new titles available. These are a few to look for:
- Edible Flowers: How, Why, and When We Eat Flowers by Monica Nelson — I contributed a miso soup with chamomile recipe to this beautifully comprehensive title from the founding creative and photo director of Wilder Quarterly. The book highlights 100 edible flowers arranged alphabetically along with recipes from a wide range of chefs and cooks. And, if you’re looking for an even deeper dive, there is a fantastic list of related books on the topic in the back of the book.
- The Edible Flower: A Modern Guide to Growing, Cooking and Eating Edible Flowers by Erin Bunting
- Eat Your Flowers: A Cookbook by Loria Stern
- Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers by Miche Bacher
- The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy (1999)
Where to Buy Edible Flowers
Farmers’ markets are a great place to buy edible flowers. Ask if you don’t see them displayed. Because they are fragile, farmers often keep them in a cooler. Beyond that, you can sometimes find them in the produce department of certain grocery stores, typically refrigerated near the herbs.
Grow Your Own Edible Flowers
The most economic way to source edible flowers is to grow them yourself. Harvesting flowers from your own yard is incredibly rewarding (and beautiful!). Chive flowers, thyme and oregano flowers, lemon blossoms, and rose geranium are in bloom at different times throughout the year in our yard. They’re often the perfect accent that makes a salad or cake extra special. Look for plants at your local nursery or chat with any plant seller at your local farmers’ market, they often focus on edible varietals. There are also seed packets of available online and at garden centers.
What Are Some Common Edible Flowers?
Hibiscus, camomile, rose, violet, calendula, chive, basil, thyme, zucchini blossom, and nasturtium are commonly used in cooking, baking and beverages. There is a more comprehensive list below. Keep in mind, not all flowers are edible, some are poisonous, and proper identification is essential. Again, not all parts of the flower are edible, and some varietals should be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing, so please read up with some of the references I link to up above.
What to Make with Edible Flowers
I’ve included a number of the things I've learned down below, in the section that normally hosts the recipe. One of my favorite things to do, with certain edible flowers, is simply dry the petals. These organic rose petals (pictured) are about halfway through the process of drying, instructions below. They lose an incredible amount of volume as they dry, so even if you feel as if you're starting with more petals than you could possibly use, keep in mind you'll end up with far less than when you started.
There are many amazing cooks and chefs working with edible flowers. One of my favorites is April Valencia at Masa Memory.
The #edibleflowers hashtag has nearly a million posts. You’ll see a lot of flower cookies, flowers on cakes, petals in ice cubes and the like. And then the occasional floral wildcard. Follow along to see the creative uses.
Rose Geranium Lime Sugar
One of the most prolific plants in my yard is a rose geranium. Sprawling out every year from a shallow pot, it determinedly sends up pretty lilac-shaded flowers. Keep an eagle eye out for rose geranium at your local nursery, the leaves perfume the world around them - perfect for infusing sugars, alcohol, and baked goods. I included a recipe for this rose geranium sugar in the Spice / Herb / Flower / Zest PDF I made for members of this site. You can find it in your account if you’re a member, or sign-up to be a member here.
I've included more ideas and information in the recipe section below. Please let me know if you have other favorite edible flower ideas, uses, or references. I saw a rose petal paste the other day that looked incredible, and I'm always looking for other ideas, techniques to explore. On the list to try: Lilac Honey, Lilac Ice Cream or Lilac Sugar, & chive blossom vinegar xo -h
Here’s a rose petal granola, and a beautiful rhubarb rosewater syrup. These buttermilk berry muffins are dusted with rose cinnamon sugar. And I like to infuse iced green tea with a bit of rose in the infusion. Lastly, here’s a post I wrote about how to dry herbs, many of the best practices related to edible flowers applies here as well. Enjoy!
- any quantity of edible flowers
You basically have two options - you can buy them, or grow them. If you buy them, be sure to seek out organically grown flowers free of any spray or pesticides. If you grown them yourself, keep in mind you'll eventually be consuming them, so treat them accordingly.
hibiscus, rose, rose geranium, violet, calendula, chive, basil, thyme, cherry blossom, zucchini blossom, and nasturtium. Keep in mind, not all flowers are edible, some are poisonous, and proper identification is essential. Again, not all parts of the flower are edible, and some varietals should be avoided if you are pregnant or nursing, so please read up with some of the references I link to up above. On the rose front, heirloom varietals are broadly thought to have better flavor and fragrance, with newer roses often bred for appearance rather than flavor (fragrance).
Once cut, I tend to keep flowers in clean water until I'm ready to use them. They typically last this way from 1-5 days, with regular refreshing of the water. I'll trim or pluck petals from the vase as I need them. If I get the sense I might not use them entirely while fresh, I move to dry them before they go bad. (instructions below)
Drying flowers requires patience and a bit of space. I'll start by saying I haven't had luck drying flowers in a low-heat oven. The petals quickly lose color and vibrancy. Instead, I arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave them for about a week, using your fingertips to toss them every day or so, or until dry and crisp. I usually wait until they seem completely dry, and then give them another couple of days to rid themselves of any residual moisture I might not be able to sense. At this point transfer to a tight jar or container.
Please refer to the list of books about edible flowers in the post about for more information and inspiration.
Post Your Comment
I have an edible flower salt grinder that came in a set from Trader Joes. It was a Christmas present, and I haven't been sure what to do with it. It's the only I have that is still full.
Thanks for all the tips. I was just trying to source some yesterday to make summer ice cubes with. This post helped a lot.
I´ve read you can also make a small bag with muslin and hang inside your petals in a dry and warm place for a couple of days shaking it. Of course it should be a small ammount. For bigger leaves like sage and lavender i just hang a bunch of them in a dry place over my kitchen and they dry perfect.
did you see the pickled rose petal recipe in the may MSLiving? it seemed almost absurd ... and almost addictive. looked like a cinch to make, and wow, did it light up the look of a platter of grilled zucchini, doused in olive oil and mortared with feta. HS: Looking feverishly for last month's MSL.....
I want to put in a good word for lavender flowers. Although I've enjoyed growing them in the past for their beauty and fragrance, I've never dried my own. I purchased what I envisioned would be a small amount of blossoms marketed explicitly as edible and have been drawing from the same batch for years. I use them primarily when brewing tisanes (herbal teas).
I make rose petal jam and rose petal syrup. I also use fresh rose petals on top of cakes. The rest get dried!
A lovely post Heidi. Flowers just add so much to the look and scent of dishes. In the UK steenbergs.co.uk do good quality edible dried rose petals and lavender, in fact I've just ordered more of the rose petals to make a fresh batch of your gorgeous granola. Last year I grew nasturtiums to eat the flowers but I must admit I didn't have much luck as they just did too good a job as a companion plant to my veggies and got covered in little black aphids. Apparently the trick is to plant another nasturtium just for eating along way from your veg plot. I'm currently planning to build a greenhouse later this year and this has got me wondering if that might work as a good place to dry petals.
Lovely ideas! My nasturtiums are just blooming all over the garden as we speak :). I'll be honest, I use basil flowers almost as much as leaves - I love their strong taste and they are easy to get into salads when I'm feeling lazy!
Talking about edible flowers, I love the Indian style stir fry. It is a pain & technique to clean the banana flowers, but I think it is well worth the effort. I have made it following my Mom's recipe. I can post if you like.
Do you have a good online source for purchasing edible flowers? I wanted to try your Mast-o-Khiar recipe some time ago, but could only find Rose hips at the store I go to (Central Market). Even at Amazon, they seem to have pedals, but I am not sure about their origin.
Hi Janine - I use a range and sometimes pick them up on my travels. Here is a link to some beautiful dried roses.
Heidi, this is special. I was just talking with my mom this morning about the fact that lilacs are edible. Who knew?! We've been pulling in lots of them up north here in Michigan and enjoying the scent, and I think the flavor would be divine. Can't wait to go after the cherry blossoms here next year, and the lavender this summer. Of course, with my Lebanese background I love Rose & Orange Blossom, and named my blog after them...how exciting to explore beyond those two.
I'm so glad you shared these tips on drying flowers! What a fun project!
bachelor's buttons, oregano, lavender, and mint flowers are others i use. there are so many! recently i was out of dried roses, so i made your rose petal granola with a mixture of wild violets and pink apple blossoms (pistils/stamens removed) from our land. epicurious has a great lavender scone recipe that is excellent with lemon curd. they also have a recipe for chamomile-infused whipped cream which is great with summer berries. for drying, i made a simple wood frame with fine wire. i've come across similar items at flea markets. thanks for sharing.
Beautiful! I haven't dared yet to cook/decorate with edible flowers, but I'm definitely going to grow some soon with your tips. Thanks!
I have edible roses in my garden and I make a very tasty rose petal jam.
hi heidi, this is lovely. do you have the new book by miche bacher? i also saw winnie abramson's post on lilac honey recently and wanted to try it. xo
HS: No, Shari - clearly I need to track it down! Will look for Winnie's post too. xo
What a timely post and a beautiful one! I just got a new cookbook about cooking with flowers and I've been amazed just reading the recipes. Havent tried any yet but need to. Beautiful images, Heidi!
I dry my flowers and whatnot on some old (clean) window screens. The increased circulation of air (since it can now get beneath them) tends to speed up the drying process.
The sage and kale are blooming right now. Both are very good in salad, as are the chive blossoms.
i just tried my hand at drying and pickling cherry blossoms and leaves this year, and am now drying a batch of chamomile flowers! now thinking i might dry some lavenders too when they are around. but wish i could try and dry rose petals too - would love to try rose petal jam i'd see a lot in poland!
HS: Hi Chika - you def. get some good blooms there. Maybe you could try with cherry blossoms or something more available in the summer there. Although the color on many of the rose petal jams is a complete knockout. xo!