Incredible Edible Flowers: A Simple Guide to 11 Blooms You Can Gather and Grow
By Alicia Upton on 25/04/2022
Edible flowers are among the most beautiful thing you can place on your plate. Whether you’re decorating cakes or sprucing up salads, there's a bloom for every occasion. From the beautifully floral wisteria to the perfectly peppery nasturtium, there's a whole rainbow of petals to pick from.
You’re most likely already eating flowers without realising- did you know that broccoli is actually a flower? It’s a fact that might well convince the kids to at their vegetables…
We’ve put together a list of our favourite edible flowers, both for beauty and flavour. These are all plants you can gather or grow yourself and will often find already thriving in your neighbourhood. So grab a basket or some gardening gloves and get out there!
Season: Early Spring
Toxicity: Don’t eat the leaves!
Vive le violet! These edible flowers have it all: flavour, beauty and folklore.
There's an impressive legacy of history and folklore hiding behind the violet. Don't be fooled by its bowed head- this shy bloom is no wallflower. From the French Revolution to the realm of fae- these flowers have bloomed through it all. Uncover it's secrets with a Foraging Fairytale.
When it comes to flavour, these blooms can be divisive. The Parma Violet debate is a perfect example- these are often considered the marmite of the sweet world! Using these blooms in the kitchen is simple, the flavour is perfect for a huge variety of sweet treats. We love infusing this flavour in vinegar for an unexpected twist- you’ll find the recipe here.
Season: Early Spring
Edibility: Flowers- See more here
The Marvellous magnolia is a truly spectacular edible flower. It's unique in flavour and flower, and has quickly become a family favourite.
The Magnolia family is one of the oldest on earth. Archaeologists have found magnolia fossils dating back 95 million years- a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The flowers also bloomed long before bees had buzzed into existence. This explains their upright, candlestick flowers and thick petals. Before bees, pre-historic beetles would pollinate this beautiful bloom, wondering flower-to-flower to nibble on nectar.
Bees have long, thin tongues that allow them to access nectar and pollen without damaging the blooms. These beetles, however, had a less delicate approach. They would tuck into the Magnolia's pineapple-like centre, showering themselves in pollen which they then transferred by wandering between blooms. Because of this less specialised approach, Magnolias evolved to have thick petals, to protect against wandering munching.
The Magnolia’s distinctive gingery flavour lends itself to a variety of uses. We’ve enjoyed pickling it in a sweetened white wine vinegar, to create a local, seasonal alternative to sushi ginger. It’s also proven to be a hit in a cocktail- click here to find our thoroughly tested recipe for a Magnolia Martini. The petals are also well suited to decorative use.
Flavour: Subtle and leafy
Season: Early Spring
Dubious Doppelgangers: Poison Primrose (Toxic)
Primroses are a classic spring flower, beloved by many. They’re easy to identify and great to gather with kids!
These delicate edible flowers have an impressive legacy of folklore, having long been associated with fairies. It was once believed that placing a bundle of primroses would protect against the mischievous whims of fae folk and earn you their blessing. Clumps of primroses in wild spaces were also said to signify a gateway to the fairy realm. If a wanderer rubs their eyelids with a primrose salve, it was said that they could step through the doorway into the other world.
Primroses are also an ‘ancient woodland indicator’. This means that they thrive in forests that are over 400 years old. So if you see a cluster of primroses on your next woodland adventure, perhaps alongside some Bluebells and Wild Garlic, the chances are that you’re standing in a rare and magical place: an ancient woodland.
When it comes to flavour, primroses contribute little of note. What makes them special is their beauty! They instantly beautify any cake, biscuit or plate they touch. In the past, we’ve enjoyed sugaring them to add a little sweetness, and used them to decorate spring cakes.
4. Cherry Blossom
Season: Early Spring
Dubious Doppelgangers: Other blossom trees (apple, almond etc)
The explosion of cherry blossom is a sure-fire sign that spring is arriving. These edible flowers provide a breakfast buffet for the first pollinators of the season, and a welcome sign of approaching summer to the streets of cities, towns and villages alike.
These delicate blooms are most commonly associated with Japan, where many make the pilgrimage to the annual cherry blossom festivals. Families, friends and lovers alike spread out their picnic blankets and hold Hanami parties, where they dine beneath the ethereal canopy of a thousand blossoms.
When it comes to flavour, these flowers have a distinct, but delicate almondy flavour. We’ve enjoyed making Cherry Blossom Jam Tarts with our community in the Kitchen Table Revolution, and infusing the flavour into syrups to swirl into cocktails, Turkish delight and iced teas.
Season: Early Spring
Edibility: All parts of the plant are edible, from root to bloom
Dandelions are one of our favourite edible flowers to gather. They’re easily identifiable and just so pretty! This makes them great for picking with kids.
The Dandelion’s rather grand name comes from the French ‘dent de lion’, meaning lion's tooth. While these golden flowers might not bite, if you look closely you’ll find that the individual petals do look like the tooth of a lion.
There are tons of uses for this gorgeous edible flower: from dandelion root coffee to dandelion flower honey, which we recently made with our members in the Kitchen Table Revolution. If you’re looking to make the most of these beautiful blooms: take a look at our recipe for Dazzling Dandelion Fritters. They’re the perfect snack for a spring picnic!
Season: Late Summer - Autumn
Edibility: Flowers, Leaves and Buds.
Nasturtiums are one of our favourite edible flowers. They're vibrant, flavourful and just so easy to grow!
The greens are high in vitamin C- so much so that sailors would take picked nasturtium buds (or ‘poor man's capers’) with them on long journeys. They also came in handy during WW2. Families would gather, dry and grind the leaves to use as alternatives to pepper when stocks ran low.
So, if you’re looking for a savoury edible flower to pimp up your plate, look no further! These beautiful blooms really are like sunshine in a flower.
These Gorgeous flowers have a beautiful peppery flavour, well suited to salads and savoury plates. We recommend using all parts of the plant- why not whip up a pesto with the leaves and use the blooms to decorate a unique pasta dish?
Flavour: Slightly peppery salad green
Season: Early Spring
Dubious Doppelgangers: Other members of the viola family (edible)
These beautiful blooms come in a rainbow of vibrant colours, meaning there’s a petal for every plate! They have a slightly peppery, very “green” flavour.
Greek mythology credits the creation of these flowers to Zeus, King of the Greek Gods and notable philanderer. Zeus’ fell for Io, a beautiful maiden, and began an affair. Needless to say, his wife Hera was not best pleased. To protect Io from the wrath of his wife, Zeus transformed the lovely Io into a cow. As a parting gift, he made the earth yield edible flowers to bring her joy, and sweeten her new diet of grasses and herbs.
Whatever their dubious origin, we love using pansies in both sweet and savoury dishes. They have the incredible power to beautify the most simple salads or starters and are sure to impress guests at any dinner party. If using these edible flowers to decorate cakes or desserts, you can sweeten these flowers by sugaring them.
Season: Early Spring
Dubious Doppelgangers: Buddleia (not edible)
The flavour of the Lilac is deliciously floral, much like the scent of the blooms. There are over 1000 varieties in the lilac family: from towering trees to small bushes. You’ll find they also come in a variety of colours, including white, pink and purple.
These beautiful blooms have a legacy of folklore across the globe. In Greek Mythology, they are associated with a tale about Pan, God of the Wild. The story tells us how Pan was chasing a nymph named Syringa. Ashe began to gain on her, she transformed herself into a lilac bush to protect herself. Pan, angered by her escape, broke off several of the lilac’s branches. As his rage subsided, he was filled with remorse and began to kiss the hollow branches. As he did so, the air from his lips brushed over their tops and ‘Panpipes’ were born.
Their structured petals wilt less readily than the delicate primrose, which makes them an excellent candidate for decorating cakes or puddings. Their perfumed flavour is also sweeter than that of the viola family, meaning they will bring their own profile to a plate.
Flavour: Herbal, fruity, floral
Season: Late Summer
Did you know you can eat heather flowers? They have a beautiful, complex flavour. Earthy and floral, with undertones of woody spice. This delicious flavour, paired with the vibrant purples of the flower and their gorgeous scent makes heather one of our favourite edible flowers.
Heather ale has been brewed in Scotland since 2000 BC - the nectar of the flowers fuelled the fermentation process. Sadly, the original recipe for heather ale was lost when the Vikings invaded the Picts in the fourth century. Legend tells that the vicious Vikings slaughtered all but the King and his son, whom they cornered on a clifftop.
They offered them salvation, on the condition that they shared the recipe for their legendary heather ale. The Vikings tortured the pair for a short while, after which the King appeared to break. Promising the recipe if his Son was allowed a swift death. However, the King had no intention to share the recipe. After his Son had passed, he grabbed the Viking chief and hurled them both over the cliff edge, taking both the recipe and his foe to their watery graves.
While this ancient recipe might be lost, there are plenty of recipes that make the most of this gorgeous edible flower. Whip up a simple heather syrup to add a gorgeous depth to cocktails, or sprinkle the flowers over cakes.
Flavour: Delicately floral, leafy
Season: Spring - Early Summer
Toxicity: Do not eat the leaves or seeds.
Dubious Doppelgangers: None
Wisteria is one of spring's most fabulous edible flowers. They’re not just beautiful, they’re edible too! LIke honeysuckle, the nectar tipped stamens of this purple powerhouse are delightfully sweet. Overall, the flowers taste sweet, floral and a little leafy.
In Japan, Wisteria is thought to protect against demons. The mid-point of the towering Mount Fujikasane is covered by Wisteria flowers, to prevent the demons that lurk in its caverns and crags from descending into the towns and villages below.
More recently, they have become associated with Netflix’s Bridgerton, where we see regency era London draped in sashes of lilac wisteria blooms. Even in today’s London, you’ll find elegant townhouses festooned with a waterfall of purple flowers, wafting their delicate scent on the breeze. These plants can grow to hundreds of years old, seeing generations of homeowners pass through the doors.
Pairing with sugar is a great way to highlight the wisteria's delicate floral flavour, and soften its “green” undertones. You can infuse this flower into a simple syrup and use it to sweeten desserts and cocktails. The flowers also make beautiful decorations. Why not drape them over a cake?
Elderflowers are an icon of summer. When it comes to edible flowers, you'll be hard-pressed to find one finer!
They have a huge legacy of folklore across the globe. Take a look at our elderflower blog to discover more!
They have a heady, sweet perfume that’s known for intoxicating passers-by. It tastes just as divine as it smells! Traditionally, elderflower is known to make excellent cordial and wine. We know that it’s well suited to both sweet and savoury dishes!
Want to learn more about elderflower foraging? Join us on the picturesque Kent coastline for our wonderful Elderflower Foraging Workshops this June 2022.
Can’t make it to Kent? Don’t worry! Take yourself on a literary adventure with our bestseller, Elderflower Festival. You’ll uncover long lost elderflower folklore, learn to forage for blooms safely and sustainably and discover a myriad of mouthwatering recipes to help you use and preserve the flavour in new and exciting ways. Discover more here.