Pretty Enough to Eat: Edible Flowers

by   Patricia St. John  , FAPLD  St. John Landscapes , Berkeley, CA

by Patricia St. John, FAPLD
St. John Landscapes, Berkeley, CA

How festive and fun to use edible flowers in dishes. There are many more edible flowers and ways to use them than we imagine.

Of course the ones that are frequently mentioned are nasturtiums, which I use for canapés with toasted thick crusted bread, seasoned cream cheese and top with nasturtiums, borage flowers, violas and snips of herbs. I use calendula flower petals and blue and gold violas to top an otherwise pedestrian tossed salad and sprinkled on cooked rice pilaf.

And as soon as summer comes around, I use rose petals in syrups and sorbets. Probably the most recognizable ‘herb’ for use in my culinary adventures is lavender. It finds its way in lavender cookies, lavender shortbreads, and lavender frosting on chocolate mini-cupcakes.

Actually all the herbs flowers are edible—what a bonus!

Below are some of my favorites that I use frequently—more complete lists can be found on the internet, with the following sites particularly interesting: https://whatscookingamerica.net/EdibleFlowers/EdibleFlowersMain.htm and https://www.chefs-garden.com/products/edible-flowers.

The first mentioned website reminds us not to eat flowers without tasting a small sample first, not to eat ‘roadside’ flowers and to make sure the flowers have been grown organically.

The following are lists from the mint and composite families and a selection of other families.

The Mint Family—Lamiaceae:

Click images to enlarge, hover for captions.

Not pictured:
Marjoram—Origanum majorana
Summer Savory—Satureja hortensis

The Daisy or Composite Family—Asteraceae:

Not pictured:
Chrysanthemum-Garland—Chrysanthemum coronarium
Marigold-Signet—Tagetes tenuifolia
Safflower—Carthamus tinctorius

Miscellaneous Edible Flowers:


Patricia St. John is currently teaching an Edible Landscaping class with Lawrence Lee at Merritt College in Oakland. This course explores the use and growing of edibles in the landscape and covers subjects  including soil preparation, fertilizing and composting, selecting heirlooms and hybrids, designing gardens with edibles integrated in an ornamental garden design, and carving out space dedicated to food crops.  They also research intentional food crops and learn about ornamental plants that have nutritional value also. They explore community gardens, edible school gardens, urban foraging, and second harvest groups. They learn how and what native American cultures knew about the land and its bounty, and explore a variety of crops central to various ethnic groups. They cover design principles as they relate to residential edible gardens and create one on paper.