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Edible Flowers

A little while ago now, a customer asked me whether I knew much about what flowers are edible. Apart from a few common ones, I wasn’t particularly able to help. So I decided I would like to do some research and present some information for you.

DISCLAIMER: I have based this piece on articles written by respected herb growers and gardeners, however PLEASE always do your own research and ensure positive plant ID before consuming ANYTHING. Some plants can be highly poisonous, and others can cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivities. As a very generalised rule, avoid plants with white milky sap. Always use common sense and consume small amounts of anything new. There have been some cases of toxic reaction to some flowers listed as edible, due to local sub-species having developed a toxic compound due to different soil or climatic conditions, or hybridisation. Be cautious, only try a small amount (one or two petals) first time around. Avoid flowers that are bitter or caustic. Remember that edible flowers are primarily used as a garnish - don't go making an entire salad from your flower garden. No responsibility or liability taken for allergic reactions, tummy aches - or worse - from consuming flowers listed in this article!!! So when in doubt, leave it out!!

Herbs. All flowers of edible herbs are edible also. This includes basil, thyme, nasturtium, chamomile, edible sages (of which there are several varieties). Of course whether they are too woody or hairy to be of culinary value is another question altogether!!

Calendula (orange/yellow - see photo) and Borage (blue) are two of the more common edible flowers used. Flower petals look bright and colourful added to salads, or frozen in iceblocks and added to summer drinks. (Kids find this fascinating!)

Elderberry flowers (Sambucus nigra) has long been used in wine, preserves etc.

Lavender (English is best) - remove the individual tiny flowers from the core and sprinkle over icecream, or use in cakes and biscuits.

Rosemary. Flowers can be used in casseroles or as a garnish. Use stems as BBQ skewers for a great looking and tasting kebab! Remove leaves and soak in water for a few minutes (so the stick is moist & won’t draw moisture from the meat).

Pomegranate, Quince, Feijoa (pictured at the top of this article) and Stone Fruit flowers are all edible. Use in dessert or as a garnish.

Violas, Violets, Native Violets, Pansy and Heartsease all have edible flowers. They look exquisite used on top of cakes, or as a delicate dessert garnish.

Carnations and Dianthus flowers are also edible. (I ate a carnation at a particularly memorable party in my early 20's and am still here to be ribbed about it.)

Not personally sampled - but reportedly edible are Fuchsias, Hibiscus, Stocks, Gladioli, Dahlias, Camelia (Japonica), Cornflowers, Honeysuckle, Sunflowers, Petunias, Zinnia elegans, Tulips and Chrysanthemum flowers.

Zucchini, Pumpkin and Squash flowers are all edible. Stuffed and fried zucchini flowers are a popular Italian treat.

Sunjewels (Portulaca grandiflora) are also edible, as are flowers of Nymphaea sp. Water Lilies.

Day Lily (Hemorocallis sp.) flowers and buds are edible - shred carefully and add to salads, a stir fry, or batter. Also their young roots can be used like carrots and eaten cooked or raw. (Please note however that many other plants with the common name 'lily' are highly poisonous.)

Roses. Apparently at times in history the rose has been more highly prized for its edible hips than for the beauty of the flower itself. Particularly older varieties which - after the petals have fallen - leave a large swollen hip (the fruit); are prized for jam making. Rose 'flavours' vary just as do their perfumes. Petals can be added to desserts, jellies, and used in drinks.

So there are a few ideas for you to try (once you've done your research)!

Information for this piece was sourced from:
www.herbsarespecial.com.au (article by Isabel Shipard)
www.permaculture.com.au (article by Robyn Francis)
www.homelife.com.au (article by Caroline Webster)

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