After coming a distant fourth to fruits, leaves and roots in the list of best edible plant parts, flowers are now becoming a popular addition to meals and drinks. Here we pick ten of them—from those you can grow in your garden to foraged favourites—that will give a unique splash of colour and flavour to your culinary exploits.
Nasturtiums are a miracle plant. They’re easy to grow, rarely troubled by pests, and spread out with bright attractive flowers. And even better, the lightly peppery leaves and flowers are every bit as good as any salad crop you’re likely to grow.
Read more: 10 Fragrant edible flower recipes
Lavender is becoming one of the trendiest ingredients among posh chefs, but whenever using it caution is advised, its perfume is strong and can easily dominate.
Our favourite use for it is in ice cream, where just a few flower heads can work their calming floral magic.
Read more: Lovely lavender biscuits recipe
3. Pansies and Violets
Anyone whose sweet tooth lead them to parma violets as a child will know what these colourful flowers taste like. Along with other members of the viola family, they’re one of the most popular edible flowers in modern restaurants, thanks largely to their huge range of vibrant colours.
Expect to see them sprinkled on almost any dish to make it look fancy, used in baking or floating on a summery cold drink.
Read more: The secret language of flowers
Rose petals are a favourite of North African chefs and are used in both sweet and savoury dishes. The petals are easy to dry, maintain their perfume for ages, and can be used in a wide range of dishes from infused sugars to spicy curries.
Read more: How to prune climbing roses
Peruse the booze aisles of posher shops and you’ll see hibiscus flavouring a multitude of drinks, including gins, tonics and even beer.
The flavour is often described as being similar to a cranberry and is another one to be used sparingly, with its best use being in a refreshing and relaxing hibiscus tea.
Read more: The health benefits of herbal tea
The elder’s big white blooms herald the start of summer and are a favourite for fizzy champagne style drinks and cordials, but they also add a lovely fragrance to other dishes.
Try dropping a head of elderflowers into a pan of gooseberries the next time you make a crumble or jam for a welcome floral surprise.
Read more: Make your own elderflower cordial
The pretty blue flowers of the borage smell and taste like cucumber, making them the cocktail makers favourite floral garnish.
There are plenty of herbs with edible flowers, but our favourite belongs to the chive.
They’re plentiful and easy to pick and are great for sprinkling into salad dressings with an onion essence that’s slightly milder than the plant’s leaves.
9. Courgette and squash
Both the male and female blooms of courgette and squash plants are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. Their best-known use is battered and deep fried, sometimes stuffed with soft cheese.
Use them as soon as they’re picked and you’ll enjoy the delicate squash flavours at their best.
While we don’t advocate sowing a load of weeds in your border, anyone with a dandelion problem can rejoice in the knowledge that it’s an edible plant.
Young leaves are a perfectly acceptable salad ingredient (some mixed seeds packs, particularly French ones, actually include them) and the flowers can be used to make a tea tonic, delicious honey-like syrup or punchy wine.
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