November 27, 2022 26 min read 0 Comments
There are hundreds of plants that produce edible flowers. While we cannot list every one of them here, we have tried to include a lion’s share of the most popular and some of the often overlooked but valuable additions to any farmscape. Some genuses of flowers contain one or two edible species but the majority are toxic. We have intentionally left the easily confused ones out of this guide. This resource will be updated as we learn of new varieties or learn important facts about old standbys. If you know a flower we have missed, please let us know in the comments, and we will include it in our next round of updates.
Also check out the Top 10 Edible Flowers to Grow for best flowers to grow for restaurants and chefs.
EXPLANATION OF TERMS USED:
WARM SEASON ANNUAL - OFTEN REFERRED TO AS TENDER ANNUALS AS WELL, THESE PLANTS THRIVE IN THE HEAT OF SUMMER BUT WILL DIE OFF AT THE FIRST FROST. THEY NEED TO BE PLANTED OUT AFTER ALL DANGER OF FROST HAS PASSED. THINK SUNFLOWERS, ZINNIAS AND BASIL.
COOL SEASON ANNUAL - THESE HARDY PLANTS CAN BE PLANTED IN THE FALL FOR SPRING BLOOMS IN MILDER ZONES OR 6-8 WEEKS BEFORE YOUR LAST FROST DATE IN THE EARLY SPRING. THINK BACHELOR BUTTONS, CALENDULA AND SNAPDRAGONS.
BIENNIAL- PLANTS IN THIS FAMILY USUALLY WILL NOT FLOWER UNTIL THEIR SECOND YEAR OF GROWTH. MOST NEED A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF COLD TO STIMULATE FLOWERS THE FOLLOWING YEAR. CARROTS, GARLIC CHIVES AND MANY OTHER ALLIUMS FALL INTO THIS CATEGORY.
TENDER PERENNIAL- IN HARSHER GROWING ZONES MANY OF THESE TYPES OF PLANTS CAN BE GROWN AS ANNUALS. IN MILDER CLIMATES THEY WILL COME BACK YEAR AFTER YEAR EVEN THOUGH MANY WILL LOOK “DEAD” IN THE WINTER. DEPENDING ON YOUR GROWING ZONE AND THE USE OF CROP PROTECTION THESE PLANTS CAN PROVIDE IMPORTANT BLOOMS IN SEASONS OF DEARTH.
PERENNIAL - LIVING MORE THAN 2 YEARS THESE PLANTS ARE OFTEN USED IN LANDSCAPING OR FOOD FORESTS. SOME PRODUCE BLOOMS YEAR ROUND WITH A LITTLE EXTRA LOVE. JUST LIKE THEIR TENDER COUSINS THEY CAN PROVIDE FLOWERS IN THE SHOULDER SEASONS, WHEN ANNUALS ARE WAITING TO GO IN OR ON THEIR WAY OUT. BLUEBERRIES, FRUIT TREES, AND SHRUBS LIKE ABUTILON ALL FIT HERE.
SPP. - WHEN YOU SEE THIS NEXT TO A GENUS NAME IT MEANS THERE ARE MULTIPLE SPECIES THAT ARE USED.
VARIEGATED - FLOWERS WITH THIS DESIGNATION OFTEN COME IN VARIETIES THAT ARE A COMBINATION OF OTHER COLORS AVAILABLE.
These perennials are hardy in zones 8-11 but can be grown as container plants as well, allowing them to be brought in for protection during harsh winters. The flowers on some varieties are large at around 2-3 inches across and resemble hibiscus blooms. They have a mild, slightly sour flavor and good texture. Striking on cakes or floating in a cocktail, abutilon are a great addition to landscape planning with an eye towards edible flowers. Remove the sepals from the flower before serving. Because they will bloom throughout the year in temperate weather they offer value as an edible crop while providing vital pollen and nectar for beneficials when little else is available.
Onions, garlic and chives all produce edible flowers. See individual listings for special considerations. This also includes elephant garlic and society garlic.
Nearly all members of the Amaranthus genus are edible including many that grow wild and are referred to as pigweed. Long popular in many indeginous cultures in the Americas, it is grown for both its greens and as a grain crop. The flowers can have very different textures depending on the stage of growth. Some are smooth and slightly crunchy while some can become spiky as the grain inside matures. The flavors likewise can range from sour to sweetly grainy. Due to their large beautiful sprays consisting of thousands of tiny individual flowers they make excellent plating elements for large buffets and charcuterie plates. The flowers retain their color when dried. There are a wide variety of colors and shapes available and we recommend trying a variety of types to see what grows best for you.
These blooms have a delicate flavour and a mildly sweet scent. They work particularly well in fruit salads. Planting multiple varieties will extend the availability of blooms. Use sparingly as the flowers contain very low levels of cyanide. Removing the green sepals will help abate this problem.
This flower belongs to a larger family of plants that includes inedible varieties, check the species before you plant. Only this particular type of impatiens is considered edible. The plants are widely adaptable. Balsam grows well in containers as they are thirsty plants when grown in full sun. The fragrant leaves are frequently used in curries. Seed pods will pop open when ripe, so pick early and often if you do not want them to reseed themselves.
Basil is the ultimate must grow in the edible flower garden. Most growers are used to picking the leaves before the plant has flowered. After blooming, the leaves change and become less appealing. Unlike many edible flowers which can be bland or slightly bitter, the flowers of the basil plant are fantastically flavorful when eaten raw. The flowers range from white to lavender, depending on variety. Each variety has its own distinct flavor. The blooms are stunning sprinkled over pasta. Cinnamon basil and lemon basil are favorites of chefs and cut flower farmers alike. Both have flavors that can compliment desserts as well as savory dishes.
Both tuberous and wax begonias have edible flowers and leaves. Although they are generally tropical understory plants that prefer warm shady areas, they can be grown very successfully indoors or in a hoop house with shade outside the recommended growing zones of 7-11. The flavors can range, depending on variety, from a slightly sour taste reminiscent of sorrel to a sharp citrus flavour. Wax begonias have tiny seeds and are often easiest grown from quality organic nursery starts. Begonias are unisexual, meaning the plants have male and female flowers, with very different appearances, on the same plant. Begonia flowers and leaves contain oxalic acid, so should be avoided by people suffering from kidney stones, gout, or rheumatism.
All edible beans have edible flowers. See Scarlet Runner Beans.
Often called wild bergamot it is not to be confused with true bergamot which is a member of the citrus family. Flowers and leaves of this member of the mint family have a citrus/mint flavor that works very well in cakes, desserts and cocktails. Small flowers grow in large clusters. Great for attracting pollinators to the garden.
Borage has fuzzy foliage and, usually, blue star-shaped flowers. Some flowers will have pink or partially pink petals. There is also a less commonly used type that has white flowers. All have a mild cucumber flavor. They hold up in a fridge fairly well, and make a great addition to salads, soups and cocktails.
Any brassica grown as an edible vegetable will produce edible flowers. The flowers range from white to yellow with purple varieties sometimes producing purple sepaled flowers. Allowing some brassicas to go to flower in the vegetable garden will attract beneficial insects. A favorite food of aphids, they can also act as a trap crop. A few excellent varieties for edible flower production are: broccoli raab, kosaitai (a purple stemmed Yu Choy Sum), flowering pak choy, crimson tide mustard, yellow mustard.
These large vining plants grow best with hot and humid weather. It will not tolerate any frost. The large blooms are used to color food and drink, the resulting blue will change to purple or pink depending on the pH of added ingredients. This effect makes them popular in the cocktail market. The blooms can also be battered and fried.
Also known as pot marigolds, this family has petals that range from yellow to deep orange. Remove the petals from the bitter green sepals. The petals are tangy with hints of peppery notes. Great for salads, drinks and petal confetti. Pigment from the petals can be used as dye in ice creams and frostings. In areas with mild winters they can be successfully planted in late fall for early spring blooms and are short lived perennials in zones 9-11.
Also known as catmint, this herb produces tall sprays of white, blue or purple flowers depending on the variety. Both the leaves and flowers can be used to flavor teas and cocktails. Can be used fresh or dried. Just be sure to keep it up high where cats can’t destroy your plants. Catnip can become easily invasive and take over large areas of your garden. For this reason we recommend growing it in containers where the runners will be contained and dividing up the plants every few years.
These tender annuals are members of the amaranth family. All celosia are edible but the most popular cut flower varieties are in the argentea species. The available color palette is reminiscent of a sunset with a wide range of yellows, oranges, pinks, purples and reds. The inflorescence of these plants can be separated into many smaller “flowers” or used in their whole form for large displays. They also make excellent dried flowers that keep their bright colors and unique texture extremely well. Can be kept as a tender perennial in zones 9-12. Will also grow indoors but requires 12 hours of light for optimal flower production.
Known as German Chamomile with idyllic small daisy-like flowers. They have a sweet, mild flavor when fresh and can also be used dried. Often used in tea, baked goods and for a mild floral flavor in drinks. These do great in containers or they can be direct sown outdoors.
This leafy herb is also known as French parsley. It is often grown to the flower stage for its delicate white blooms. The flowers' mild flavor and the lacey foliage, make it a stunning addition to plated dishes. Chervil has a mild anise taste that works well in the kitchen or the bar. It prefers cooler temperatures and can be grown in the winter in zones 8-10.
All members of this family, which includes endive, escarole, Italian dandelion, and radicchio, produce tall stems with blue or occasionally white flowers. Flowers will not appear until the second year of growth. Plants that appear to have died back will often regrow from the roots every year. The petals can be pulled from the green sepal and added to salads or pastas. Unopened flower buds can be pickled like capers. Chicory flowers fade quickly and the petals should be collected the day of bloom. They have a distinctly bitter flavor that is mildest in the petal itself. Garnet stemmed dandelion is a prolific bloom producer.
These purple flowers have a mild onion flavour that is fantastic with cold dishes like tabouli or potato salad. Growers will harvest these before the blooms are fully open as the florets are usually separated out versus served as a full bloom. The individual florets will open over the span of many days and are better picked too early than too late as the petals can get papery when dry. As long as the seeds inside the florets are still green they can continue to be used as a stronger version of the edible flower.
Conveniently for flower production, cilantro bolts very easily in higher temperatures. Planting your plants earlier in the spring will ensure they are large before they begin to bolt. The leafy herb sends out sparse umbels with little white fragrant flowers. Cilantro blooms have a light, mild flavor. The leaves, stem, seeds and flowers can all be consumed. The green seed heads are particularly pretty and flavorful.
Trifolium incarnatum (crimson clover),Trifolium repens(white clover) Trifolium pratense (red clover) are all edible and have sweet, mild flavours. Crimson clover tastes surprisingly of watermelon while white clover is akin to licorice. All above ground parts of clover are edible but the mature plants can cause stomach upset so leaves and flowers are best eaten slightly immature. Some clovers are perennial and others will frost kill.
This is the only type of cosmos that is edible. Don’t be fooled by types like chocolate cosmos, they are a different species and poisonous. These have a more mounding habit than other types of cosmos grown for cut flowers. The petals are mildly bitter. Be sure you are getting these from a reliable seed supplier or nursery so you know you are growing the edible type.
Although widely grown as a cut flower they are highly invasive and banned in some states so we do not recommend planting these. Also known as damask violets, these members of the brassica family range from whites to light pinks and lavender. They are slightly bitter, both petals and young leaves are edible.
Unlike most bean types, fava are a cool season annual. They can be planted in fall or early spring in many areas. Favas do not like temperatures over 75℉. Most fava types have white flowers but a few are purple and the one available crimson type makes an excellent edible flower. The unique shape of fava flowers make them a great addition to the cooler growing seasons and their mild bean flavor complements many dishes.
All parts of the fennel plant are edible. It is very similar to dill in that it will produce tall yellow umbels of flowers when they bolt. The flavor is of mild licorice and is a popular amongst chefs for desserts. It can also be used to good effect in cocktails.
Any fruit tree growing on your farm for produce can be a source of edible blooms during their often short flowering period. Citrus flowers are fragrant and potent when added to drinks and salads. Stone fruit trees have delicate blooms with a gorgeous appeal on the plate. Apples are quite lovely as the blooms tend to come much later in the Spring than other trees. For all of these, removing the green sepals improves palatability. While growing these trees, especially for their blooms, doesn’t make much sense, they can provide early contributions to the palate you have to offer chefs—also a great marker of seasonality.
Only hardneck varieties of garlic will produce scapes that flower. These eventually develop into clusters of bulbils that can also be eaten. While growing garlic for the flowers may not be as common it is beautiful and extremely flavorful. They only flower once per year but the flower heads can be quite large. Sprinkling the individual flowers and green bulbils on pasta is a treat everyone must try at least once. Planting them like ornamental spring bulbs and using garlic as a companion plant to protect your other crops can provide a nice harvest of this hard to find delicacy. If you know a chef that loves seasonal foods and is a bit adventurous, these could be an excellent seller for their short season.
Disclaimer:This resource's purpose is to provide general information and inspiration only. Since many of the flowers listed herein are known for medicinal properties, seek the advice of a health professional before touching or eating any plant matter that is new to you. As with any natural product, they can be toxic if misused or consumed in large quantities. BootstrapFarmer.com stresses that you do not eat any edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees, or bushes until you have verified the genus and species. If selling flowers as a consumable, it is up to you to do your due diligence to know the species of any flowers sold to consumers. No liability exists against BootstrapFarmer.com or anyone who works for BootstrapFarmer.com; nor can they be held responsible for any allergy, illness, or adverse effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of the information in this website or through using any of the plants mentioned by BootstrapFarmer.com.
February 24, 2023 10 min read 0 Comments