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Top 10 Edible Flowers to Grow

September 25, 2022 10 min read 0 Comments

top 10 edible flowers to grow

Starting a New Edible Flowers Business

When seeking out clients for edible flowers, we suggest doing a little research about the restaurants, bars, and bakeries in your area. Social media is a great place to start. Depending on the quality of their media, you should get a feel for their cuisine and style.

From there, start researching what you would be able to provide that would complement it. Think about color profiles, unique flavors, and value added steps like dried blooms or candied flowers. If you notice edible flowers in use, find out if they are getting them locally.

Once you have your list of potential clients in your area, start bringing samples. Even better, have samples and a list of availability for them to browse. If they like what you have and you can provide consistency, there's a good chance you will land that client.

What Kinds of Edible Flowers Do Chefs and Bakers Want?

Chefs are always looking for colorful items to add to charcuterie boards, dishes, and desserts. Particularly if those items can add flavors or scents to the dish that complement its overall presentation. Flowers can be used solely for visual effect but those that contribute to the regional or thematic nature of the dish are far more valuable.


Below is a list of some of the most common flowers chefs and bakers are requesting. 

Top 10 Edible Flowers to Grow

There are many different varieties of flowers that are edible. We have listed the top ten here that are relatively easy to grow and applicable to a wide range of dishes and applications. For a more comprehensive list including the check out our in depth resource on Growing Edible Flowers.   

The top ten types of flowers we recommend starting your edible flower business with are:

  1. Nasturtiums
  2. Marigolds
  3. Borage
  4. Sweet Williams (Also known as Wee Willies)
  5. Violas
  6. Chamomile
  7. Bachelor Buttons
  8. Calendula
  9. Lavender
  10. Begonias

1. Nasturtiums

Nasturtium

Are Nasturtiums an Edible Flower?

Nasturtiums are one of the best edible flowers to grow. Not only are the flowers edible but the foliage is as well. The leaves can be used in plating, as wraps for sushi or other fillings, or in cocktails because their hydrophobic coating allows them to float. Their peppery flavor adds excitement to a dish or cocktail. 

Nasturtiums come in a wide variety of bright colors and have a decent shelf life if picked just after opening. The leaves are often sold by size with bigger leaves commanding a higher price.

Tips for Growing Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are one of the easiest flowers to grow. They will frequently reseed themselves year after year in the same spot. They do not like frost however so plan to grow them in the warmer months. For more information on Growing Nasturtiums be sure to check out this article.

2. Marigolds

marigold

These are especially popular for decorating buffet boards with their bright yellow, orange and red hues. In flavor most types are bitter when left whole. Gem or signet marigolds have a distinct citrusy scent and flavor. To avoid the bitter tinge to the flavor, remove the screen sepals and the lower white part of the petal. 

Which marigolds make the best edible flowers?

Tagetes tenuifolia commonly known as gem marigolds or signet marigolds are the best for edible flowers. They are tiny and citrusy; they look great on cupcakes or in cocktails. While the larger african and french types make great decorations for cakes and charcuterie boards their bitter flavor is pronounced. 

Benefits to Growing Marigolds

Marigolds of any type but especially the smaller types are great for attracting beneficial insects to the farm or garden. Their plentiful pollen and nectar provide pollinators and parasitic wasps with food and habitat. They can also act as a protecting crop for greens and lettuces when planted as a border against slugs and snails. 

3. Borage

borage 

A nice light blue color and mild cucumber flavor make borage popular as a garnish for salads and drinks. They also look lovely frozen into ice cubes or placed on top of appetizers. . 

Using Borage in Ice Cubes

The following method works great with borage as well as sweet williams and violas, basically any flower small enough to fit within an ice cube tray. Borage is great for this because the mild flavor will not overpower drinks once the ice melts. Their distinct star shape and blue color also just look cool. 

Making flower ice cubes

When making flower ice cubes, working in layers will reduce cloudiness in the ice and result in clearer ice cubes that allow the beauty of the flowers to shine through. The directions below can be used for any sized ice tray but larger cubes will hold up longer in drinks. 

To make flower ice cubes you will need:
  • Edible Flowers
  • Ice cube trays
  • Distilled water

To make the cubes: 

  • Fill ice cube trays ¼ of the way.
  • Place flowers face down on the surface of the water in each cube.
  • Freeze until solid.
  • Remove trays from the freezer and fill halfway with cold water.
    • If you want to add additional flowers or petals for a layered effect do so in this step. 
  • Freeze until solid.
  • Fill trays to the top with water and freeze for the final time. 

4. Sweet Williams (DIANTHUS)

sweet william

With their attractive confetti look, they add dimension to any dish, board, or dessert. Bakers especially like the bright pink hues this flower touts. Colors will range from nearly red through hot pink to white with pink spots, many of the flowers are spotted or trimmed with white. The flavor of dianthus is faintly clove-like and a touch sweet. 

How do dianthus grow?

The dianthus family includes carnations and pinks as well as sweet williams. 

Sweet williams flowers grow in round clusters at the top of each flowering stalk. The first shoot can have 20 or more blooms ready at roughly the same time, while subsequent stems will have fewer and tend to bloom more in sequence. 

Dianthus are cool season flowers and can be grown as a perennial in zones 6-9. For cooler climates plant them indoors early in the spring for the best chance at big blooms. These plants will be far more prolific in their second year. 

5. Violas

viola 

Nearly flavorless and with endless color combinations, these add so much to everything. Be sure the sepals are removed before serving as they are quite bitter. These flowers are probably the most popular across the industries, and they are relatively easy to grow. Bonus!

Are violas edible?

Violas are a member of the same genus as violets. Violets are purple or white and have a distinct scent and flavor, while violas come in a wide variety of colors and have almost no scent. Violets have been used as a flavoring for centuries. Violas are particularly lovely when candied and added to baked goods. Pansies are another beautiful and edible member of this family. 

6. Chamomile

chamomile

Reminiscent of tiny daisies, these are incredibly popular on cakes and boards alike. The petals have a subtle but palatable flavor. The yellow centers and green sepals can be bitter and medicinal tasting. Since chamomile is also considered a medicinal herb it is best to limit consumption to small quantities. 

Added value from the chamomile harvest

If kept picked, chamomile will produce for a long season in spring. If you have too many blooms at the height of the season it can be dried for teas and for use as dried blooms. If you happen to have any herbalists in your area they may be interested in buying extra blooms from you for making oils, tinctures and cordials. 

7. Bachelor Button

bachelor button

Bachelor buttons are definitely a garden gift that keeps on giving. When fall planted in milder zones they are some of the first flowers to bloom in the spring, kept well picked they will produce blooms even in the heat of summer. 

Can you dry Bachelor Buttons?

Yes, bachelor buttons keep their colors beautifully when dried. Hang bunches of 15-20 stems in a hot dark place until stems are fully dry. You can also pull the florets from the sepal and dry them on screens or in a dehydrator set low. For more on drying flowers you can read our Tips for Dried Flower Farming article. 

The bright bluish purple is the most common color of bachelor buttons but they also come in pink, white, pale lavender, and a lovely deep magenta that is almost black. They have a subtle flavor making them a great accent without affecting the dish's flavor when used fresh or dry.

Ways to use edible bachelor buttons

For most applications it is best to pull the individual florets from the green sepal base. They can be used in:

  • Salads
  • Cocktail syrups
  • Edible food dye
  • Edible confetti 
  • Tea blends (best with dried)
  • Rim sugar (best with dried)
  • Decorating cakes 

8. Calendula

calendula

Calendula, with its cheerful color and classic shape make happy decorations for cakes. Calendula, often called pot marigolds, are traditionally orange but can also come in pinks, yellows, and cream with hints of other colors. Refer to our edible flower list for exact species.

How to use calendula flowers

For decorating cakes and charcuterie boards you can leave the flowers whole. The stems and sepals of calendula are sticky and a bit spiky so for most other applications it is best to remove and use only the petals of the flower. 

Calendula petals can be sprinkled on salads, used to color rice, added to flower petal confetti, made into syrup for drinks, and sprinkled into cocktails. Dried petals can be used in all of the same ways you would use fresh ones. 

9. Lavender

lavender

The scent of field-grown lavender is hard to beat. Bartenders and bakers alike will look to add this scent and flavor to their creations. Particularly in baked goods a little bit goes a long way since too much lavender can make things taste soapy. English lavender is the most sought out variety for culinary use.

Using lavender for grilled meats and fish

Lavender can be chopped and added to marinades or dried and added to rubs. You can also add fresh lavender to smokers or grills in the last bit of cooking to give a subtle hint of aroma and flavor. Stronger flavors hold up to being paired with lavender better. Think pork, lamb or salmon. 

How to make Lavender Sugar (or Salt)

For both lavender sugar and salt the process is the same. 

  • Add the dried lavender buds to a food processor with ¼ or the sugar or salt and process until the lavender bits are the desired size. Bigger is great for decorating or rimming cocktail glasses, smaller for sprinkling on baked goods. 
  • Pour into a bowl with your remaining salt or sugar and whisk together until the lavender bits are evenly distributed.
  • Place in airtight containers and let sit for at least a week to allow the flavor to develop.

For lavender salt use:
  • 1 scant tablespoon of dried lavender buds 
  • ½ cup coarse sea salt or Maldon salt

For lavender sugar use:
  • 1 tablespoon of dried lavender buds 
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar

10. Begonia

begonia

With such a delicate, lovely look, these compliment cakes, and pastries well. Light in flavor with a distinct sour note - they are often added to drinks as a garnish because they float well. One of the most popular types is actually called the Cocktail Vodka begonia. 

The larger roseform wax begonias make lovely statement decorations for cakes and event platters. The leaves of wax begonias can also be used for plating. They are distinctly crunchy and sour. 

Which Types of Begonia Can You Eat?

Begonias are a very large family of plants and not all members of the family should be eaten. Only tuberous and wax begonias (begoniatuberhybrida, semperflorens-cultorum)should be eaten. Their distinctly sour flavor comes from oxalic acid so care should be taken by people who are sensitive when eating larger quantities. 

Plan to start and grow your own edible flowers. 

Flowers from florists and currently flowering plants from nurseries should not be used for edible flowers. These are often treated with pesticide or growth hormones to keep them in peak appearance for sale. Any flowers treated with pesticide should not be sold as edible blooms. If you will be purchasing plants from a nursery remove all blooms before planting and grow out for at least a month before harvesting blooms. 

Plant more than you think you need. Because you will be growing organically you may find that some have insect damage. This also allows for you to expand your offerings or provide extra to clients looking to increase their order. 

Using Edible Flowers for Baking

Bakers and pastry chefs love adding edible flowers to their presentations for many of the same reasons that a chef de cuisine may use them. Flowers are also very popular additions to wedding cakes. Many brides interested in a rustic or natural motif will opt for adding flowers to decorate their wedding cakes.  

Most edible flowers are best added after the baking is done but there are some that will retain their color and can be added to quick baking items like focaccia. 

Which part of the flower should you eat?

For most edible flowers the bitter green sepal or base of the flower is removed just before using. For decorating purposes, many bakers and chefs will leave this portion on as the flowers do last longer when the sepal is attached. For ice cubes, candies and items where the flower is intended to be eaten as part of the dish, we recommend removing the sepals. 

Before Selling Your Edible Flowers...

You will need to look into your local USDA for licensing and permitting. You will also need to file for a business license and secure insurance for your operation. These things are especially important when selling consumables as there is risk involved. Do the due diligence and this can be a profitable business or side hustle.

Edible Flower Resources

We have put together this Edible Flower Guide with a far more detailed list of edible flowers, the colors, flavors and types available as well as where they grow well. In researching this topic we found the articles listed below helpful. If you are interested in the nutritional benefits of eating flowers, the first one is a fascinating read. 






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