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Eat Flowers! Flowers are vegetables too

Updated on December 12, 2013
You can eat bread and roses! All the flowers shown here are from the gardens of 'Les Trois Chenes' B&B
You can eat bread and roses! All the flowers shown here are from the gardens of 'Les Trois Chenes' B&B

Flowers are vegetables so 'Eat Your Flowers! '

Growing in our gardens is a wealth of food that we just simply ignore - flowers. Gardens, meadows, woodlands and hedgerows are full of food and natural goodness and it's a shame not to take advantage of all this free food and great nutrition.

I've been interested in plants and food for many years and love finding out what to eat and how to eat it and this interest blossomed, so to speak, when I moved into the heart of rural France and opened a Bed and breakfast, Les Trois Chenes. Here in the tiny hamlet of Videix, Limousin I'm surrounded by countryside. wild plants and flowers are all around me.

I'm truly blessed and mean to make the most of living in this wonderful country - the home of good food and good living. Making the most of edible flowers and edible herbs - including cooking and eating my weeds - seems only natural.

So why not eat the daisies? And the roses and many, many more flowers.

Broccoli, Cauliflower and a stalk from my self-seeded member of the brassica family.
Broccoli, Cauliflower and a stalk from my self-seeded member of the brassica family.

The flowers we all love to eat

Yes, broccoli. You will probably think of broccoli as a vegetable, and so it is. But it is also the flower head of the plant Brassica oleracea var. italica, a member of the brassica family, along with cabbages. The flower head is harvested just before the buds begin to break, and it is these flower buds that you are eating! Cauliflower Brassica oleracea is another well known member of this family.

I have self-sown brassicas growing in my garden and I eat the whole flower stems, gently steams, and they are absolutely DIVINE!

Do you eat flowers?

Are flowers food?

See results
Edible flowers that bloom in Videix, Limousin, France in May
Edible flowers that bloom in Videix, Limousin, France in May
Paeony, Elderflower and clover
Paeony, Elderflower and clover
Sugared flowers make pretty decorations for this Clafouti.
Sugared flowers make pretty decorations for this Clafouti.

Eat your flowers and weeds

Many of these flowers grow as common garden weeds, we weed them out and, at best, compost them, but wouldn't it be better to eat them as vegetables and in salads? Dandelions for instance are very versatile. Eat the young leaves and flowers in salads, or cook the leaves like spinach and add them to soups.

Why eat flowers from the garden

  • They are free
  • They are pretty
  • They are unusual
  • They are nutritious
  • The may have health benefits

Edible flowers, health and nutrition

Many edible flowers have long been used in traditional and herbal medicine. Animals seek out a variety of different wild herbs to keep themselves healthy and wild plants are often more nutritious than plants that have been selectively bred for many other quality, speed of growth, colour, looks, size, uniformity, etc

The nutritional value of flowers, however, have not been studied in depth, however flowers do contain nectar and pollen and studies have shown pollen to be nutritious with vitamins and minerals. Roses and especially rose hips, are very high in vitamin C. Dandelion blossoms are high in vitamins A and C while the leaves are good sources of iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A and C. Marigolds and Nasturtium have vitamin C.

As part of a calorie controlled diet

Fowers are calorie free and so ideal for weight watchers. They are good cooking ingredients if you want to lose weight - so long as you don't coat them in sugar or batter of course!

Which flowers can you eat?

This list includes just a selection of flowers that I know myself and have grown in gardens in England and France. If you have a silmilar climate to London, Exeter, Hebden Bridge (England) or the Haute-Vienne in France, you should be able to grow all of these:

Angelica; (Angelica archangelica), Borage; (Borago officinalis), Clary sage, Chervil; (Anthriscus cerefolium), Salvia sclarea; Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca; carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus - aka Dianthus) Calendula or Marigold (Calendula officinalis), Chive flowers; (Allium schoenoprasum), Red Clover; (Trifolium species), Coriander, Coriander sarivum; Cornflowers; (Centaurea cynaus) Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium), Dandelions; (Taraxacum officinalis), Common Daisies; (Bellis perennis), Day Lilies (Hemerocallis species), Dill; (Anethum), Elderflower; (Sambucus spp), Fennel; (Foeniculum vulgare), Fuchsia, Fushia x hybrida; Garlic, Allium sativum; Garlic chives, Allium tuberosum; Gladiolus, Gladiolus hortulanus; Hyssop, Hyssopus officalis; Leek, Allium porrum; Lemon, Citrus limon (Inside during winter); Lilac; (Syringa vulgaris), Marjoram; Origanum vulgare; Nasturtiums; (Tropaeolum majus), Marsh mallow, Althaea officinalis; Mustard, Brassica spp.; Pansies; viola) Peony, Paeonia lactiflora; Orange, Citrus sinensis (Inside during winter); Oregano, Origanum vulgar; Plum, Prunus spp.; Radish, Raphanus sativus; Sorrel; (Rumex acetosa),Tulip, Strawberry, Fragaria ananassa; Violets; (Viola odorata), Water lily, Nymphaea odorata; Winter savory, Satureja montana; Yucca, Yucca spp

Many of the fruit tree blossoms are edible; we grow apples, cherries, plums and pears at Les Trois Chenes.

Elder flower and acacia blossom fritters.
Elder flower and acacia blossom fritters. | Source
Sugared flowers
Sugared flowers | Source

How to use flowers as an ingredient in the kitchen

There are many ways to enjoy using flowers in the kitchen. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Fritters make a fragrant starter or nibble
  • Sugar them for cake, cheese and dessert decorations
  • Use flowers to brighten up a salad
  • They add fragrance to vinegars
  • Make them into healthy teas
  • Crystallize them
  • Flavour ice cream and cream toppings (Lavender)
  • Boil and eat like broccoli or asparagus tips (cabbage family)
  • Freeze in ice-cubes
  • Add to stir fries
  • Make into jams
  • Add to syrups

Other uses

  • Use as dyes for wool
  • Add to home made soaps

Edible flowers at and around Les Trois Chenes

Words of Warning

Never eat a plant if you are not 100% sure that you have identified it correctly. Go to the chemist of ask someone who definitely does know before trying it. Get a good plant identification book and educate yourself. Never eat plants that may have been sprayed with chemicals or fouled by animals. If you suffer from asthma or allergic reactions be particularly careful and perhaps check with your doctor.

Video of Edible Flowers by the Author


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