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Edible Flowers For Salads

Updated on June 5, 2010

HOW TO START EATING FLOWERS

There's no reason for a salad to be mostly green, predictable and bland. Give cucumbers a rest and try a fresh kind of topping: edible flowers.

Bold yet common flowers like marigolds and nasturtiums are safe to eat, and when they're mixed into a salad, they add elegance, color and spice.

Here's a guide to help you start sampling edible flowers: where to find them, what they look like, and most important of all, what those pretty petals taste like.


Edible flowers add color and spice to salads / Photo by E. A. Wright
Edible flowers add color and spice to salads / Photo by E. A. Wright
A salad of spinach, mesclun, nasturtiums and marigolds / Photo by E. A. Wright
A salad of spinach, mesclun, nasturtiums and marigolds / Photo by E. A. Wright
Yellow nasturtium flower / Photo by E. A. Wright
Yellow nasturtium flower / Photo by E. A. Wright
Orange nasturtium flower / Photo by E. A. Wright
Orange nasturtium flower / Photo by E. A. Wright
Marigolds / Photo by E. A. Wright
Marigolds / Photo by E. A. Wright

POLL

Have you tried edible flowers?

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WHAT DO EDIBLE FLOWERS TASTE LIKE?

  • Marigold petals taste like mild lettuce.
  • Nasturtium flowers are as spicy as they are colorful, yet they are not quite as strongly flavored as nasturtium leaves. There's also a bit of a sweet aftertaste to the flowers.
  • Cilantro flowers, which come in clumps of tiny, frilly white blooms, taste just like fresh cilantro leaves, perhaps with an extra hint of pepper.
  • Basil flowers, also white, have the same flavor as basil leaves, but it is much more intense.
  • The petals of arugula flowers are pinkish-white and laced with purple-colored veins. The flavor of the petals is mild, but the base of the flower has the spicy-bitter flavor of arugula leaves.


DISCOVERING EDIBLE FLOWERS

If you're curious to try other edible flowers, you're in luck. The blossoms of many common culinary herbs are safe to eat and will complement salad greens. So are the flowers of other garden plants. Here are some more examples:

CAUTION

Please be absolutely certain what you are putting in your mouth before sampling any flower! Plants with similar looks aren't always similarly safe to eat. For example, sweet peas, my favorite kind of sweet smelling flower, are not edible flowers. Yet the very similar-looking flowers of the garden pea plant are safe to eat.

  • Be careful, and don't make assumptions.


WHERE TO FIND EDIBLE FLOWERS

Grow your own: Try growing your own edible flowers from seed. Nasturtiums, marigolds and many culinary herbs will thrive indoors on a sunny windowsill. A few $1 packet of seeds will produce enough blossoms to garnish salads for several months. If you plan to harvest flowers from herbs you grow yourself, note that some plants stop producing new growth after they are allowed to flower.

Buy edible flowers: Edible flowers are sometimes sold in boxes in the produce section of some supermarkets. In New York City, I've seen small boxes of edible flowers for $5 at the outdoor greenmarket in Union Square.

Know the source: Be cautious about eating flowers that are sold as anything other than food products. Even if the plant itself in edible, it may have been treated, handled or stored with chemicals that aren't so good for you.


White basil flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
White basil flowers / Photo by E. A. Wright
Edible flowers for sale / Photo by E. A. Wright
Edible flowers for sale / Photo by E. A. Wright

QUIZ: Which flowers are safe to eat?

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EDIBLE FLOWERS: RESOURCES

All the flowers described in detail above are ones I've sampled and lived to tell about, but don't just take my word for it. Seek out other reliable guides to safe, edible flowers. Here are some free resources:

"Edible Flowers," NC State University: Horticulture Information Leaflets

  • This guide lists edible flowers by color and flavor, with warnings about which flowers are edible only in moderation.
  • From the introduction: "Flowers have traditionally been used in many types of cooking: European, Asian, East Indian, Victorian English, and Middle Eastern. Early American settlers also used flowers as food. Today, there is a renewed interest in edible flowers for their taste, color, and fragrance."

"Edible Flowers," Colorado State University Extension

  • This guide explains how to select and prepare flowers for culinary use. It also includes a list of common but toxic flowers.
  • From the introduction: "Do not use flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides, which often occurs along roadsides, or collect flowers from plants that have been fertilized with untreated manure. Generally avoid purchasing flowers from florists, garden centers or nurseries. These flowers are not grown for consumption."

"Edible Flowers," National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

  • From the introduction: "This publication discusses some of the basic production and marketing concerns for edible flowers and offers some cautions on non-edible or toxic flowers. Also included are sources of additional information on edible flowers, in print and on the Internet."


Comments

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    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 

      4 years ago from United States

      i love squash flowers, best when deep fried. :)

    • celeste inscribed profile image

      Celeste Wilson 

      5 years ago

      Wow what a wonderful way to make food attractive and delicious. In South Africa we have a flower called a Water Blommetjie (translated: Small water flower) that is edible. It is also known as Cape-pondweed, Water Hawthorn, Vleikos and Cape Pond Weed and is an aquatic flowering plant. Voted interesting.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 

      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      I've always wondered about this subject. I went to a party once where the host had added edible flowers to her salad and I never forgot it. Now I'm intrigued and will have to grow my own just for eating! Thank you...voted up and awesome.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      Fun quiz and interesting hub. I just wish some of the flowers tasted as sweet and fun as they look:) I was quite surprised at how bitter and spicy some can be!

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      8 years ago from Hawaii

      I love salads and flowers. This was really informative and enjoyable. Thanks!

    • E. A. Wright profile imageAUTHOR

      E. A. Wright 

      8 years ago from New York City

      Pamela, your Easter cake sounds like a beautiful spring tradition.

    • DYLAN CLEARFIELD profile image

      DYLAN CLEARFIELD 

      8 years ago from Florida, USA

      This is one of the best hubs I've ever read. Thanks for all of the work and the great and useful information.

    • E. A. Wright profile imageAUTHOR

      E. A. Wright 

      8 years ago from New York City

      Good luck with your garden, esatchel.

      And thanks, Money.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 

      8 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      This is a great article. Thanks for some new information all in one place and with the necessary warnings attached. I like to try to keep a tradition at Easter of always making a lovely two layer cake with white icing and colorful pansy petals all over it. I start growing the pansies from seed in plenty of time so they will be ready for Easter.

    • esatchel profile image

      PDGreenwell 

      8 years ago from Kentucky

      We were just talking about growing some edible flowers in our garden, so I was particularly excited to see this article. Have bookmarked to follow up on at my leisure. Thank you!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Nice hub, edible flowers really add color and a special feeling to a meal. Thanks for sharing your insight and congrats on being selected as one of this week's "Best Hub" nominees. Good luck to you!

    • E. A. Wright profile imageAUTHOR

      E. A. Wright 

      8 years ago from New York City

      Thank you for all your kind comments.

      Lydk, good luck in hunt! You'll probably have better luck finding edible flowers at a farmers market than at most grocery stores. If all else fails, befriend a neighbor with garden.

      Juliet, edible flowers are much like salad greens: they're mostly water, and they're laced with small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

    • lydk profile image

      lydk 

      8 years ago

      Dearest E. A. Wright, Can I please just say thank you for this hub? I absolutely LOVE seeing something I've always seen, done in a completely different way, in other words revolutionizing the norm. The closest I've come to flower eating is fried zucchini flowers in Italy (yummy). Maybe others have had the privilege of seeing flowers in salads before but this is a first for me. Thank you for sharing and in so much detail, I'm going to see if my grocery store has these flowers. Thanks again!

    • liswilliams profile image

      liswilliams 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      love it, they do wonders to a salad, really creative!

    • Juliet Christie profile image

      Juliet Christie Murray 

      8 years ago from Sandy Bay Jamaica

      This is an interesting hub. Once I believed that edible flowers were those we make from almond or sugar paste that look like real flowers.What are some of the nutritional benefits from these edible flowers

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