edible flowers

Janice M. Glime jmglime at MTU.EDU
Mon Aug 30 15:39:33 EST 1999

Dear Plant-edders,
  I can't remember for sure if it was this list or biolab, but one of them
had a discussion of edible flowers earlier this year.  I have just
stumbled on a small brochure (not published except privately) and have
lifted extensive amounts of information from it to develop the following
for my plant taxonomy manual.  I have added or updated scientific names
where possible.  We have a taxonomy banquet as part of the
course each year and I found that providing some recipes helped

Edible Flowers

In her Edible Flowers pamphlet, Donna Frawley (Frawley's Fine Herbary, 201
E. Ellsworth, Midland, MI 48640) lists many uses for wild flowers.
Flowers have been used by ancient cultures more than they are today.  The
Romans used lavender, mallows (Malva spp.), roses (Rosa spp.), and violets
(Viola spp.).  Shakespeare mentions edible flowers frequently in his works
[English cowslips (Primula veris), carnations (as gilly flowers; Dianthus
caryophyllus), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), marigolds (Tagetes spp.),
nasturtiums (Tropaeolum), primroses (Primula), roses, and violets].  Even
today, the ancient cultures of Japan and China use flowers of
chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum), hibiscus, jasmine, lilies (Hemerocallis
spp., Lilium tigrinum), lotus (Nelumbo), oranges, and roses.  Rose petals
are used in hot wassail, a Christmas punch.

Flowers seem to once again be gaining popularity.  If you choose to
collect your own, Frawley advises to collect flowers mid-morning and use
buds rather than flowers because the buds have more oil.  She warns that
white heels and green parts may be slightly bitter and should be removed.
But some flowers should not be eaten, and others must be eaten only in
small quantities.  Such toxic flowers include bleeding heart (Dicentra
exima, D. spectabilis), buttercup (Ranunculus acris), daffodil (Narcissus
spp.), Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), foxglove (Digitalis
purpureus), hydrangea (Hydrangea macrogylla), iris (Iris spp.), larkspur
(Delphinium spp.), lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), lupine
(Lupinus spp.), monkshood (Aconitum spp.), periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus
= Vinca rosea), primrose (Primula obconica), rhododendron (Rhododendron
spp.), star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum arabicum, O. umbellatum.), and
wisteria (Wisteria spp.).  Grape hyacinth (Muscari neglectum) and tansy
(Tanacetum vulgare) may be eaten only is small quantities.  For some
flowers, Frawley cautions not to eat the American equivalent:  Carolina
jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), cowslip (Primula veris), English daisy
(Bellis perennis), pansy (Viola tricolor).  Wild or garden flowers should
not be fed to small children or to elderly who have not eaten them before.  

A further caution is to pay attention to the scientific names of the
flowers.  Common names can be quite local and what may refer to an edible
plant in one area could be a poisonous one in another.  Cowslip is a good
example.  It refers to the poisonous Caltha palustris in the eastern
united states, but in the edible cowslip mentioned by Shakespeare it
refers to an unrelated species of Primula.  The list below, compiled from
Frawley and other sources, will give you a start toward choosing the safe

apple - Pyrus malus = Malus pumila
basil - Ocimum basilicum  (eggs, oil, pasta)
bergamot - Monarda didyma 
borage - Borago officinalis (salads)
calendula - Calendula officinalis (biscuits, salads)
carnations - Dianthus caryophyllus (butters)
chervil - Anthriscus cerefolium (eggs)
chickweed - Stellaria media (vegetables)
chicory - Cichorium intybus (coffee)
chives - Allium schoenoprasum (dressings, eggs, fish, pasta)
chrysanthemum - Chrysanthemum spp. (salads, tea)
cornflower - Centaurea cyanus 
cowslip - Primula veris
cucumber - Curcurbita pepo
dandelion - Taraxacum officinale (candied, dressings, soups)
day lily -  Hemerocallis spp.
dianthus - Dianthus spp.
dill - Anethum graveolens(oil)
elderberry flower - caution, red elderberry is poisonous; use black (jams,
fennel - Foeniculum vulgare (oil)
geranium (scented only) - Pelargonium spp. (not the wild Geranium)
(butters,cake, candied, glazes)
gladiolus - Gladiolus spp.
goldenrod - Solidago spp.
grape hyacinth - Muscari neglectum 
hawthorn - Crataegus monogyna
hollyhock	Althaea rosea
honeysuckle - Lonicera  spp. (butters)
hops - Humulus lupulus
hyssop - Hyssopus officinalis
jasmine - Jasminum spp. (oil)
lavender - Lavandula spp.(ice cream, mustard, vinegar)
lilac - Syringa vulgaris
lime blossom, linden - Tilia x europaea (tempura)
lovage - Levisticum officinale
magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora, M. denudata
mallow - Malva spp.
marjoram - Origanum majorana (eggs, oil, vegetables)
mints - Mentha spp. (fish, oil, tea)
monarda - Monarda spp. (tea)
mullein - Verbascum thapsus
nasturtiums - Tropaeolum majus (be careful, there are two unrelated kinds
of nasturtium; the flower is from Tropaeolum) (mustard, salads, vinegar)
oregano - Origanum vulgare
pansies - Viola x wittrockiana (salads)
parsley - Petroselenium crispum (oil)
passion flower - Passiflora spp.
poppy - approach with caution!  There are many kinds and the plants are
usually poisonous.
primrose - Primula vulgaris (butters, fish)
Queen Anne's lace (jellies)
red clover - Trifolium pratense (butters)
rose petals - Rosa spp.(butters, candies, desserts, ice cream, jams,
jellies, oil, vinegar)
rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis (vegetables)
saffron - Crocus sativus  
sage - Salvia officinalis 
St. Johns Wort - Hypericum spp.
snapdragon - Antirrhinum spp.
sweet cicily - Myrrhis odorata
sweet woodruff  - Galium odoratum (beverages)
tansy - Tanacetum vulgare
thistle - Cirsium spp. (tempura)
thyme - Thymus spp. (eggs, oil, poultry)
tiger lily - Lilium tigrinum
tulip -  Tulipa spp.
violet - Viola spp. (butters, ice cream, jellies, slalds)
yarrow - Achillea millefolium
yucca - Yucca spp.

Flowers can be used to make an entire menu, of course with other foods
often being the primary ingredient.  But I would not advise people with
allergy sensitivities to try all of these at once - try one at a time to
find out how your body reacts, as you would with most new foods if you are

Cheeseball and herbed cheese nasturtium filling
2  8-oz pkg cream cheese
desired herbs (e.g. dill, basil, mint, thyme)
2-3  tbsp flowers of chive, dill, or basil
24  nasturtiums
Mix cheese and herbs.  Divide in half and roll half into ball.  
Put herb flowers on waxed or plastic wrap and touch cheese ball to flowers
to cover ball.
Serve with crackers or fresh vegetables
 Place remaining cheese into cake decorator with flower or plain tip and
squeeze cheese into trumpet of nasturtiums.

Chilled strawberry soup
1 10-oz. pkg frozen strawberries (thawed)
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp. yoghurt fruit dip
1/4 cup sugar (if desired)
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk to thin (if necessary)
monarda flowers
mint leaves
Strain strawberries & save liquid.
Put strawberry liquid in small saucepan and stir in cornstarch.
Puree strawberries in food processor.
Add berries and yoghurt dip to liquid and cornstarch.
Cook & stir over low heat until thickened, about 5 min.  Check taste and
add sugar to taste.
Save 1/2 cup mixture for garnish.
Add cream to remaining mixture and chill.
Serve in chilled bowls with garnish , flower petals, and mint leaves on
top (in design if desired).

Tomato salad
Slice tomatoes and arrange on platter.
Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper, and little thyme.
Cover with freshly chopped chives, basil, and parsley.
Sprinkle with olive oil & Opal Basil Vinegar.
Let stand 15-30 min.
Garnish with basil and/or chive flowers.

Egg roll pasta
wonton or egg roll skins
3 tsp. cornstarch
fresh edible flowers (nasturtiums, violets, sage blossoms)
fresh herb leaves (sage, burnet, parsley, cilantro)
Combine cornstarch & water in small bowl.
Brush coat of cornstarch mixture onto wonton skin.
Place few leaves and/or flower petals onto skin.
Brush another skin with cornstarch mix and place on top of first.
Use rolling pin to remove air bubbles.  Trim edges with pastry wheel,
cookie cutter or knife.
Set finished pasta onto cookie sheed and place waxed paper between layers.
Chill up to 24 hrs.
(May be frozed for up to 1 week; defrost for 3 hours before cooking.)
Drop pasta into large pot of boiling water & stir gently.  Simmer 2-3 min.
or until pasta is firm but cooked through.
Hot:  remove pasta & toss with herb butter & serve.
Cold:  remove and rinse in cold water to stop cooking process.  Toss with
oil to prevent sticking.  Add to chicken salad & toss with herbal

Queen Anne's lace jelly
7 cups water
2 pkg Sure-Jell
30 large heads Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota)
7 1/2 cups sugar
Bring water to boil.  Remove from heat.
Add flower heads and steep 10 min.
Strain & measure 6 cups liquid.
Pour into 8 qt kettle.
Add Sure-Jell & bring to boil, stirring constantly.
Add all sugar, stirring constantly.  Bring to full rolling boil that can't
be stirred down and boil for 2 min.
Remove from heat, skim off foam, and pour into clean canning jars.
Seal and put into hot water bath for 5 min.
Makes 11 half pints.

lemonade mix
mint leaves (Mentha piperita)
marsh mallow flowers (Malva moschata)
borage flowers
sweet William flowers
Mix 1 gallon lemonade.
Pur into punch bowl & float flowers of marsh mallow and mint, and mint
Float ice ring or cubes made with borage or sweet William flowers frozen
in them.

 Janice M. Glime, Professor  
 Department of Biological Sciences
 Michigan Technological University
 Houghton, MI 49931-1295
 jmglime at mtu.edu
 FAX 906-487-3167 

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