Flower Power

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Earlier this summer I decided to do a piece on edible flowers, a topic I have been interested in for a long time. I had two books on the subject & set out to find the flowers at food stores. I searched Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods. No flowers!

Finally, on the last day of my trip to California, I went to a store called Pavilion, the store where my husband’s son shops & I found what I wanted. Delighted with my find, I packed up a bag with ice and wrapped the flowers in their containers and put the package in my suitcase. Finally, I had my flowers! And they survived the 6 or so hours from the time I packed up the flowers until I arrived  home. Here is a photo of the packages I purchased. Don’t use flowers from a florist, as they may have been sprayed with inedible substances. And not all flowers are edible. Note that in the information below there are similar caveats that bear repeating.

One of the books I own is called Paradise Farms: Guide to Cooking with Edible Flowers by Jay & Pamela North. Since I have owned this book for several years, I decided to Google the company and came up with an article that appeared in the L.A. Times that includes the list below by one of the owners of Paradise Farms. This is lifted from the article. Here is the link: latimes.com/1986-07-10/food.

Here is a list of some of the flowers one might expect to find in markets and some of the uses as given by Jay and Pamela North of Paradise Farms, who grow edible flowers commercially.

For a more detailed description of the edible flowers, their uses and some recipes, the Norths have developed a brochure. For a copy, send $4 for handling and postage to Paradise Farms, P.O. Box 436, Summerland, Calif. 93067. (Note: This may be an updated version of the book I have. The company also sells culinary herbs.)

If you want to use home-grown flowers be sure you are using a safe one to eat. You are cautioned to check first for edibility with the plant adviser at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum in Arcadia at (818) 446-8251.

Anise Hyssops–licorice flavored; good on salads and in drinks.

Bee Balm–lemon flavored. Great for drinks and salads.

Borage–cucumber flavor; good with salads and drinks.

Caper–a good garnish for hors d’oeuvres and salads.

Chamomile–a good garnish for salads and for making tea.

Chive blossoms–good as a garnish for soups, salads, stews, fish.

Chrysanthemum–good in Chinese stir-fry dishes, stews, as garnishes or in salads.

Daisy–good in salads and as garnishes.

Day lilies–petals good stuffed fresh or fried or in salads.

Flower of Juda–good in salads or stir-fry

Fresh dandelion–good in soups or stews.

Geraniums–good in salads or soups.

Hollyhocks–good in salads or stuffed with cheese.

Lavender wands–good as garnish, potpourri, or flavoring steaks.

Marigolds–good flavoring for stews, soups and salads; also can be used in lieu of saffron to color and flavor sauces.

Mustard–good in salads, soups or as garnish.

Nasturtiums–good in salads, as garnish or as hors d’oeuvres.

Pansy–good in salads or as hors d’oeuvres.

Pineapple sage–good in sweet sauces, salads and fruit salads.

Rocket (roquette)–good in meat sandwiches and salads.

Rose of Sharon (hibiscus)–good stuffed with cheese fillings, in salads or as garnishes.

Viola–good in salads, as garnish or crystallized to decorate desserts.

Violets–good in salads or crystallized to decorate desserts.


Here a photo from another source: The Green House. I have had their information for a long time & could not find them on the Internet. The last address I have is: PO Box 1069, Encinitas, CA 92024.


Add. Notes: At the back of my book by the Norths is a question & answer page. I learned that there may not be any specific nutritional benefit from flowers, but there is definitely a visual benefit and attractive foods do seem to whet the appetite. The page also explains that NOT ALL FLOWERS ARE EDIBLE. Also, different cultures favor different flowers. The French favor Violets; Chinese favor Mums; the Greeks and Mexicans like Hibiscus, etc.

In another article in my files (I use that term facetiously!! More like in my piles of papers!)  from Organic Gardening Magazine (Feb. 1990), I came across a partial list of common poisonous flowers that should not be eaten:
amaryllis, anemone, autumn crocus, azalea, belladonna Naked lady, bird-of-paradise, buckeye, buttercup, caladium, cardinal flower, clematis, daffodil, datura, gloriosa lily, hydrangeas, iris, jessamine, lantana, larkspur, lily-of-the-valley, lupine, monkshood, narcissus, oleander, pointsettia, sweet peas, rhododendron, star-of-Bethlehem, tansy, & wisteria.

The article also recommends avoiding putting these on your plate because no reliable documentation of their safety has been found:  bachelor’s-buttons*, impatiens, mullein, petunias, primrose, & snapdragons. However, I Googled each one and did not find any source that said these were poisonous. For ex., mullein leaves are edible but nothing about their flowers. Also, the photo above includes *bachelor’s buttons. So I would check with an herbalist knowledgeable about these flowers before eating them.

For me, the idea of adding edible flowers to my salad is, as the back page notes, “They are…fun and exciting.” And since I love colorful salads, flowers can enhance the color of my salad bowl. So, in the next posting on Kitchen Nutrition, I will feature two flower salads; one using fruits with the greens & flowers and one using veggies. Below is a “sneak preview” of the salad with fruit.