Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Are flowers in my yard edible?

Be sure that you do your homework before exploring the use of edible flowers on your menu.

“I will have some hibiscus lemonade,” I said.

That sounded interesting to me as I perused the menu. Maybe the attractive flowers would translate to a pleasant flavor, I thought.

The beverage was pinkish in color and had a cranberry-like flavor. I liked it. I have tried lavender lemonade and rose-infused beverages. Soup with floating squash blossoms was novel to me, too.

I am seeing an increasing number of beverages and foods crafted with the addition of flowers.

As I admired the colorful flowers in my yard, I pondered the ones that might be safe to eat.

Sometimes, certain parts of the plant are safe, while other parts are not. For example, lily of the valley, amaryllis, crocus and hyacinth are toxic. Enjoy looking at them and sniff their aroma, but do not taste them.

Remember safety first. Before you become overly adventuresome sampling the flowers, weeds or mushrooms you find, be sure you can identify the plants correctly. Find a reliable resource about edible plants or a friend with specialization in horticulture.

Do not guess on the edibility of plants you find in nature.

When you identify edible plant foods, be sure that the flowers have not been sprayed with pesticides, subjected to lawn chemical drift or fertilized with manure recently.

Flower bouquets from the grocery store and nursery flowers are not the type to add to your menu. Culinary flowers are available in some locations, or you could grow your own so you know how the flowers have been raised.

I planted nasturtiums this year because their peppery flavors are a tasty addition to salads. Bright gold Bachelor buttons add visual interest and flavor to recipes. Most flowers also contain some vitamins A and C with few calories.

Pansies with their bright cheery “faces” are edible, and they impart a “grassy” flavor according to some sources. Dark purple pansies might make your tongue turn purple or blue, by the way.

The landscaping favorite, daylilies, are edible and some people enjoy the petals in frittatas, stir-fry and pasta dishes.

If you planted squash, remember that the blossoms are edible and can be used in a variety of ways. Try adding them as attractive and edible garnishes. Incorporate squash blossoms into pasta dishes or quesadillas, or stuff them with cheese or seafood, dip in batter, and then air-fry. 

If you eat the blossoms, your crop of zucchini or other summer squash will become manageable, too.

Dandelions are considered a nuisance in lawns, but the leaves and flowers can be used in salads. Dandelions also can be used to make wine.

Rose and daisy petals are edible and are attractive additions to desserts. Rose petals can be dried and used in beverages.

Use edible flowers at their peak of freshness. Avoid blossoms that are past their prime, as evidenced by wilted or faded colors. Avoid eating the anthers and pistils (usually at the center of the flower) because they have a bitter flavor.

Rinse the flowers with cool, running water and place on paper towels to gently dry, then refrigerate until use. For a fun twist on beverages, freeze edible flower petals with water in an ice cube tray then add to beverages. Freeze the edible flowers, herbs or fruit in an ice ring and add to a punch bowl.

Start small if you decide to try some flowers in teas, other beverages or foods. Some can cause allergic reactions or stomach upset.

Lilac flowers are edible with a fragrant aroma, as are apple and plum blossoms. Be sure to go lightly when using lavender because lavender flowers have a perfume-like flavor.

What if you want to enjoy flowers longer than they last outdoors, but you are a bit leery about eating them? You can dry them and use them as home decorations.

If you receive a beautiful bouquet of roses, remove them from the vase before they wilt, flip the bouquet upside down and tie with a string and hang in a cool place with good air circulation. Then display in a vase or make potpourri by adding an essential oil. Display in a bowl or make sachets.

You can preserve some floral memories by pressing your favorite small flowers between two layers of wax paper and place them within the pages of a book or under a flat heavy object. Be patient, though. The flowers take at least a week to dry this way. Laminate them to make bookmarks.

Be sure that you do your homework before exploring the use of edible flowers on your menu.

I planted lavender this year, and here’s a simple lemonade recipe. You can perk up a lemonade recipe with the addition of other summertime favorites, including fresh berries, basil or mint.

Lavender Lemonade

¼ cup fresh lavender flowers (not treated with pesticides)
1 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
1 ½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
2 cups cold water
Ice (frozen with edible flowers if desired)

Wash your hands and dry thoroughly. Place the lavender flowers in a heat-resistant bowl, add sugar and press sugar into the blossoms with your fingers. Pour 2 cups of boiling water over the sugar-flower mixture and allow to stand at least 30 minutes. While waiting for the lavender syrup to steep, rinse the lemons, cut in half then use a juicer to squeeze them. Add the juice to a serving pitcher. Strain the lavender syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into the serving pitcher. Add cold water and ice. Add extra water and/or sugar to adjust to your preferred sweetness.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 140 calories, 0 grams (g) fat, 0 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 5 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – June 6, 2024

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu

Editor: Elizabeth Cronin, 701-231-7006, elizabeth.cronin@ndsu.edu


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