The Ultimate Guide to Edible Wild and Garden Flowers UK
Updated: May 2, 2019
The culinary use of Edible flowers dates back many years with the first recorded mention is thousands of years old. Many different cultures use flowers in their traditional foods. The Romans used mallow, rose and violets. Italian and Hispanic cultures gave us stuffed squash blossoms, and Asian Indians use rose petals in many recipes. Did you know Chartreuse, a classic green liqueur developed in France in the seventeenth century, boasts carnation petals as one of its secret ingredients?
In the UK eating flowers isn’t a new idea. The Victorians started the craze in the UK by adding garish flowers to their main courses to get one up on their guests, there is no doubt that the poor must have eaten them as a foodstuff way before the Victorians existed although this would be difficult to prove.
Some of the other benefits of eating Wild and Garden Flowers are that they are rich in 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 loaded with iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A and C. Marigolds and Nasturtium are also a good source of vitamin C.
So to picking them; be careful when collecting flowers, make sure that you pick the flowers early in the day and handle the flowers gently so as not to damage them. Shake gently to remove insects. Wash them gently when you get home if you must, and pat them dry. You can store them for a few hours in the fridge if you put them in an airtight bag.
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There are many flowers and blossoms that can be enjoyed both fresh and cooked. It's hard to buy edible flowers, but quite easy to grow most of them in your garden including the Wild varieties which can now readily be found and bought online. Since flowers are best when eaten soon after harvest, growing your own edible flowers makes even more sense as it takes less time to get them from plant to plate.
However, you need to really use caution when choosing edible flowers. Only eat flowers when you are absolutely certain they are edible. Never eat a flower that has been treated with a pesticide that was not labeled for use on food products. If you are choosing from your own garden flowers to eat, be certain you know your flowers as not all flowers are edible. Some can cause serious stomach problems and some are quite poisonous.
Finally, some Edible Wild Flowers are becoming rare, so sometimes more urban foraging techniques such as plundering your own gardens flowers is the way forward be aware of the rare and the quite common. You may have a lot of edible flowers growing in your garden all ready and you don't even know it so why don’t you read on. Remember, only eat flowers that you are 100% sure that you have positively identified as safe to eat!
So here it is, a long list, probably not a definitive list but a good starting point of Wild plants and Garden plants that are edible and what they look, smell and taste like! Enjoy!
The Ultimate Guide to Edible Wild and Garden Flowers UK
Allium family: All members of the Allium family are edible. The tastes range from mild onion and leek to strong onions and garlic. The flowers tend to have a stronger flavour than the leaves and the young-developing seed heads are even stronger. You can eat the leaves and flowers in a salad and the leaves can also be cooked in a soup for flavouring. The flowers are delicious on Wild Garlic in particular!
Angelica: Depending on the variety, flower range from pale lavender-blue to deep rose. It has a flavour similar to liquorice. Angelica is valued culinary from the seeds and stems, which are candied and used in liqueurs, to the young leaves and shoots, which can be added to a green salad. Because of its celery-like flavour, Angelica has a natural affinity with fish.
Anise Hyssop: Is a perennial herb that is known for its aniseed scented foliage. It has violet coloured flowers that bloom in July. The flowers are used in seasonings and for making teas.
Autumn Hawkbit: Similar to the Dandelion but with an inferior taste.
Basil: Depending on the type, the flowers are either bright white, pale pink, or delicate lavender. The flavour of the flower is milder, but similar to the leaves of the same plant.
Borage: Borage has a cucumber like scent and flavour. The vivid blue flowers make a striking addition to a salad or a last minute garnish to cooked foods. They are wonderful in cocktails, lemonade, gin and tonics and of course Pimms! They equally match well with foods including sorbets, yoghurt dips and chilled soups as well as Cheese dishes.
Calendula: (Pot Marigolds) The petals work well in cooked and fresh dishes. Calendula is also used as a saffron substitute because of its colour. The yellow or orange petals will colour and flavour foods when chopped and sautéed.
Carnations: Carnations can be steeped in wine or used as cake decoration. To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. Dianthus is the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add colour to salads or aspics. Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that have been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.
Chamomile: The flowers are small and daisy-like and have a sweet, apple-like flavour. Obviously excellent as tea.
Chervil: Chervil flowers are delicate white flowers with an aniseed flavour. Chervil's flavour is lost very easily, either by drying the herb, or too much heat. That is why it should be added at the end of cooking or at best sprinkled on in its fresh state.
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Chickweed: The plants flowers are small and White, although tasty not really worth the effort.
Chicory: Earthy flavour, eat either the petals or the buds. Chicory has a pleasant, mild-bitter taste that has been compared to endive, great in salads that have a sherry vinegar based dressing.
Chive Blossoms: Use whenever a light onion flavour is desired. Separate the florets by cutting at the base of the flower head. Great in salads and sandwiches.
Chrysanthemums: Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colours from red, white, yellow and orange. They range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. They should be blanched first and then scatter the petals on a salad. The leaves can also be used to flavour vinegar. Always remove the bitter flower base and use petals only. Young leaves and stems of the Crown Daisy, also known as Chop Suey Greens, are widely used in oriental stir-fries and as salad seasoning.
Citrus blossoms: Use highly scented waxy petals sparingly. Distilled orange flower water is characteristic of Middle Eastern pastries and beverages. Citrus flavour, delicious and lemony.
Clover: Mild, Sweet, anise-like, liquorice.
Common Mallow: Large Purple flowers, great addition to salads.
Coriander: Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers have a strong herbal flavour. Use leaves and flowers raw as the flavour fades quickly when cooked. Sprinkle to taste on salads, bean dishes, and cold vegetable dishes. Especially good as an addition to side salads matched with curry.
Cornflower: They have a slightly sweet to spicy, clove-like flavour. Bloom is a natural food dye. More commonly used as garnish.
Cowslip: Treat as Primroses. Cowslips are also increasingly rare in the wild.
Daisy: The smaller variety is common in the wild and on lawns, but larger cultivated varieties are available. Pick just before they are to be used, to prevent flowers from closing up, and use small flowers whole or separate larger petals. Relatively tasteless but pretty in salads.
Dandelions: Member of Daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young, and just before eating. They have a sweet, mildly honey-like flavour. Mature flowers are bitter. Good raw or steamed. Also made into wine or Schnapps. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice. Everyone is familiar with dandelion wine, but the flowers are also edible and quite delicious when young and tender. There are many cultivated varieties that have been developed for less bitter taste and more growth.
Dill: Tangy like leaves but stronger. Use yellow dill flowers as you would the herb itself - to season hot or cold soups, seafood, dressings or dips. Seeds used in pickling and baking.
Elderflower: The blossoms of the Elder are a creamy colour and have a sweet scent and sweet taste. When harvesting elderberry flowers, do not wash them as that removes much of the fragrance and flavour. Instead check them carefully for insects. The fruit is used to make wine or champagne. CAUTION: All other parts of this plant are poisonous! Do not even eat the stems of the flowers!
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Fennel: Star-burst yellow flowers have a mild aniseed flavour. Use with desserts or cold soups, or as a garnish with entrees – obvious affinity with fish.
Fuchsia: Blooms have no distinct flavour. Vivid colours and graceful shape make it ideal as garnish.
Ginger: The white variety of ginger is very fragrant and has a gingery taste on the tongue. Petals may be eaten raw or you can cook the tender young shoots.
Gardenia: Intensely fragrant light cream-coloured blossom used for decorative purposes. In the Far East, dried gardenia blossoms impart fragrance to jasmine tea.
Garlic Blossoms: The flowers can be pink or white and the stems are flat instead of round. The flavour has a garlicky zing that brings out the flavour of your favourite food. Wonderful in salads and without the bad breath.
Gem Marigolds: 'Lemon Gem' and 'Tangerine Gem' Marigolds are the only edible marigolds (except the pot Marigolds). As their names suggest, they have a citrus flavour, even though you won't smell a citrus scent.
Geranium: Fragrant, fantastic flowers
Gladiolas: Flowers (anthers removed) have no real flavour but can be stuffed with various fillings such as mousses. Toss individual petals in salads.
Hawthorn Blossom: Mildly perfumed flavoursome white to pink flowers makes great wine.
Hibiscus: Cranberry-like flavour with citrus overtones. Use slightly acidic petals sparingly in salads or as garnish. Makes an excellent syrup!
Herb Flowers: Many herb flowers are just as tasty as the foliage and more attractive. Add some petals to any dish you were already going to flavour with the herb – see individual herbs.
Holly Hock: Very bland tasting flavour.
Honeysuckle: Sweet honey flavour, amazing in teas. A word of warning though, the berries are highly poisonous!
Jack by The Hedge: Jack by the Hedge or Garlic Mustards flowers are exactly that, mildly garlicky. Great in salads!
Jasmine: The flowers are intensely fragrant and are traditionally used for scenting tea.
Lavender: Sweet, floral and very recognisable flavour. Flowers look beautiful and taste good too in a glass of champagne, with chocolate cake, or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savoury dishes also, from stews to wine reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets.
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Lemon Verbena: The dessert herb. Tiny cream-coloured citrus-scented blossoms. Leaves and flowers steeped as an herb tea, and used to flavour custards and flans.
Lilac: The flavour of lilacs varies from plant to plant. Very perfumey, slightly bitter. Has a distinct lemony taste with floral, pungent overtones. Great in salads.
Linden (Lime Tree blossom): Small flowers, white to yellow was are delightfully fragrant and have a honey like flavour, main ingredient in Linden (Lime Blossom tea).
Marjoram: Flowers are a milder version of plant's leaf. Use as you would the herb.
Meadowsweet: Add to apples or rhubarb when cooking to sweeten the fruit. Use 4 flower heads per pound of fruit in a muslin bag for easy removal.
Mint: The flavour of the flowers is minty, with different overtones depending on the variety. Mint flowers and leaves are great in Middle Eastern dishes.
Mustard: The flowers are yellow and retain some of the heat and flavours of seed.
Nasturtiums: Come in varieties ranging from trailing to upright and in brilliant sunset colours with peppery flavours. Blossoms have a sweet, spicy flavour similar to watercress. Leaves add peppery tang to salads. Pickled seed pods are less expensive substitute for capers. Use entire flowers to garnish platters, salads, sandwiches, and savoury appetisers. Can also be used to infuse vinegar or even vodka.
Oregano: Numerous small flowers, milder version of plant's leaf. Use as you would the herb.
Pansy: Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavour. If you eat only the petals, the flavour is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a winter, green overtone. Use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or in soups. The whole flower is edible, sepals and all.
Pea Blossoms: Edible garden peas bloom mostly in white, but may have other pale colouring. The blossoms are slightly sweet and crunchy and they taste like peas. The shoots and vine tendrils are edible, with a delicate, pea-like flavour. NOTE: Flowering ornamental sweet peas are poisonous.
Peach blossoms: Pink flowers that taste mildly sweet.
Pear blossoms: White to cream blossoms.
Petunia: Petunia flowers have a mild flowery taste and can be used as a garnish.
Primrose: Primroses are becoming rare in the wild, and so cultivated plants should be used. Use the flowers whole in salads. Use liberally to impart a delicate flavour to apple pies.
Queen Anne's Lace: Flavour is lightly carrot like. Great in salads.
Radish Flowers: Depending on the variety, flowers may be pink, white or yellow, and will have a distinctive, spicy bite (has a radish flavour). Best used in salads.
Reedmace: This tall reedy plant is found near rivers and lakes. The young flowers can be eaten raw, cooked or made into soup. Tastes mildly like sweetcorn.
Rosemary: Blue to cream flowers a milder version of leaf. Fresh or dried herb and blossoms enhance flavour of Mediterranean dishes. Use with meats, seafood, sorbets or dressings.
Roses: Flavours depend on type, colour, and soil conditions. Wild Rose or Dog Rose petals are highly perfumed and make the most amazing jam. All roses are edible. In miniature varieties can garnish ice cream and desserts, or larger petals can be sprinkled on desserts or salads. Freeze them in ice cubes and float them in punches also. Petals used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads.
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Sage: The flowers are Violet-Blue, Pink or White. Small, tubelike, clustered together in whorls along the stem tops. Flowers have a subtler sage taste than the leaves and can be used in salads and as a garnish. Flowers are a delicious companion to many foods including beans, corn dishes, sautéed or stuffed mushrooms, or pesto sauce.
Savoury (Winter or Summer): The flavour of the flowers is hot and peppery.
Scented Geraniums: The flower flavour generally corresponds to the variety. For example, a lemon-scented geranium would have lemon-scented flowers. They come in fragrances from citrus and spice to fruits and flowers, and usually in colours of pinks and pastels. Sprinkle them over desserts and in refreshing drinks or freeze in ice cubes. NOTE: Citronelle variety may not be edible.
Snap Dragon: Delicate garden variety can be bland to bitter. Flavours depend on type, colour, and soil conditions.
Sorrel: Sorrel flowers are tart, lemon tasting. So use like a lemon: on pizza, a salad topping, in sauces, over cucumber salads.
Squash Blossoms: Squash and pumpkin blossoms are edible and taste mildly of raw squash. Prepare the blossoms by washing and trimming the stems and remove the stamens. All squash flowers are edible, not just courgettes! The Italian way of preparing them is to stuff the flowers with cheese and deep fry them.
Sunflower: The flower is best eaten in the bud stage when it tastes similar to artichokes. Once the flower opens, the petals may be used like chrysanthemums, the flavour is distinctly bittersweet. The unopened flower buds can also be steamed like artichokes.
Sweet Woodruff: The flower flavour is sweet and grassy with a hint of nutty, vanilla flavour.
Thyme (Common or Wild): Milder version of leaf. Use sprigs as garnish or remove flowers and sprinkle over soups and even fruity desserts. (anywhere the herb might be used.)
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Tuberous Begonia: The petals of the tuberous begonias are edible. Their bright colours and sour, fruity taste bring flavour and beauty to any summer salad. Begonia blossoms have a delicious citrus sour taste and a juicy crunch. The petals are used as a garnish and in salads. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism. NOTE: Only Hybrids are edible.
Tulip Petals: Flavour varies from tulip to tulip, but generally the petals taste like sweet lettuce, fresh baby peas, or a cucumber-like texture and flavour. NOTE: Some people have had strong allergic reactions to them. If touching them causes a rash, numbness etc. Don't eat them! Don't eat the bulbs ever.
Wild Garlic: Delicious white flowers the same as all Alliums. Brilliant spring time garnish to salads.
Violas: Lovely yellow, white and purple blooms have a mild wintergreen flavour and can be used in salads, to decorate cakes, or served with soft cheese. They are also a great addition to drinks, soups, desserts or salads.
Violets: Sweet, perfumed flavour. Related flowers, Violas, and Pansies now come in colourful purples and yellows to apricot and pastel hues. Delicately flavoured small flowers can be used whole in salads. Read more about the Sweet Violet.
Wild Bergamot: Also called Horsemint or Wild Bee balm. Wild Bergamot flowers taste like oregano and mint. The taste of Wild Bergamot is reminiscent of citrus with soft mingling of lemon and orange. The red flowers have a minty flavor. Any place you use oregano, you can use bee balm blossoms. The leaves and flower petals can also be used in both fruit and regular salads. The leaves taste like the main ingredient in Earl Gray Tea and can be used as a substitute.
Wild Rose: See Rose
Yarrow flowers: It is easily recognised when in bloom by its large, flat-topped clusters of small white or sometimes pink flowers. Used for making wine.
So there it is, a good long list of edible UK Wild Flowers and Garden Flowers that you can start collecting and adding to your meals.
When picking Wild Flowers please remember that if a plant is rare or even rarer in a particular area please leave it where it is to populate that area for years to come.
Hopefully now you know that you have a whole garden full of edible flowers and plenty of edible Wild Flowers too, so lots of potential delicious meals ahead. Flowers can be used as a sole ingredient or to compliment other flavours. Edible flowers can be used to hold fantastic stuffings or as the garnish, either way these under used and versatile ingredients should all be used more often, good luck on your flowery food adventures and remember to only eat flowers that you have positively identified as edible and always remember that even if a plant is edible to test to see if you are allergic.
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