Edible Flowers and Preparations
While this is by no means a complete list of edible flowers (or even edible flowers local to me in upstate NY), this is the list of edible flowers I have cooked with and enjoyed (so far!), and the different means by which I’ve had success preparing them. While my list is limited to the flowering plants available in my own backyard, many items on the list are found widely across North America, and hopefully in a green space near you to try for yourself!
Squash / Pumpkin blossoms: The flowers taste mildly of squash. Once they are washed and stamens are trimmed, you can chop and add raw to salads, or batter, stuff with ricotta/egg/parmesan, and fry for a tasty treat.
Dandelion blossoms: smaller blossoms are sweet, with more mature blossoms becoming bitter. They can be used to make dandelion jam (tastes like honey!), dandelion wine, battered and fried, or even just tossed in with a salad. My husband is a picky-eater and refused to even try dandelion jam, however when he ate a mini-cheese cake topped with a dollop of what he thought was honey, he loved it. (You can also eat the leaves raw in salads or steamed. The roots can be dug up in early spring when taste is best, scrubbed clean, boiled, and eaten when fork-tender, similar to carrots!)
Day Lilies: A mix between asparagus and zucchini in flavor, the blossoms can be cut away from the bitter white base, and stuffed/fried similar to pumpkin/squash blossoms. I have also used them as a pretty and non-toxic garnish on cheese platters for large gatherings.
Nasturtiums: The flowers can be tossed in salads or stuffed/battered/fried similar to squash blossoms, and have a peppery taste. (The leaves can also be added to salads or sandwiches, and have a stronger peppery flavor than the blossoms. The seed pods, when pickled, are very similar to capers; they make a great addition to salmon with a little lemon!)
Sunflower: Besides the typical use of sunflower seeds, you can also steam the unopened buds, which taste similar to artichokes. It was a tasty substitute for artichokes in spinach artichoke dip in the slow cooker for a large gathering! No one could taste a difference!
Lilacs: With a mild bitter lemon flavor, the flowers make a tasty addition to salads, or sprinkled over fish with a little lemon juice and butter before baking. I have 4 different colors/shades of purple, pink, and white lilacs in my yard, and have found that some colors are stronger in flavor than others, but it has not been consistently the same colors that are stronger each year. It has differed from year to year depending on the weather in the growing season. (I will update this if I can ever determine a pattern!)
Pansies, Violets, and Johnny Jump-Ups: With a mild flavor similar to spinach, the petals make a tasty addition to salads or sandwiches. The greens have a much stronger flavor and are excellent when steamed similar to spinach. I have used them in grilled cheese sandwiches, with a thin slice of tomato and a sprinkling of basil. (The raw greens also paired well with a salad including spinach, tangerines, slivered almonds, chopped celery, diced red bell pepper, shredded carrot, and a ginger-sesame dressing!)
Chive or Garlic Blossoms: After rinsing and drying (I prefer to use a salad spinner for drying, but laying them out on a towel for a bit works just fine too), chive or garlic blossoms have a mild onion/garlic flavor. They are a tasty addition to salads raw, or can be battered & fried as a yummy appetizer. They also make a delicious addition to potato soup! I have also chopped them and added to the batter when making zucchini fritters, pork burgers, and to crab cakes to add a mild garlic flavor.
Peonies: Similar to Dandelion, peonies can be used to make a sweet mild-flavored jelly, or the flowers can be par-boiled and sweetened for a tea that is great warm or iced. Peony petals can be tossed with salads, or my favorite, chopped and stirred into a glass of lemonade and crushed ice for a summer treat.
Basil: The flowers of Basil plants taste like basil, just milder than the leaves. They're a nice addition to salads that contain tomato and mozzarella, or chopped and sprinkled on pizza before baking.
Lavender: Seal a few lavender flowers in a container with granulated sugar for a couple of weeks. It makes a tasty and aromatic sweetener for black or green tea!
Roses: Similar to Dandelion and Peonies, Roses can be used to make a mild-flavored sweet jelly. Like peonies, the petals (the darker the better) have a mild flavor. Depending on the kind of rose, the flavor can range from fruity to minty! Petals are tasty tossed with salad, or chopped and frozen in ice cubes to give a subtle sweet flavor to ice water in warmer weather.
Clover: Red clover flowers have a mild flavor when young, turning to a stronger anise/ licorice flavor when more mature. The young flowers are delicious in stir-fries, with more mature flowers making tasty additions to salads. White clover flowers are similar, just less flavorful than red clovers.
Mint: The flowers taste minty, like the leaves. They make a nice addition to couscous with steamed peas!
Dill: Dill's yellow flowers are similar in flavor to the rest of the plant, I use them when pickling (especially when pickling green beans!) or sprinkled over fish before baking with a little butter and lemon juice drizzle.
Rosemary: Slightly more subtle than the rest of the plant, Rosemary flowers make a nice addition when roasting potatoes, winter squash, carrots, or chicken.
Oregano: The Oregano flowers taste like the leaves, just a more subtle flavor. It is delicious chopped and sprinkled over pizza before baking. Or, I like to slice zucchini into 1/4" thick rounds, top with pizza sauce and cheese, an oregano flower, and bake until the cheese is melted.