Edible flowers make the simplest and most beautiful garnishes. Their vivid colours and varied blossoms create a stunning presentation and draw rave reviews, so why not grow them yourself. Pluck some pansies to bring a splash of summer to a platter of cappuccino brownies, lay a chive blossom over a serving dish of noodles, or sprinkle bachelor button petals on a lettuce salad. So easy and so beautiful.
By serving edible flowers you get to learn a little more about your friends. The adventurous ones ask excitedly, “Can I eat this?” and as soon as you say yes they pop it in their mouth. Some watch cautiously and when they are confident no one seems to be dying they eat theirs’ too. The picky ones might try just a petal but not the whole blossom. And just as often there is a stand out, someone with less culinary adventure who is quite certain they will be fine without ever having eaten a flower. I do not consider that a flaw by any standard. I love how beautiful flowers make my food look and I don’t care if anyone eats them. So have a little fun with your friends and garnish your plates with abandon.
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How To Use Edible Flowers
Not all flowers are edible so you need to know which ones you can eat. When I first learned about edible flowers I started to grow them. Then I wanted to share this information with friends so I made the hand lettered card you see in the picture above to give away. Here is a brief comment on the flowers I continue to grow and enjoy every year.
Pansies – Buy them in early spring in the colours you would like to use. I buy lots and always decorate my Angel Food Cake with them. Pinch them off and serve. If the pot was on your deck then you cared for it so I’d say that qualifies as saying you grew them.
Chives – Once planted chives come back every year in early spring as a single plant. Recipes often call for snipped chives so take your scissors and snip directly over a plate or serving dish. When chives go to seed they have a nice purple blossom that can also be eaten. Pull the purple petals from the stem and sprinkle liberally over pasta discarding the hard mature stem.
Bachelor Buttons – These blue and pink flowers grow from seed but also self-seed so come back year after year. I like them sprinkled on a lettuce salad but they also look nice over a dessert.
Calendula – These bright yellow and orange flowers look nice around a tart or on top of a cake. You can also pluck off the petals and sprinkle them over your cake for a different effect.
Dianthus – This perennial plant has pink, red or white blossoms that look nice in a salad.
Nasturtiums – These vibrant yellow and orange blossoms are sort of flute shaped and can be filled with a cream cheese mixture and served as an hors d’oeuvre. This is a bit tedious for me so I simply serve them on top of a salad. They are especially stunning when placed on a black plate.
Viola – Also called Johnny-Jump-Ups these tiny yellow and purple blossoms grow wild but you can buy them at a garden centre. They are perfect on top of tiny brownies.
Borage – These tiny pink blossoms turn blue as they mature. I like to pull the delicate flower from the stem and float them in a drink. You can also add them to a garden salad or the top of an individual brownie.
Roses – I enjoy my roses on the bushes but might occasionally take a perfect rose and drop the individual petals onto a white tablecloth to create a romantic picnic lunch.
The other flowers listed on the card in the photo have either died or just not been planted in my garden in recent years. This is certainly not a definitive list, but I think it’s a great start. I hope you are inspired to try one or more of these edible blossoms on your food this season.
Buying and Growing Edible Flowers
You can purchase edible flowers at a farmer’s market or specialty food shop but they are so easy to grow and convenient to use I encourage you to give it a try. Try both, full grown plants in dirt (like pansies) plus some edible flower seeds. Some plants like sun and others like shade but all you need to do is keep them alive. Just read the label on the plant you buy or ask at the garden centre, it’s pretty easy.
There is plenty of good gardening advice available so the only tip I’ll give you is to learn the difference between annuals and perennials. Annuals are plants you buy and plant year after year. Annually. Everything else is a perennial.
Perennials are the ones that go dormant in winter and come up again every spring. It is always amazing to see those little shoots come up through the ground after being snow-covered all winter. This awesome miracle of nature is how I have bachelor buttons, calendula and borage flowers growing in my garden year after year.
Are you inspired? I encourage you to go buy a few plants, packages of seeds or both. You will soon learn when they bloom and what they can be used for and like me…you will probably find a certain dish you make for a certain event that happens every year, and now you can grow the perfect edible garnish right in your own backyard.
Let me know in the comments below if you grew any edible flowers or how you used them with food.