Types of Flowers
Flowers can add a splash of color as a garnish for many meals, and the list of edible flowers available as either nutritious or decorative additions to any dinner table is endless.
One of the big drawbacks associated with edible flowers is similar to the drawbacks associated with edible mushrooms. Without having a botany background or expertise in the area, it's difficult to choose between edible and poisonous flowers.
The bulbs of many lily species, for example, are considered edible, and they served as staple foods for Native Americans. Not knowing the difference between an edible lily and a poisonous lily such as the Death Camas (Zigadenus venenosus) can cause severe health prolems.
Fear not, the recent increased interest in edible flowers means there is a high probability that a local horticulture organization offers seasonal based edible flowers classes or seminars. Often they take the form of a sunny day walk to explore the local blooms.
Any reputable edible flowers class will also provide a couple of general picking tips. For example, flower location is always an important determinant when picking flowers for consumption. Flowers growing along a roadside, might technically be edible. However, it's also important to take into account the toxic exhaust fumes from passing roadside vehicles prior to making a decision to consume the roadside flowers.
Edible flowers grown in gardens that use pesticides should also be avoided.
Flowers should be picked in early morning when they are in full bloom. Removing the stems, sepals, pistils, and stamens is also recommended prior to use.
Flowers as food sources takes many different culinary paths, from broths to proteins to vegetables.
Chicory roots, for example have a long edibility history, specifically as a coffee substitute. Dried, cut and put in a cup of boiling water, the root produces a caffeine free coffee-like beverage.
Young leaves are also edible and have a history of use as a salad ingredient as well as cattle feed. Two Claytonia species, Candy Flower and Miner's Lettuce also provide lettuce alternatives for salad coniseurs.
Candy Flower, (Claytonia sibirica), pictured at the top of the page, goes by a variety of regionally preferred common names, known to some as Siberian Miner's Lettuce or Siberian Spring Beauty.
It's a member of the Purslane family (Portulacaceae) and an early bloomer in the Pacific Northwest, showing flowers starting in mid-March. Depending on elevation and climate, it blooms into the summer.
The riparian and forested areas of the Cascade Mountains are a favored habitat. The flower in the above picture is enlarged by at least a factor of two to highlight the purple stripes on the petals.
Both flower and leaves are edible, with the leaves providing a year long alternative to lettuce.
Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) also means the start of a great salad. They are a good source of Vitamin C and fiber. Start looking for them at the first sign of spring as they begin blooming early.
The picture shows a small white flower growing close to a comparatively larger single round leaf.
Plants are shade resistant. They often grow in clusters in and around forested areas, making them easy to find and identify.
Turning to the protein oriented edibility crowd, Chia (Salvia columbariae) a small, but complicated looking flower in the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) produces nutritious, high in protein, fiber and calcium seeds. Native Americans from Central America, north through California have longstanding cultural ties with the edible plant.
It's a spiky, purple plant, with even smaller, bluer trumpet shaped flowers growing between the spikes. Range is limited to the desert Southwest.
Chia grows as an annual plant, and depending on the condition, the stem can grow and flower close to the ground, or up and around shrubs in the foot and one-half range.
Chia seeds are considered nutritious, high in protein, fiber and calcium. Native Americans from Central America, north through California have longstanding cultural ties with the edible plant.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolaceaeare), a group of introduced plants from Mexico, Central and South America, grow annually in many areas of the United States.
Varieties are chosen based on petal color, their utility as ground cover or as trailing vines.
The orange flower showing the picture is only one example the group's bold colors.
In addition to being colorful, the flowers and leaves are also edible. The leaves can substitute for lettuce.
Having said that, the pictures and accompanying details are provided on an as is basis. Do not use this, or any one source, as a definitive guide for picking and consuming any flowers.
The following list of flowers (without pictures) are also on the edible list.
- Bee balm (Monarda didyma): citrus, minty flavor
- Borage (Borago officinalis): cucumber flavor
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis): bitter saffron substitute
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): sweet tea
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): mild onion flavor
- Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana): sweet
- Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris): perfumed taste
© 2009-2012 Patricia A. Michaels.