University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
are quite a few perennials that are edible, as well as beautiful.
They’ll add color and different flavors to
all manner of cooking, from soups to sweets, are nutritious, and can
your cooking to “haute cuisine.”
flowers of many perennials are edible, some are not. A few of the
perennials you should avoid eating
their flowers include most spring bulb flowers (except tulip
clematis, delphinium, bleeding heart, lily of the valley, spurges,
poppies. If you read or hear that a
certain flower is edible, make sure you have the right flower, as
look similar may not be edible, and may even be toxic.
you haven’t eaten a flower before, sample it first as some may cause
reactions in some people. In the rare
event you develop hives, a rash, or have problems breathing, contact
physician. Some flowers may taste good to one person, and not to
flowers may have different flavors depending on where they are
tips for safety include never eating any plants treated with harmful
pesticides. If you buy flowers, unless they are from an organic farm
know the grower and their practices, it is best not to eat them as
have been sprayed. Don’t harvest
“wildflowers” from along roadsides, as these may have vehicle
use too many flowers in cooking to avoid possible gastric issues.
Too many daylily flowers, for instance, may
act as a diuretic or laxative. But
daylilies are edible (make sure not to confuse with the
true lilies), with a slightly sweet taste some say resembles a cross
asparagus. I seem to think the yellow
ones taste sweeter. Cut off the bitter
flower base before using.
you like to fry, try daylily fritters.
Or you can sear buds or flowers, instead, in a pan with some hot
oil. Coat first in a batter made with
whole wheat flour, a small amount of corn starch, and if desired
salt. After fried and cooled, serve with
cinnamon, honey, or your favorite topping.
balm is another common garden perennial with edible flowers. It is
one of our few native American herbs,
being related to mint, although it is most often used ornamentally.
The red, white, pink, or purple flowers can
add color to salad greens and fruit salads.
Use them as an herb where you might use oregano, as their tastes are
similar only with hints of citrus and mint.
Or use them in desserts, in homemade vanilla ice cream or on top for
decoration, or in pound cake. Steep a
couple tablespoons of chopped petals in 4 cups boiling water for a
tea, or you
can use the leaves for a tea similar to Earl Gray. In fact another
common name for this plant is
Oswego Tea, from its use in the Northeast in former times.
geranium, while not an annual flower, is tender in cold climates so
overwintered indoors. The rule with
these is, if the leaves don’t smell appetizing, don’t eat their
flowers. ‘Citronella’, the cultivar touted as a bug
repellent, is an example of one to avoid.
Rose geranium flowers can be used when making apple jelly, or angel
cake. Use flowers in, or to decorate,
homemade ice cream. Citrus kinds are
good to freshen drinks, or to freeze in ice cubes.
are one of the more popular edible flowers.
As these shrubs are often sprayed for pests, make sure if eating the
flowers that this hasn’t been done.
Flavors vary with plant and location, but generally are sweet with
nuances of fruit, mint, or spice. Darker
cultivars tend to have stronger
flavors. Use miniature rose flowers to
decorate ice cream and desserts. Use
petals from larger flowers on desserts or mixed into salads. Petals
are often floated in punch, or use in
syrups, jellies, butters and spreads.
in the north know the lilac shrub, but most may not realize the
edible as well as showy. Petals have a
slightly bitter lemony taste, but will vary among selections. Use
them fresh in salads, or mixed with
yogurt, or crystallize them as candy.
is an easy to grow fruiting shrub, whose creamy blossoms have a
taste. As they are delicate, check them
for pests but don’t wash. The large flat
flower heads are wonderful fried. Dip in
water, and then in flour you’ve seasoned (as with cinnamon, honey,
and containing a beaten egg, before quickly frying in hot oil.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
flowers are best picked fresh. Wash
gently but well to remove any dirt and unwanted forms of life.
Remove the flower parts in the center—the
stamens and pistil. Then use fresh, in
cooking, or for teas and syrups. Fresh,
flower petals are often mixed in salads, floated in soups, or used
as a garnish
on plates. In cooking, flower petals are
great in stir fry, cooked as a vegetable for some, others used to
and sauces. Flowers can be used to
flavor honey, oils and vinegars, or butter.
tea, simply simmer the washed flower petals for about 5 minutes in
strain. For a flower-infused syrup that
can be used to sweeten beverages, pour over pound cake or ice cream
pancakes, boil petals with water and sugar for about 10 minutes or
thickened. Use about one cup of water, 3
cups of sugar, and one cup of flower petals.
Strain, then store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
elegant butters, soften a pound of butter and mix in up to a cup of
petals (fresh or dried). Then let stand at room temperature a few
hours for flavors to mingle, before using or storing a couple weeks
refrigerator, or freezing up to a few months.
a fancy dessert, turn flowers into candy and eat them or use to
and pastries. Pansy and viola, lavender,
daisy, cornflower, borage, and even rose flowers are some often
candied. Victorians used many this way, including
lilacs, nasturtiums, carnations, cherry and apple blossoms.
Hibiscus flowers can be steeped for tea, then
candy, frost, or crystallize flowers, gently wash them and let dry a
on paper towels, or pat dry. Whip egg
whites into a froth, then use an artist’s brush to gently coat the
petals. Dipping them in the whites will cause them to
take on too much and not dry properly.
Some dilute the whites with water.
Finish by sprinkling with finely granulated sugar. Let dry in a warm
place for 2 to 4 days. Candied flowers often store in the cool for
weeks—a reason the Victorian’s fancied them.
are many other edible garden flowers which you can research online,
some uses in the book Edible Flowers,
Desserts and Drinks, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash.