The Cocktailian's Guide to Edible Flowers

 Hosta blossoms

Hosta blossoms

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of edible flowers. A large percentage of the cocktails I share everyday on Instagram feature floral garnishes, and I’m moderately obsessed with wandering around in the field behind our house looking for things I can eat, turn into a syrup, or use as a garnish. There’s just something so naturally appealing about flowers. They can transform a tasty but visually lacking drink into a masterpiece, take a cake from boring to extraordinary, or add unique, delicate, vegetal flavors to a weeknight dinner.

With the last few weeks of summer closing in, I was inspired to assemble a collection of some of the easy-to-identify edible flowers and plants from around my yard and create a cocktail inspired by all of this summer’s foraging. Below you'll find a list of common edible flowers that make for gorgeous garnishes. Some you can find in your backyard, others are easy to find in stores or online.

 Fleabane

Fleabane

In addition to being top notch garnishes, wild edibles make a lovely addition to salads, soups, crudite or charcuterie platters. I gathered a basketful, gave them a thorough shake (to remove any lurking little creatures), a good rinse, and a gentle pat dry, and served them as a topping for a large garden salad with an oxymel-based dressing.

Oxymels are a delicious way to preserve the flavors of summer and create herbal infusions to use in cocktails, salad dressings, as herbal medicine, or with diluted with sparkling water like a shrub. An oxymel, meaning ‘acid + honey’, is just that - a mixture of equal parts honey and vinegar. I like to use local wildflower honey and organic apple cider vinegar. You can combine both ingredients in a jar, shake it well, and enjoy as is, or you can add herbs or other botanicals and let it sit for a few weeks to make an infusion. My current favorite oxymel to make is elderberry, which is both delicious and good for you! Elderberry has long been known for its antiviral properties, making it a powerful ally during cold and flu season.

In today's garden-fresh cocktail recipe, I've use a touch of rosemary & thyme infused oxymel combined with blueberry syrup, Standard Wormwood Distillery's Wormwood gin, lime juice, and an absinthe rinse. This complex, herbal gin sour is garnished with a miniature garden of tiny edibles (from left to right: Queen Anne's lace leaf, yellow hawkweed, red clover (back), fleabane daisy, oregano leaf, purple basil blossom.)

edible flowers and other foraged flora for cocktails

Garden Variety Gin Sour

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Wormwood Gin (Standard Wormwood Distillery)

  • 1 oz lime juice

  • .75 oz blueberry syrup (equal parts water, sugar, and ripe blueberries)

  • .25 oz rosemary & thyme infused oxymel

  • 1 egg white

  • Absinthe rinse

Instructions:

Add less than a 1/4 ounce of absinthe to a chilled cocktail glass and swirl to coat. Discard absinthe. Shake remaining ingredients hard without ice for about 1 minute. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass and garnish with tiny edible flowers and herbs.

edible flowers and other foraged flora for cocktails

Below I've started a list of some of the edible flowers and plants I'm familiar with. This list is by no means exhaustive, and mainly focuses on what's readily available to me or native to New England. I will add to the list as I come across new flowers and I'll update with more photos as I have the opportunity to shoot them! 

If you're looking to purchase edible flowers, I have come across a few sites and the one that seems to have the best selection is Gourmet Sweet Botanicals. I haven't bought from them yet, but when I run out of plants to forage around the yard, I will give them a shot and post an update here.

A List of Edible Flowers to Elevate your Garnish Game

IMPORTANT: Never eat a plant or flower if you cannot identify it with absolute certainty. Many flowers are toxic and may look like those that are edible. Use common sense and if in doubt, don't eat it! Flowers from florists or grocery stores have been treated with pesticides and should not be eaten unless labeled as edible.

 New England Aster

New England Aster

Aster, New England: Symphyotrichum novae angliae. Both the leaves and flowers are edible.

 Baby's Breath

Baby's Breath

Baby’s breath: Gypsophila sp. Clusters of tiny white flowers. Slightly sweet flavor.

 Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Bee balm: Monarda didyma. Bright pink to purple colored blossoms. Also called Bergamot because of the scent and flavor resemblance to the citrus fruit of the same name. Red blossoms have a minty flavor.

 Bluets (white flowers)

Bluets (white flowers)

Bluets: Houstonia coerulea. Tiny blue to white flowers with four petals. Very mild vegetal flavor.

Borage: Borago officinalis. Beautiful blue blossoms with a mild cucumber flavor.

Calendula: Calendula officinalis. Also called Marigold. Orange to yellow colored blossoms. Flavor can range but is somewhat characteristic of saffron.

 Carnation

Carnation

Carnation: Dianthus caryophyllus. Carnations are a species of Dianthus. Wide variety of colors. Petals have sweet to spicy flavor. Cut the white base of the petals off to avoid bitter flavors. One of the ingredients in the mysterious Chartreuse secret recipe!

Chamomile: Matricaria recutita. Slightly bitter, sweet, earthy, somewhat floral flavor.

 Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum: Chrysanthemum coronarium. A wide variety of colors. Slightly bitter, vegetal flavor. Use petals only.

Columbine: Aquilegia canadensis (red) and aquilegia caerulea (Colorado blue) ONLY. Flowers only. 

 Dried cornflower petals

Dried cornflower petals

Cornflower: Centaurea cynaus. Also called Bachelor’s Button. Bright blue blossoms with clove flavor.

Dandelion: Taraxacum officinalis. Fluffy, yellow flowers. Honey flavor when flowers are small and young.

 Yellow Daylilies

Yellow Daylilies

Daylily: Hemerocallis. Orange and yellow, six petaled blooms. Slightly sweet, lettuce-like flavor. Use caution as true LILIES are not safe to eat. 

 Dianthus (Bridal white star)

Dianthus (Bridal white star)

Dianthus: Wide range of colors and varieties. Consume petals only. 

 Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose

Evening primrose: Oenothera biennis. Also called Sundrop. Beautiful yellow, four petaled blossoms. Slightly sweet flavor.

 Fleabane (tall daisy-like flower) and oregano blossoms

Fleabane (tall daisy-like flower) and oregano blossoms

Fleabane: Erigeron annuus. Tiny white, daisy-like flowers with many spiky white petals. Mild, vegetal flavor.

 Forsythia

Forsythia

Forsythia: Forsythia x intermedia. Clusters of small, bright yellow, four petaled flowers. Blooms early in spring. Honey-like to green in flavor.

 Apple blossom

Apple blossom

Fruit blossoms (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, apple, pear): Many are edible, in moderation. Research individual varieties for more information.

Geranium: Pelargonium. Scented geraniums are edible and taste like their individual scent variety.

 Goldenrod (left) and Moonbeam Coreopsis

Goldenrod (left) and Moonbeam Coreopsis

Goldenrod: Solidago cnadensis. Long clusters of tiny, bright yellow flowers. All aerial parts of the plant can be eaten.

 Orange Hawkweed

Orange Hawkweed

Hawkweed (yellow and orange): Hieracium. Related to dandelions. Also called “devil’s paintbrush”. Bright yellow or orange fluffy blossoms. 

Herb blossoms (basil, thyme, mint, oregano, sage): Research individual varieties for more information.

Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Blossoms range from white to deep red. Sweet, tart, acidic flavor. 

 Hosta blossoms

Hosta blossoms

Hosta: All varieties cultivated in the United States are edible. Colors range from white to purple. Mild, vegetal, slightly bitter flavor.

 Kousa dogwood blossom

Kousa dogwood blossom

Kousa dogwood: Cornus kousa. ONLY this variety of dogwood has edible flowers and berries. White, rigid flowers with four petals.

 Lavender

Lavender

Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia. Pretty, tall purple flowers. Clean, sweet, floral flavor.

 Lilac

Lilac

Lilac: Syringa vulgaris. Large clusters of pale purple or white blossoms. Strong floral scent and flavor.

Magnolia: Magnolia grandiflora. Intense flavor comparable to scent. Best pickled.

 Moonbeam Coreopsis (left)

Moonbeam Coreopsis (left)

Moonbeam coreopsis: Coreopsis verticillata. Also known as Tickseed. Yellow flowers with delicate petals and leaves.

Nasturtium: Tropaeolum majus. One of the most popular edible flowers. Wide range of colors.

 Orchid

Orchid

Orchid: All flowers of the family Orchidaceae are considered safe to eat, although some may cause stomach upset.

 Pansy

Pansy

Pansy: Viola x wittrockiana. Many colors available. Very mild flavor. Some are sweet, some are more grassy. 

Peony: Paeonia lactiflora. Variety of colors. Petals are fragrant and slightly sweet.

Phlox: Phlox paniculata. PERRENNIAL variety ONLY. Tall, brightly colored flowers in clusters. Spicy flavor.

 Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot

Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot

Queen Anne’s Lace: Daucus carota. Also called Wild Carrot. Lacey, white blooms. Mild carrot-like flavor. Take care not to confuse with other similar looking plants that are toxic. Look for a hairy stem.

Red clover: Trifolium. Sweet, licorice-like flavor.

 Rose

Rose

Rose: Rosa rugosa, R. gallica officinalis. Wide range of colors. Characteristic flavor and aroma. 

 Sunflower

Sunflower

Sunflower: Helianthus annus. Petals and young unopened buds are edible. Petals have a bittersweet flavor.

Squash blossoms: Curcubita pepo. Yellow blossoms. Mild, squash-like flavor.

 Tulip

Tulip

Tulip: Tulipa. Only the petals are edible. Pea-like or lettuce-like flavor. Vegetal. Never consume the bulbs. 

 Violets

Violets

Violet: Viola. Small violet-purple-blue flowers with a very sweet, floral flavor. 

 Wisteria flowers

Wisteria flowers

Wisteria: All varieties grown in the United States produce edible flowers, but ONLY the flowers, other parts are VERY poisonous and should never be consumed! Pale purple flowers that grow in large clusters. Very perfumey, characteristic flavor. Green parts have a bitter flavor.

Wood Sorrel: Oxalis. Very easy to identify with heart-shaped leaves and small yellow flowers. No toxic plants are similar looking. Classic cartoon “clover” appearance (true clover actually have oval leaves, not heart-shaped leaves). Sour, lemon-y flavor. All parts are edible.

 Yarrow flowers and leaf

Yarrow flowers and leaf

Yarrow: Achillea millefolium. Clusters of small white flowers with yellow centers. Sweet, herbal and bitter flavor.

yellow hawkweed: edible flowers and other foraged flora
 Yellow hawkweed

Yellow hawkweed

queen anne's lace: edible flowers and other foraged flora
 Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot

Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot

 Red Clover

Red Clover

 Hosta

Hosta

edible flowers and other foraged flora
edible flowers and other foraged flora
 Top center: Goldenrod, below that is Fleabane (white daisy-like flowers). Right: Queen Anne's Lace (white, lacy flowers and spiky leaves). Bottom: Yellow hawkweed, Plantain leaf. Center: Red clover, Basil flower, Dandelion leaves. Left: Purple hosta blossoms.

Top center: Goldenrod, below that is Fleabane (white daisy-like flowers). Right: Queen Anne's Lace (white, lacy flowers and spiky leaves). Bottom: Yellow hawkweed, Plantain leaf. Center: Red clover, Basil flower, Dandelion leaves. Left: Purple hosta blossoms.

edible flowers and other foraged flora
edible flowers and other foraged flora
edible flowers and other foraged flora for cocktails