The Cocktailian’s Guide to Edible Flowers

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 Hosta blossoms Hosta blossoms

Originally posted 2018. Reference guide below last updated February 9, 2020

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of edible flowers. A large percentage of the cocktails I share everyday here and 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, sweet or 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. I recommend ordering online from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals. I’ve always had a good experience with them and they have a wonderful variety of flowers and other plants to choose from.

 Fleabane Fleabane, a common tiny, daisy-like flower

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’ve now ordered from them a few times and I’ve been really happy with their products!

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.

For quick reference, here is a list of some common plants that ARE NOT safe to eat: rhododendron, azalea, daffodil, hydrangea, ranunculus, lily, lily of the valley, foxglove, oleander.

 New England Aster New England Aster

Aster, New England

Symphyotrichum novae angliae. Both the leaves and flowers are edible.

 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 (the white flowers. Purple ones are lilacs) Bluets (the white flowers. Purple ones are lilacs)

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 with a strong green scent. Eat 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.

Dahlia

Edible petals. Flavors range from mild water chestnut to apple to carrot.

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. I love to toss these in salads. Use caution when foraging as true LILIES are not safe to eat.

 Dianthus (Bridal white star) Dianthus (Bridal white star)

Dianthus

Wide range of colors and varieties. Often a somewhat spicy flavor and aroma. Consume petals only, avoid the bitter tasting white ends of the petals.

 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.

rhum agricole daiquiri garnished with fuchsia blossom
Fuchsia blossom on a rhum agricole daiquiri

Fuchsia

exotic, two tone blossoms. Both flowers and berries are edible.

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. Often very concentrated flavors and aromas.

Hibiscus blossom garnish
Pink hibiscus blossom garnish

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.

pink-lady-gin-cocktail-with-kousa-blossom-garnish
Kousa dogwood blossom garnish

Kousa dogwood

Cornus kousa. NOTE: Most dogwood varieties are NOT edible. The kousa 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 gin lemonade cocktail
Lilac gin lemonade garnished with lilac flowers

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.

Marigold: See Calendula.

 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. Peppery flavor.

pineapple-chamomile-honey-mocktail-01
Orchid garnish

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.

beefeater gin botanical cocktail
Large pale pink pansy garnish surrounded by other small edible flowers.

Peony

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

white phlox flower garnish
White phlox flower garnish

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.

white-winter-cosmopolitan-cocktail-for-valentines-days
Red rose blossom garnish

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.

Pago Pago cocktail
White tulip garnishing a Pago Pago cocktail

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 flower garnish
Wood sorrel leaf and flower garnish

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.


Photos from my foraging adventures

 Yellow hawkweed Yellow hawkweed

 Queen Anne's Lace / Wild Carrot Queen Anne’s Lace / Wild Carrot

 Red Clover Red Clover

 Hosta Hosta

 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.

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.

What is an oxymel?

Oxymels are a delicious way to preserve the flavors of summer and create herbal or floral infusions to use in cocktails, salad dressings, as herbal medicine, or 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!

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.)

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edibleflowersandotherforagedfloraforcocktails-1

Garden Variety Gin Sour

A summery gin cocktail with foraged herbs and edible flowers.
Prep Time 5 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1 cocktail

Ingredients
  

  • 2 oz gin I used Standard Wormwood Distillery's Gin
  • 1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz blueberry syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar, 2 parts blueberries)
  • 1/4 oz rosemary & thyme infused oxymel syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Absinthe

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.