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Flower Lovers Should Try Flower Salads

By Charles Tallard, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension  Master Gardener, Denver County

Lettuce and tomato salads becoming a bit passe'? Try harvesting flowers for salads from the garden.

A lot of flowers were a standard part of our grandparents' diets. When the nation switched from home and locally-grown farm produce to a nationally supplied produce system, flowers were too perishable to ship for food. American consumers are only now rediscovering edible flowers that can lend color, flavor and nutrients to mealtime.

Petals of the following can be eaten or used as an edible garnish: apple, calendula, chrysanthemums, dandelion, day lilies, English daisies, dill, elderberry, fennel, fuchsia, scented geraniums, gladiolus, hollyhock, honeysuckle, lilac, marigold, nasturtium, onion and garlic chive, pansy, pinks, rose petals, squash, sweet woodruff, tulip, violet, and yucca.

Flowers for the table must be grown under the same rules that you follow in the vegetable garden. Never eat a flower treated with chemicals or pesticides.

Tests done to determine a waiting period after spraying apply to the fruit or vegetable, not the flower that was pollinated to grow it. Thus no sprayed flower can be considered "safe." The widespread use of chemicals in the commercial flower business eliminates blooms from flower shops as a source of edible flowers.

Try the flowers available in your garden by plucking petals of pansies, roses, chives, day lily, nasturtium or others that are listed in flower cook books or in the paragraph above. Use a very small portion first and increase the size of the portions as you discover flowers that look and taste pleasing. The flavor of garlic chive blooms is wonderful, but almost any flower in a food presentation makes a striking visual impact.

A list of 84 edible flowers is available from The Herbfarm, 32804 Issaquah-Fall City Road, Fall City, WA 98024. For more information you might try one of the following books. "Flowers in the Kitchen," by Susan Balsinger (Interweave Press) and "A Gourmet's Guide to Herbs and Spices" by Mary Trewby (HPBooks). Both of these relatively recent additions to the list of flower cookbooks contain interesting recipes and lists of edible flowers. Older but still valuable books are: "Living with the Flowers," by Denise Diamond (William Morrow and Company), which details a completely vegetarian approach. "The Art of Cooking with Roses" by Jean Gordon (Walker and Company), which is restricted to roses, and "Cooking with Flowers" by Jenny Leggatt (Ballantine Books) which provides a good source of recipes and full-color photos.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010