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A Guide to Edible Flowers

Updated: May 14

Everyone loves florals on desserts and as garnishes on food, BUT not all florals are food safe or recommended to be touching food. Some florals are actually toxic and should not be anywhere near food. Some of the most common florals I see on cakes/desserts are Baby's Breath, Hydrangeas and Eucalyptus, none of which are food safe and could cause an upset stomach. Don't get me wrong, there are ways to use the above listed florals on cakes but there needs to be a barrier and possibly edible glaze spray on the florals (to provide an additional barrier).


Needless to say, it's been a journey over the last couple of years learning about edible flowers and food safety. I've baked my fair share of desserts and topped them with edible flowers, fake flowers and gum paste/buttercream/fondant flowers. But, I do have to say that nothing beats using real flowers on cakes.


Over the years, I've met some incredible local flower farmers in the Ottawa Valley who have taught me so much about edible flowers. Always trust your local flower farmer when it comes to knowing which species of florals are food safe and edible. And, know that edible flower season isn't all year round.



An assortment of vibrant flowers
Edible flowers


Edible flowers in Ottawa

For many of these local flower farmers, you will need to pre-order edible flowers and pick up. Heart City Farm and Ganden Gardens might have the occasional selection at farmers markets.



Some handy tips to remember when using edible flowers

  1. Make sure they are classified as edible flowers (not all species of the same flower are edible).

  2. Make sure you know how the flowers are grown, and that they are pesticide free & organic.

  3. Grow your own edible flowers from seed or seedlings from a local organic farm.

  4. Make sure to wash edible flowers well. There can be tiny bugs hiding in them!

  5. Store the cut edible flowers in the fridge for longevity (with a paper towel to absorb moisture).

  6. When you think the lifespan of the freshly cut edible flowers is done, press them to preserve them for later.

  7. Edible flowers can be seasonal, so don't expect the same ones to be available all year round (especially if you live in an area with many seasons).

  8. If you have a pollen allergy or specific allergies to flora, edible flowers might not be for you. Please check with a professional.

  9. When adding edible flowers to something hot (preferably warm), be very gentle as they can wilt easily.

  10. Lastly and most importantly, not all edible flowers have a sweet taste. Some flowers are bitter or sour.

Here are photos of edible flowers to help you identify

The most popular edible flower - the Viola (tricolor, pansy or ordorata)

These flowers are more readily available and fairly easy to grow. They come in so many beautiful colours and make a great addition to garnish food or on desserts. They have a very mild vegetal flavour.


Allium

Allium flowers are edible, as they are a part of the same genus as garlic, onions, shallots, leeks and chives. They have a mild onion/garlic flavour profile.




Borage

I am also growing a couple of borage plants in my backyard this year. I love borage flowers! They are a stunning hue of blue, have a mild cucumber flavour and make a beautiful garnish. The borage leaves are also great as tea leaves or dried.




Cornflower

Cornflower is an herb but I will consider it as an edible flower for the sake of this guide. Cornflower has a very mild flavour profile. I love using cornflower petals to garnish my baking. Both the fresh and dried petals are lovely.




Dianthus

These are some of my favourite edible flowers as they have a clove-like taste and are usually bright pink or red.




Forget-me-not

The flowers of forget-me-nots are edible and have a very mild nutty flavour. They are are gorgeous little flowers that make for a beautiful garnish.





Hosta

Hostas are edible and people have been consuming them for a long time. They have a very mild flavour profile.





Hyacinth Bean Flowers

The Hyacinth bean flowers are another favourite of mine. They have a sweet taste and are quite enjoyable. (In the photo below, they are the darker purple flower)



Lavender

I had to add this one, even though it is commonly known as an edible flower (actually an herb). Both fresh and dried lavender can be used in multiple ways. I love infusing cakes and syrups with lavender. It's such a versatile ingredient.




Marigold

I'm currently growing Marigolds in my backyard and they are a beautiful vibrant orange colour. They have a mildy citrus flavour and are a lovely addition to food.




Nasturtium

Both the flowers and leaves are edible and have a spicy + peppery flavour. I love the colours of Nasturtiums, usually a bright warm colour (yellow/orange).




Perennial Phlox

A five petal flower with a lovely scent and mildly bitter flavour. (The lighter purple flower in this photo)




Rose

Another commonly consumed flower but a great one! Roses are so versatile! You can make rosewater, you can harvest the petals and you can use the whole flower.





Scented Geranium

Geranium petals make for a spectacular garnish and they usually have a mild citrusy flavour. They also smell incredible!




Stock

Stock flowers have a lovely sweet peppery flavour and make for a vibrant garnish.






Zinnia

The Zinnia flower is edible albeit bitter. They make for a cute garnish on food.



Other ideas for using edible flowers





N.B. This photographic guide includes varieties of edible flowers grown in the local Ottawa, ON area but is not a comprehensive list of all edible flowers.


Comments? Questions? Feel free to connect via email or directly through this webpage.

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