Cover photo – Brittlebush, one of the many Southwestern plants with edible flowers.
If you water it and take care of it – why not have something to eat? Many of our desert landscape plants offer us edible flowers. And now that spring is nigh in much of the Southwest, and plants are beginning to bloom, let’s talk more about edible flowers. (Part I – is here.)
Free Live Presentation on this topic!
If you are in the area, stop by the Sun City West Garden Club on Tuesday February 14 at 8:30am. I (Jacqueline Soule) am giving a free presentation about Easy & Edible Home Landscape Plants. About half the plants I will talk about offer us edible flowers. Can’t make it to the presentation? Download the free plant guide. Note that it is compiled for the greater Phoenix area – a Low Desert elevation.
If you are new to eating flowers, please see “Edible Flower Safety” our page under “Savor Safely.”.
Edible Flower Flavors
The thing about flavors. They vary! Cultivated crops you buy in the supermarket have uniform flavor but most edible flowers will not be entirely uniform. Depending on growing conditions, location, amount of water received, soil pH, and freshness – flower taste will vary.
Also “edible” is not always “palatable” to all people. This is kinda like some folks love menudo and consider it highly palatable, while others don’t.
Tart or peppery flavors are great in salads. Flowers like mustard, London rocket, nasturtium, radish, broccoli, mustard greens, or oxalis (shamrock), add color and piquant touch.
For an actual table “pepper” that you can grow here (rather than import) see our YouTube video on Peppergrass.
Sweet flowers like ocotillo blooms, desert lavender, and garden favorites like violets, pansies, carnation, and roses all taste good with desserts like fruit compotes, or in cakes.
Indeed, you can add many flowers to cakes. Lemon coffee cake is so much more festive with half cup of the lemony flowers of bee balm, calendula, or lemon blossoms! Spice cake benefits from the nutty flavor of apple or apricot blooms (catch them on a cloth spread under the tree, thus you will still get fruit).
We have some recipes using roses.
Mild flavored flowers that go with virtually anything include sunflower (“petals” only), calendula, and palo verde blooms. The mauve stars of borage flowers perk up any dish, and their cucumbery flavor is good in gazpacho, salads, or in refreshing cucumber water.
Anise-flavor is fun. If you like the flavor of tarragon, the flowers of anise hyssop, fennel, and sweet marigold are delightful straight off the plant. They also taste good in egg dishes, like quiche, omelets, or Eggs Benedict.
If you have some garlic chives in the garden – and you don’t want 400 garlic chives all over the garden – be sure to grab the flowers before they go to seed and cook them up in stir fry. They have a mild garlic flavor.
Brittlebush are coming into bloom, and I can’t decide how to define their flavor. Perhaps “earthy” is the best word. I love these blooms for herbal tea, no sweetening needed. Just dry them like chamomile blooms. We have a post on drying herbs – here.
Your Mind Not Made Up?
I have said it before. “If you are unsure of this whole concept of eating flowers – start with those of common garden herbs. Basil flowers can go into any dish where you would use basil, and they look great in salads. Garlic chive and society garlic flowers taste garlicky, and are yummy in stir fry. Add some mint flowers to your next pitcher of iced tea.”
Be bold. Experiment with taste and color. Flowers are fun, in the yard and on the table.
More About Growing Herbs for Edible Flowers
Dr. Jacqueline Soule’s valuable Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening book is revised and expanded and better than ever. It has sections on herbs as well.
“Growing in the Southwest isn’t easy. It’s either too hot or too cold and often very dry. The region hosts a range of soils and climate conditions that can be difficult for a gardener to navigate. That’s why this region-specific garden guide is a must-have for every Southwestern gardener!”
This link ot to the site where you can buy the book signed by the author.
© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.
The authors of this blog have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.