Most edible flowers fall into a category of plants that I think of as “marginally edible”—meaning they won’t kill you if you eat them, but they do not taste particularly good. Pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, and violas all look quite cute, but they taste like grass, at best. The flowers of vegetables and herbs tend to taste much better and they make a pretty garnish. Here are five of my favorites.
Nasturtiums The prettiest and tastiest of edible flowers! Nasturtiums have a spicy bite, but their underlying floral flavor mellows things out. Tuck them into salads, chop and add to compound butters, or simply snack on them while you are out in the garden!
Squash Blossoms Squash blossoms taste delicious stuffed with cheese, scattered over pizza, and added into quesadillas. Summer squash like Costata Romanesco tend to produce tons of blossoms, but you can also eat the blossoms of winter squash, including pumpkins. Harvesting the blossoms also comes with a bonus: it is the easiest (and tastiest!) way to keep the number of summer squash that develop manageable. The blossoms open for one day only before withering. Check on them each morning and harvest when their tips begin to flare open. Store in a loosely sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge and eat within one or two days.
Borage The bright blue star-shaped flowers of the herb borage appear in early summer. The blossoms taste faintly of cucumber and look gorgeous sprinkled over soups and salads. For special occasions, place a single borage blossom in each cell of an ice cube tray, fill with water, and freeze. The fancy floral ice cubes make a pretty addition to lemonade on a hot summer day.
Arugula This delicious green produces beautiful white flowers streaked through with purple veins that have a peppery taste. Harvest the flowers just after they open and use them as a garnish on salads.
Calendula Pretty calendulas have a mild flavor, but the brightly colored petals look like confetti when sprinkled over salads, soups, and slaws. Harvest the flowers just after they open, pull off the individual petals, and use them to brighten up your summertime meals.
Willi Galloway is the author of Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, and she writes about organic vegetable gardening and seasonal cooking on her blog, DigginFood.