Edible flowers, which have been used in the culinary arts for centuries, are experiencing renewed popularity. Flowers can serve as an essential ingredient in a recipe, provide seasoning to a dish, or simply be used as a garnish.
Edible flowers can complement a cut flower or herb business, providing additional opportunities for value-added products. However, they require a specialized niche market that may take some time to develop. Flowers intended for human consumption must be grown without pesticides, providing organic growers a production edge. Plant material obtained from most commercial florists, garden centers, and nurseries is not pesticide-free and, therefore, is NOT suitable for consumption. Flowers may be marketed fresh, dried, candied, or in prepackaged salads. Market research conducted in Michigan indicates that packaging different colors and varieties of fresh edible flowers in the same container appeals the most to consumers. Including varieties with more appealing fragrances in the mix also encourages positive consumer reaction.
Many commonly cultivated annuals and perennials can be raised for their edible flowers. Because some flowers are edible but not palatable and others may be poisonous, it is important that only those known to be edible should be grown for this purpose. Differences in edibility may also exist between cultivars of the same species. Common garden plants with poisonous flowers include anemone, autumn crocus, calla lily, daffodil, delphinium, foxglove, hyacinth, hydrangea, iris, lily of the valley, morning glory, ranunculus, sweet pea, and wisteria. Some popular edible flowers include chrysanthemum, daylily, lilac, mint, nasturtium, pansy, rose, tulip, and violet. Blossoms from various vegetable and fruit crops are also enjoyed for culinary purposes. Refer to the resources at the end of this profile for information on additional edible flower species.