Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

Edible Blooms: Flowers Can Add Flavor & Flair to Your Dishes

May 27, 2021 04:25PM ● By Patrick McGee
pink martini with edible flowers

Photo via IStock

Nebraska landscapes in full bloom are a feast for the senses. Passersby may spy a fiery rose emerging from a sea of green leaves and draw nearer for a better view. Some will be taken in by the fragrance and lean in to inhale the bold aromatic. Still, others might reach out a hand to feel the velvet-like blooms. But most will not consider the complexity the petals might provide the palate.

Roses and many other flowers easily grown in Nebraska can add unique character to beverages and food dishes, such as salads. It should come as no surprise that an edible flower’s flavor is similar to its fragrance, although the flavor is far more complex. Not all flowers are edible (beware, as some flowers are poisonous), however; and those that are should be carefully selected.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Edible Flowers Guide, those who wish to use edible flowers in dishes should abstain from using chemical treatments and pesticides, and should only utilize flowers grown for the purpose of eating (not grown in nurseries). Additionally, those with pollen sensitivities should avoid them.

West Coast Seeds, a distributor of seeds of all kinds, reports that edible flowers are best harvested in the morning. In addition, they should be fresh, rinsed, stemmed, and most should have the stamens removed prior to consumption. Wilting flowers may be rejuvenated with an ice-water bath.

Below is a list of flowers that grow well in Nebraska’s climate and lend themselves to culinary delights and craft cocktails (courtesy of the Edible Flowers Guide.) Each flower has both a pleasant appearance and a unique flavor profile to garnish with a special touch.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum): the flowers are small and indistinct with an herbal aroma, and can be a bit spicy. 

Bee balm (Monarda): the globe-shaped head contains many minute flowers in a variety of colors; its taste hints of sweet mint.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): the bright-orange to golden flower is reminiscent of a daisy, with a slightly bitter taste.

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): the flower is small, globe-like, and often lavender in hue, with a sweet onion aroma.

Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.): the large, unmistakable flower can be many colors, but is often sunset orange; the flower is as sweet as the nectar it contains.

Dianthus (Dianthis spp.): the lacy, pink-to-red flowers have a sweet smell and flavor.

Dill (Anethum graveolens): the bundles of yellow-green flowers have a sweet, herby aroma, not unlike the seeds and foliage.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): the yellow flowers are similar to dill, but the aroma is that of anise (black licorice).

Johnny-Jump-Up/Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor): the purple-to-yellow flowers taste leafy and somewhat of wintergreen.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris): the small, pale flowers carry a sweet aroma reminiscent of a lavender shrub.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus): the yellow, orange, and red flowers taste spicy or peppery.

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana): the multicolored flowers come in many colors; the taste is lettuce-like with a slight spice of wintergreen.

Rose (Rosa spp.): roses come in many colors; for each the flavor is the same—full-bodied, fragrant, and sweet.

Squash Blossom (Cucurbita pepo): the deep, yellow squash flower tastes like its namesake, or even pumpkin.

Sweet Violet (Viola odorata): the iconic, purple-to-white hued flower tastes just as sweet as it looks delicate.

Edible flowers can be incorporated into just about any landscape, and because there are so many varieties, garden placement will be dependent on the particular type selected. Without a doubt, passersby will stop to smell your roses, or watch in shock as you pluck and eat them.  

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.