Many flowers are edible. In fact, flowers have been used in cooking for thousands of years by ancient civilizations including Roman, Chinese, Middle Eastern and (Asian) Indian cultures.
Nasturtiums, shown at right in my garden, are a commonly used edible flower. Other common examples include tuberous begonia, English camomile, oxeye daisy, dianthus (pinks), monarda (bee balm), and rose of sharon. Colorado State University’s Cooperative Extension Service has a list of edible flowers on their website and tips for eating and growing specific flowers, as does About.com.
If you’d like to try edible flowers, here are a few helpful tips from CSU:
1. Proper identification of edible flowers is important.
2. Use flowers that are grown without pesticides. (A/N: Duh, but EFG readers would never do that!)
3. For best flavor, use flowers at their peak.
4. Introduce new flowers into the diet slowly to be able to pinpoint allergic reactions.
5. Edible flowers also may be preserved in oils or vinegars.
To this I would add–if you have allergies you should check that you’re not allergic to the flower that you’re thinking about eating.
About.com also has a recipes section. Here is a recipe for Sage Flower Pesto from their Home Cooking Guide, Peggy.
Sage Flower Pesto
2 cups sage flowers
1/4 cups walnuts, roasted
1/2 cup walnut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 green onion, white part only, coarsly chopped
Instructions: Process all ingredients in processor until smooth. Toss with pasta.