I love to spend my time on activities that accomplish more than one goal at a time. I also realize how important bees are to our ecosystem and food supply.
Bees are responsible for more than 30% of our food supply because they pollinate hundreds of plants that rely on them to reproduce. But, they are struggling to survive in today’s urbanized, pesticide, and the cultivated world of lawns.
I love it when I can plant edible flowers and plants that bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love; It allows me to make a difference locally while also enjoying tasty treats.
In addition to the usual list of foods that rely on bees, there are many edible flowers and plants that you can enjoy on salads, in deserts, and in teas. These plants will attract bees and provide them healthy nectar and pollen.
If you have limited space, choose a few of these plants as potted options outside your windows. They also work very well in garden boxes or any unused corner of your property.
Rules For Eating Edible Flowers
There are a few things to check when you eat edible flowers. They need to be pesticide and insecticide-free. Plus, each plant is different in the edible parts. Some plants have edible leaves, seeds, and flowers, while only the flowers are edible on other plants.
As a rule, when eating edible flowers, eat only the petals unless specified that the entire plant is edible.
- Eat pesticide-free plants. Do not eat those from a florist.
- If you aren’t sure, eat only the petals of the flower, not the pistol, stigma and other reproductive parts.
- Some edible plants also have edible leaves, seeds, and stems. Check before consuming.
- Make sure the variety you are eating is considered edible
- Most edible flowers aren’t tested scientifically so be cautious if you have health issues or are pregnant or nursing.
- Avoid foraging for flowers along roads or animal paths
- Avoid discolored or dry leaves and flowers
- If you have allergies or get hay fever, always remove the reproductive parts of the flower even when it’s edible. The pollen can cause allergic reactions when eaten.
- Don’t assume all flowers are edible. Many flowers are poisonous and shouldn’t be eaten. When in doubt- check first.
24 Edible Flowers That Bees Love
These flowers are popular for their delicate looks and lovely flavor.
Angelica has been popular in the kitchen for a thousand years. The flowers taste floral with a hint of carrot and mild bitterness. The flowers, stalks, leaves, seeds, and roots are all edible.
Seeds are often used as a spice in the kitchen, while the stems and leaves can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable.
Medicinally, angelica is used for lung disease, epilepsy, heartburn, stroke, dementia, and insomnia. It was historically called the “herb of angels.”
- Use seeds and roots as an herb in cooking
- Flowers used as a garnish in desserts
- Leaves, stems, and flowers are often candied
- Great combined with berry dishes
- Pairs great with fish and poultry
- Add to soups and stews
Although angelica has been largely forgotten in the modern world, it packs a powerful punch in health benefits.
Bachelor buttons are also called coneflowers, but not all coneflowers are bachelor buttons so make sure you have the right plant if you plan to eat it. It’s an annual but reseeds itself so it acts like a perennial in some areas of the country.
Bachelor buttons have edible leaves that are generally flavorless. However, the colorful flowers beautify your cooking. Flowers are usually a vibrant blue, but also comes in white, pink, red, and occasionally purple. The flowers generally have a peppery to clove-like flavor.
Bachelor buttons are high in calcium, folate, and antioxidants. They are often used as a mouth rinse to help sore gums or drunk to help with ulcers and constipation.
- Stems, leaves, and flower petals are edible.
- Use in salads for a great pop of color
- Great for cold and hot soups
- Ideal for garnishes
- Used to color teas
- Add to desserts for decoration such as cakes, cupcakes, or cookies
- Dry and powder the flower and add to sugar to create colored sugars
The vibrancy of this lovely flower makes it ideal for creating visual platters of food. Although it’s not used as often for its flavor, some varieties have a mild flavor that chefs love.
Bee Balm – Bergamot – Monarda – Oswego Tea
Bergamot is also referred to as horsemint or bee balm. The flowers and leaves of bergamot are edible, but leaves taste best when young and tender. Both of the two species of bee balm, Monarda didyma, and M. fistulosa are edible.
Bergamot has a mint flavor with a subtle flavor of oregano and citrus. It also tastes a little like honey, which makes sense because it’s a favorite of honey bees, hummingbirds too!.
Medicinally, bergamot is used for upset stomachs, vomiting, nausea, and gas. It’s also used to alleviate anxiety and depression.
- Bee balm jelly looks beautiful and tastes great
- Used in tea
- Mix with honey and vinegar for cough syrup for sore throats
- Top salads with the petals
- Make flavored vinegar by adding flowers and tender leaves
- Add to bread, cookies, and muffins
Bee balm grows wild in much of the United States and with its plentiful help to local ecosystems and bountiful medicinal properties, it’s a great plant to have around.
Borage is also called Starflower for its small star-shaped flowers. Blossoms are most often blue but also come in white and pink.
Borage has a slightly sweet flavor that’s cucumber-like. Both the flowers and leaves are edible.
Used to treat coughs and sore throats.
- Sprinkle over salads
- Can be cooked in soups and sauces
- Stuff pasta with borage
- Add to sorbet for a cool flavor
Beloved by honey bees, bumblebees, and other native bees. It’s called bee bread, bee bush, and bugloss.
Carnations – Dianthus – Sweet Williams
Carnations also called dianthus or sweet williams, have been eaten since Roman times. Carnations are a fairly versatile flower whose petals are edible. Regular carnations usually have a spicy or peppery taste. Miniature carnations are also edible but tend to have more of a clove or nutmeg flavor.
Don’t eat the base of the flower or the pistol as it will add bitterness to your food. Cut the petals off the base for the best flavor.
Carnations are used in an exotic French liqueur and have been since the 17th century. But, there are many other uses for carnations.
Dianthus are used medicinally to treat fevers and coronary and nervous disorders. Don’t use carnations from florists as they will have chemicals sprayed on them that are likely to make you sick.
- Add to salads to give a flavor zip and add color
- Add to a punch bowl or use as a garnish
- Create a carnation serum that will be a little spicy and sweet for use on meats or desserts
- Candy petals with fine sugar and allow to dry. Add to desserts
- Chop and mix with other herbs into butter and vinegar
- Pickle with cloves, coriander, cinnamon, brown sugar, bay leaves and vinegar for 2 weeks
Carnations are easy to grow outdoors or in a pot and they will be enjoyed by your family and local bees alike!
Chickweed is one unassuming plant, but it makes a great addition to the kitchen. Plus, the early blooms provide valuable food for bees early in the year. Chickweed is a popular microgreen and the flowers, leaves, and stems are all edible.
Chickweed is often eaten raw and used as a substitute for sprouts. It has a spinach taste.
Medicinally, chickweed is used for cuts, bruises, and rashes. It’s also used for kidney issues and digestive support. It’s high in vitamins A, B, and C.
- Used in salads and sandwiches
- Eat raw or steamed
- Substitute for spinach or sprouts
Chickweed is so high in vitamins and other minerals that it’s great food for ducks and chicken too.
Chrysanthemums – Mums
Chrysanthemums, also called mums, are a great edible flower. The flavor differs greatly depending on the variety. It can be sweet and tangy, bitter, or peppery. The yellow and white flowers can carry a mustard-like flavor. If you try a variety you don’t like, keep experimenting.
The most popular variety to eat is the Garland Chrysanthemum because both the flower and the greens are edible. The official name is C. coronarium, also called Shungiku and is considered a Japanese vegetable. It’s added to stir-fries, and chop suey
The least edible variety is the Chrysanthemum cineraria folium or coccineum. Those varieties are used to make pesticides.
Other varieties only offer edible flowers. Eat only the petals and not the stamen or pistil. The base of the flower is usually bitter.
Mums have vitamins A and C, protein, calcium, niacin, riboflavin and other nutrients in them. They are often used to treat headaches and for intestinal issues. Eat mums and their greens when young and tender.
- Make a mum tea with yellow or white flowers
- Add to stir-fries
- Use in salads
- Top sandwiches with leaves or flowers
- A great companion with lamb
- Greens are great in soups
- Pairs with sesame in dishes
Shungiku is found in many Asian recipes and although it’s the most versatile variety, all mums will provide great flavor when the petals are used. Bees don’t eat from mums as they have little nectar, but mums do protect against mites, which are killing bee populations.
Clover is loved by bees, but also adds great anise or licorice flavor to foods. The blossoms are white and red. The leaves and the flowers are both edible.
Medicinally, clover is used for gout, rheumatism, coughs, and colds.
- Used in salads
- Leaves are steeped in tea for colds and coughs
- Chop and saute and add to dishes
- Used in syrups
- Popular in baked goods
Clover is one of those plants that help so many insects, animals and is good for people. You can likely find it close by.
Dandelions are generally thought of as a weed but have some great medicinal qualities. They are great for bees but also pack a super powerful punch in vitamins. They taste like spicy arugula.
However, they can pack a bitter taste, especially when the plant is older. Harvest young flowers and leaves to get a more mild flavor.
If they are bitter, it’s because most vitamin-rich foods have a strong flavor. Young flowers are not as bitter and various ways of eating them can help make them a milder dish.
Cooking dandelions will make the bitterness milder.
Dandelions have more calcium than the same amount of milk- almost double. They also have more iron than spinach. The greens are a high source of vitamins A, C, and K. They are also high in potassium.
They are great for diabetics because they help to stabilize blood sugar. They also help to balance cholesterol levels.
- Flowers, leaves, and roots can be eaten
- Dandelion crowns are the sweetest part of the plant.
- Use the leaves in salads
- Dandelion plants can be eaten raw, stewed, steamed or fried.
- Dandelion tea has numerous medicinal properties
- Batter and fry the flowers to a fried mushroom-like flavor
- The roots can be roasted and brewed as a healthier coffee replacement
- Use young flower petals as a dessert garnish
- Saute and add to a stir fry
Dandelions might take a little more getting used to if you haven’t eaten them before and you think of them as just a weed. It’s worthwhile because this is one of the most nutritious edible flowers around and you won’t have to do any work to grow them!
You probably don’t need to buy these, but if you do, you can buy nongmo Dandelions on Amazon here
Most lilies are not edible, but Daylilies are and have several uses in the kitchen. Petals have a mild flavor similar to melon or sweet lettuce. Some people think the young sprouts taste like asparagus.
The base of the flowers is bitter so you’ll want to cut it away. The flavor can vary with the color of the day lily.
- Can be stuffed like squash flowers
- Use in desserts or to decorate cakes and cookies
- Add petals to a green salad
- Spring sprouts can be eaten like asparagus
Daylilies may not be the first edible flower you think of, but they are great eating in many ways!
Click here to continue to part 2 of this article.