edible flowers of the northeast

60 Surprising Edible Flowers

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For me, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as harvesting food that I’ve grown myself or foraged from the wild. Being able to provide for myself and my family through gardening and foraging gives me a sense of self-sufficiency and connection to nature that is deeply fulfilling.

One aspect of this passion that often surprises people is how many common flowers are not just beautiful ornamentals, but are also entirely edible and even have health benefits. On my foraging walks and in tending my garden, I’m constantly delighted to discover new blooms that can be added to a meal.

Did you know that you can eat many of the flowers growing wild in fields and forests or flowering in your own backyard garden? I’m willing to bet that some of the edible flowers on this list will surprise you. In addition to being tasty additions to dishes, many of these plants have been used for centuries in herbal preparations.

Whether you are an experienced forager or just getting started with growing your own food, I encourage you to explore the vibrant world of edible flowers. Here is a comprehensive guide to some delectable blooms you may encounter, including both native and non-native species common to the Northeast…

60 Edible Flowers

Here’s a compilation of both cultivated and wild edible flowers that grace our gardens and wild spaces, offering not just beauty but nourishment too. Remember, when foraging, always be certain of a plant’s identity and ensure it hasn’t been treated with pesticides or herbicides.

 

edible flowers of the northeast
Edible Flowers
  1. Angelica (Angelica archangelica): This plant’s green, celery-like stalks are often candied, but its flowers also offer a unique, slightly sweet and earthy flavor. They’re wonderful in salads or as a decorative garnish. Beyond the stalks and flowers, the roots of Angelica are highly valued in herbal preparations for their digestive, respiratory, and anti-inflammatory properties. They can be used to make a potent tincture or decoction. The seeds, too, are aromatic and can be used in baking or to flavor liqueurs. It’s worth noting that Angelica should be used with caution, as it can increase photosensitivity in some individuals.
  2. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): With a lovely licorice flavor, the flowers and leaves of anise hyssop are delightful in teas, salads, or as a garnish for desserts. The leaves can also be dried and used to create a soothing herbal tea blend, while the flowers make a beautiful and tasty addition to homemade ice creams and sorbets. Anise hyssop is not only culinary versatile but also believed to be medicinal, offering soothing relief from respiratory congestion, colds, and indigestion.
  3. Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea cyanus): Also known as cornflower, these vibrant blue flowers have a slightly spicy to sweet flavor, making them a colorful addition to salads, teas, or as a garnish. The petals can also be dried and used as a natural fabric dye or to add color to potpourri. In herbal medicine, Bachelor’s Buttons have been used to soothe eye irritation and are believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties.
  4. Bee Balm (Monarda didyma): This vibrant flower, with its spiky red blooms, is a magnet for pollinators. The leaves and petals have a minty flavor, perfect for teas or as garnish. Beyond their culinary uses, bee balm leaves can be made into a balm or salve for skin irritations and minor wounds. The plant is also known for its antiseptic properties and can be used in homemade mouthwash recipes.
  5. Begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida): The flowers of tuberous begonias have a crisp, sour taste, similar to rhubarb. They’re excellent in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish for drinks and desserts. The stems of begonias, much like the flowers, are edible and have a juicy, tart flavor, making them a refreshing addition to summer dishes. Begonias have been used in traditional medicine to alleviate headaches and to treat sore throats.
  6. Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia): The fragrant white flowers have a sweet, pea-like flavor, excellent for fritters or sweet syrups. The young seed pods are also edible when cooked and have a similar flavor to the flowers. However, it’s important to note that other parts of the black locust tree, especially the bark and mature seeds, are toxic and should not be consumed.
  7. Borage (Borago officinalis): Known for its striking blue star-shaped flowers, borage has a mild cucumber taste. The flowers and young leaves can be added to salads or drinks. Borage oil, extracted from the seeds, is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and is used in natural skin care products for its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties. Borage has also been traditionally used as a diuretic and to improve adrenal function.
  8. Calendula (Calendula officinalis): With its sunny yellow and orange petals, calendula is not only a visual delight but also a culinary one. The petals have a slightly peppery taste and are wonderful in salads, soups, and as garnish. Calendula oil, made from the flowers, is renowned for its healing properties and is used to soothe skin irritations, burns, and cuts. The flowers can also be steeped to make a healing tea that supports the immune system.
  9. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla): This dainty flower, with its white petals and yellow center, is renowned for its calming tea. Both the flowers and leaves are edible, offering a subtly sweet, apple-like flavor. Chamomile is also used in natural skincare products for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, ideal for sensitive or irritated skin. The dried flowers can be used in potpourri or as a natural fabric dye.
  10. Chicory (Cichorium intybus): Chicory flowers, with their bright blue petals, have a slightly bitter taste. They can be used to add a pop of color to salads or as an edible garnish. The roots of chicory are well-known for their use as a coffee substitute when roasted and ground. Chicory root is also a rich source of inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that supports gut health. The leaves, often called endive, are a bitter green that can be used in salads or cooked dishes.
edible flowers of the northeast
Edible Flowers

11. Chive Blossoms (Allium schoenoprasum): These purple puffball flowers add a mild onion flavor to dishes. Sprinkle the florets over salads or mix into soft cheeses for a colorful and tasty addition. Beyond their decorative appeal, chive blossoms can be infused in vinegar to create a beautifully hued, flavorful dressing. The stems, known for their delicate onion taste, are perfect for enhancing the flavor of soups, omelets, and baked potatoes.

12. Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium): These flowers come in a variety of colors and have a slightly bitter, peppery taste. They’re commonly used in teas but can also be sprinkled over salads. In addition to their culinary uses, chrysanthemum petals can be steeped to make a soothing and cooling tea, believed to aid in reducing fever and relieving cold symptoms. The leaves, though less commonly used, can be blanched and added to flavorful stir-fries or soups.

13. Clover (Trifolium spp.): Both red and white clover flowers have a sweet, mild taste. They can be used in teas, salads, or as a garnish. The leaves of the clover plant are also edible and can be added to salads for a nutritional boost. Red clover is particularly known for its medicinal properties, including its use in teas and tinctures to support women’s health and hormonal balance.

14. Crabapple (Malus spp.): The blossoms of crabapple trees have a floral, slightly tart flavor, suitable for making jellies or garnishing dishes. Beyond the blossoms, the small, tart fruits of the crabapple tree can be cooked down into a flavorful jelly or jam, rich in pectin and perfect for pairing with meats or cheeses. The crabapple’s pectin-rich fruit is also an excellent natural thickener for sauces and soups.

15. Daisy (Bellis perennis): The classic daisy has a mildly bitter taste. The petals can be used in salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish, but it’s best to use them sparingly due to their slightly astringent nature. The leaves of the daisy plant, young and tender, can be eaten raw in salads or cooked, similar to spinach, offering a slightly bitter but pleasant flavor.

16. Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis): The flowers, resembling phlox, have a mild, sweet flavor. They’re lovely in salads or as an edible garnish, but be cautious as they’re considered invasive in some areas. The young leaves of Dame’s Rocket can also be consumed in small quantities, either raw or cooked, adding a mild, peppery flavor reminiscent of arugula to dishes.

17. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Often dismissed as a weed, dandelions are entirely edible, from the bright yellow flowers to the bitter greens and even the roots. The flowers have a sweet, honey-like taste when picked young and can be used to make dandelion tea, wine, jellies, or simply sprinkled over salads. The roots can be used to make tinctures for liver detoxification. The dandelion’s leaves, rich in vitamins and minerals, make a nutritious addition to salads and are known for their diuretic properties.

18. Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.): Daylilies come in various colors and have a slightly sweet, vegetal flavor. The buds and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked, but consume in moderation as they can have a laxative effect. The tubers of the daylily, resembling small potatoes, can be boiled or roasted, offering a starchy, slightly sweet flavor. It’s important to note that while daylilies are edible, they should not be confused with true lilies (Lilium spp.), which are highly toxic. 

19. Elderflower (Sambucus canadensis): The creamy-white, fragrant clusters of elderflower are used to make syrups, liqueurs, teas, and wine. They have a sweet, floral flavor that’s perfect for summer drinks. The elderberries that follow the flowers are also highly valued, especially when cooked down into syrups and jams, known for their immune-boosting properties. It’s important to note that while elderflower is safe and delightful to use, the raw berries can be toxic if not cooked and prepared properly.

20. Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis): The sweet, mild flowers of the evening primrose are not only edible but delightful in salads or as a garnish. Beyond the blooms, the roots of this plant can be dug up and cooked like a vegetable, offering a peppery flavor reminiscent of radishes. The seeds of evening primrose are also valuable, pressed to produce an oil rich in gamma-linolenic acid, known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

edible flowers of the northeast
Edible Flowers

21. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): The yellow fennel flowers, with their sweet, licorice-like flavor, are perfect for garnishing dishes or infusing in vinegars to add a unique taste to dressings. The bulb, stalks, and feathery leaves of fennel are widely used in cooking for their anise-like flavor. Fennel seeds are also a popular spice, offering digestive benefits and used in mouth fresheners and desserts.

22. Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium): Fireweed’s slightly peppery flowers and tender shoots are a wonderful addition to salads, while the young leaves can be cooked as a green vegetable. The pith from the stems of larger plants can be eaten raw or cooked, offering a cucumber-like taste. Fireweed is also known for its soothing properties when brewed into a tea, beneficial for digestive health.

23. Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sylvatica): These charming tiny blue flowers bring a mild, mushroom-like flavor to garnishes and salads. While less commonly used, the leaves of forget-me-nots can be eaten as well, though they are somewhat hairy and best when young and tender. The plant has been used traditionally in poultices for skin ailments and wounds. They do contain some pyrrolizidine, a mildly toxic chemical that, if ingested in any great quantity, can cause harm.

24. Forsythia (Forsythia spp.): The bright yellow blooms of forsythia, with their slightly bitter taste, are not only for making syrups or infusing in vinegar but can also be used to make a refreshing forsythia tea, believed to have detoxifying properties. The leaves, while not as commonly consumed, can be used in moderation in salads.

25. Goldenrod (Solidago spp.): Goldenrod’s bright yellow flowers are not just a visual delight but also offer a sweet, anise-like flavor ideal for teas or as an edible garnish. The leaves can be brewed into a robust tea, and the roots are edible as well, known for their diuretic properties and support in urinary tract health.

26. Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis): Beyond the tart, cranberry-like flavor of the hibiscus flowers, which are fantastic for teas, jams, or candied treats, the leaves can also be used. Young, tender hibiscus leaves can be added to salads or cooked, offering a slightly sour taste. Hibiscus has been traditionally used to support cardiovascular and digestive health.

27. Hollyhock (Alcea rosea): The mild, vegetal flavor of hollyhock flowers, akin to lettuce, makes them a colorful addition to salads or as an edible decoration for desserts. The young leaves of hollyhock can also be eaten, either raw or cooked, adding a subtle flavor to dishes. Hollyhock has been used in herbal medicine to soothe respiratory and inflammatory conditions.

28. Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica): The sweet nectar from the flowers of honeysuckle is a delightful treat, reminiscent of childhood summers. Beyond the nectar, the flowers themselves can be used to create a beautifully fragrant syrup, perfect for adding a floral touch to cocktails, lemonades, or even drizzled over fresh fruit. The leaves, when young, can be brewed into a mild, soothing tea. However, it’s important to note that the berries of most species are toxic and should be avoided.

29. Hosta (Hosta spp.): Hostas are not only a shade garden staple for their lush foliage but also offer culinary delights. The shoots and leaves of young hostas, often referred to as “hostons,” can be eaten raw in salads or cooked similarly to asparagus or spinach, offering a unique, mild flavor. The flowers, with their gentle sweetness, can be tossed into salads, floated in drinks, or used as an elegant garnish for dishes, adding a touch of sophistication.

30. Johnny-Jump-Up (Viola tricolor): These charming, tri-colored flowers are more than just a pretty face in the garden. The entire plant is edible, with leaves that can be added to salads or sandwiches for a mild, green flavor. The flowers make delightful cake decorations, frozen in ice cubes for a pop of color in drinks, or sprinkled over dishes for a whimsical finish. Their vibrant colors and mild taste make them a versatile edible flower for culinary use.

edible flowers of the northeast
Edible Flowers

31. Lavender (Lavandula spp.): Lavender is renowned for its soothing aroma and is a staple in the culinary world for adding a hint of floral elegance to dishes. Beyond desserts and teas, lavender can be used to season savory dishes such as roasted meats or stews, bringing a Mediterranean flair. The buds can be infused into sugar or salt, creating flavored condiments that elevate any dish. Lavender’s anti-inflammatory and calming properties also make it a popular choice for homemade herbal remedies and skincare products. It’s worth mentioning that culinary lavender typically refers to Lavandula angustifolia, known for its sweet, floral aroma suitable for cooking.

32. Lilac (Syringa vulgaris): The intoxicating aroma of lilac blossoms is not their only gift; these flowers can be used to make fragrant wines or vinegars that capture the essence of spring. The blossoms can also be crystallized for a stunning, edible decoration. In addition to culinary uses, lilac has been traditionally used in folk medicine for its astringent and anti-fever properties, often made into tonics or teas.

33. Linden (Tilia spp.): Linden flowers, with their sweet, aromatic quality, are a treasure trove of uses beyond just teas and desserts. They can be fermented into a soothing, probiotic-rich linden flower kombucha or used to make a calming tincture. The leaves are edible as well, offering a mild, pleasant flavor when added to salads. Linden has been valued in herbal medicine for its sedative and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a go-to for natural remedies for stress and anxiety.

34. Marigold (Tagetes spp.): Beyond their vibrant color and spicy flavor, marigold petals can be dried and ground into a natural dye for fabrics or used as a substitute for saffron in cooking, offering a similar golden hue. The leaves, with their more pungent flavor, can be used sparingly in dishes to add depth. Marigold is also known for its antiseptic and healing properties, often used in salves and ointments for skin irritations.

35. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria): Meadowsweet’s uses extend into the realm of natural beauty, where its flowers can be infused into oils or waters to create soothing, anti-inflammatory skincare products. The plant has a rich history in herbal medicine, traditionally used for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a natural remedy for headaches and joint pain.

36. Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca): While the flowers and young pods offer culinary opportunities, the silk from mature pods can be used as a natural stuffing for pillows or insulation. Milkweed’s importance to the ecosystem, particularly as a vital plant for monarch butterflies, highlights the need for sustainable harvesting practices. In herbal medicine, milkweed has been used cautiously for its diuretic and expectorant properties, though it should be approached with respect due to its potent compounds.

37. Mint Flowers (Mentha spp.): Beyond their charming, aromatic flowers, mint plants are a powerhouse of versatility. The leaves, well-known for their refreshing flavor, are a staple in culinary and medicinal preparations. You can brew a soothing tea, concoct invigorating mojitos, or craft homemade mint oil. The flowers themselves, with their subtle minty essence, can elevate the sensory experience of dishes and drinks. They make delightful additions to herbal butters, infused honeys, and even homemade potpourris, offering a gentle minty aroma.

38. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus): Nasturtiums are not just a feast for the eyes; their seed pods are a culinary treasure too. Often referred to as “poor man’s capers,” these pods can be pickled to create a zesty condiment. The entire plant is laden with health benefits, thanks to its high vitamin C content and natural antibiotic properties. From pesto made with the leaves to decorative, peppery butters infused with the flowers, nasturtiums bring both vitality and vibrance to the table.

39. Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana): Pansies, with their heart-shaped petals, are more than just a pretty face. The entire flower is edible and can be crystallized with sugar for an elegant cake decoration or frozen in ice cubes for a floral touch to beverages. Rich in antioxidants, these flowers can also be steeped into a delicate tea that’s as beneficial as it is beautiful. Their leaves, though less commonly used, can add a mild, slightly green flavor to salads and sandwiches.

40. Peony (Paeonia lactiflora): Peonies, known for their lush, fragrant blooms, hide more than just beauty within their petals. The roots, known as ‘peony root,’ are esteemed in traditional medicine for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. They can be dried and used in teas or tinctures, offering a holistic approach to health. The petals, apart from their culinary uses, can also be steeped into peony water, a refreshing and subtly flavored drink.

edible flowers of the northeast
Edible Flowers

41. Phlox (Phlox paniculata): Phlox, with its vibrant clusters of flowers, extends its utility to the realm of herbal teas and decorative ice cubes, where the petals add a touch of elegance. The young leaves and stems, tender and mildly flavored, can be a unique addition to green salads, offering a new texture and flavor profile.

42. Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota): This wild ancestor of the carrot hides more than just edible flowers; the young, tender roots can be washed, peeled, and used much like cultivated carrots in cooking. The aromatic seeds are used in traditional medicine and can be infused into vinegars or used as a seasoning, reminiscent of caraway.

43. Redbud (Cercis canadensis): Beyond the tart flowers, redbud leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, offering a nutritional boost with their high vitamin C content. The seed pods, while young and green, can be sautéed or pickled, adding a unique, crunchy element to dishes.

44. Rose (Rosa spp.): The versatility of roses extends to their hips, which are rich in vitamin C and can be made into jams, jellies, and teas. The leaves, though not as commonly used, can be added to herbal blends for their subtle flavor and aromatic properties. Roses embody the essence of floral culinary arts, from rose-infused vinegars to delicately flavored rosewater, enhancing both sweet and savory creations.

45. Sage Flowers (Salvia officinalis): The edible parts of sage include its purple-blue flowers, which have a milder flavor than the leaves and are perfect for adding both a visual and flavorful touch to dishes. Medicinally, sage is renowned for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. You can make sage tea or use the flowers to infuse vinegars and oils, harnessing these benefits.

46. Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus): The flowers of the Scarlet Runner Bean, with their mild, bean-like flavor, are edible both raw and cooked, adding a unique taste and aesthetic to meals. The beans themselves, when cooked, are nutritious and can be used in traditional medicinal practices to support digestive health. The flowers can be used in salads or as a garnish, while the beans can be prepared in various dishes for their health benefits.

47. Squash Blossoms (Cucurbita spp.): Squash blossoms are known for their large, yellow flowers with a sweet, nectar-like taste. Edible parts include the flowers themselves, which can be stuffed, fried, or added to quesadillas and pastas for a burst of flavor. Medicinally, squash blossoms are used in traditional remedies to support prostate health and urinary tract functions. They can be made into soothing teas or infusions.

48. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus): Sunflower offers edible young, unopened buds that can be steamed like artichokes, and petals with a bittersweet flavor, ideal for salads or as a garnish. Sunflower seeds are highly nutritious and have medicinal uses, such as supporting cardiovascular health and providing anti-inflammatory benefits. The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted, and the oil is used in herbal remedies.

49. Sweet Violet (Viola odorata): Sweet violets, with their sweet, floral flavor, are delightful in salads, desserts, or crystallized as candy. The entire flower is edible and has been used medicinally for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, particularly in syrups and teas to treat respiratory conditions and soothe sore throats.

50. Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum): The small, white flowers of sweet woodruff have a fresh, grassy taste and are suitable for infusing in drinks or desserts. Medicinally, sweet woodruff is known for its calming and sedative properties, often used in teas to relieve stress and improve sleep quality.

edible flowers of the northeast
Edible Flowers

51. Thyme Flowers (Thymus vulgaris): Thyme flowers offer an intense thyme flavor, excellent for garnishing or infusing, enhancing dishes with their potent taste. Thyme is well-regarded for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, making it a valuable herb for making medicinal teas, tinctures, and infusions aimed at respiratory and digestive health.

52. Tiger Lily (Lilium lancifolium): The petals of the Tiger Lily, with their slightly sweet flavor, are a fantastic addition to salads or stir-fries. Medicinally, parts of the tiger lily are used in traditional Chinese medicine for their calming and diuretic properties, often incorporated into remedies to support heart health and alleviate congestion.

53. Tulip (Tulipa spp.): Tulip petals, known for their sweet, pea-like flavor, are edible and make a stunning garnish. It’s important to consume only the petals and in moderation. Tulips have been used in folk medicine for their soothing and moisturizing properties, often applied in poultices or infusions to calm irritated skin.

54. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa): Similar to bee balm but with lavender flowers, wild bergamot has a spicy, oregano-like flavor. The leaves and flowers are great in teas or as seasoning, offering a unique twist to culinary dishes. Medicinally, wild bergamot is valued for its antiseptic properties and can be used to make teas or poultices to address skin conditions and respiratory issues.

55. Yucca (Yucca spp.): The white, bell-shaped flowers of yucca have a slightly sweet, crunchy texture. They can be eaten raw, fried, or in salads, while the fruit can also be consumed when cooked. Medicinally, the roots are used in traditional remedies for their saponin content, which can be made into soaps or shampoos with potential anti-inflammatory benefits. 

56. Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum): The star-shaped white flowers and the leaves have a delicate garlic flavor, ideal for adding to salads, soups, or as a garnish. Medicinally, wild garlic is known for its cardiovascular benefits, and both the leaves and flowers can be used to make infused oils or vinegars that support heart health and digestion.

57. Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca): The tiny white flowers and the red berries of wild strawberries have a mild, fruity flavor. They’re lovely in salads or as a delicate garnish, and the leaves can also be used to make a nutritious tea. Medicinally, the leaves are rich in tannins and vitamin C, making them useful in teas for digestive health and immune support.

58. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.): The flowers and heart-shaped leaves have a lemony, tangy flavor, making them a refreshing addition to salads or drinks. Medicinally, wood sorrel can be used to make teas that may help in reducing fever and inflammation, thanks to its cooling and soothing properties. Medicinally, the plant is known for its high vitamin C content and can be used to make refreshing teas that may help in reducing inflammation and soothing indigestion.

59. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): With a slightly bitter, aromatic flavor, yarrow flowers and leaves are best used sparingly in salads or as a garnish. Medicinally, yarrow is known for its ability to staunch bleeding and is used in making salves or teas for wound healing and reducing inflammation.

60. Zinnia (Zinnia elegans): These colorful flowers have a slightly bitter, peppery flavor, suitable for adding a splash of color to salads. While not widely recognized for medicinal uses, zinnias can be used as a garnish to brighten up meals and bring joy to the table with their vibrant colors.

northeast foraging

Plant Identification Books for foraging Edible Flowers

Before foraging for edible flowers, ensure you’re completely certain of the plant’s identity. I always bring a field guide to confirm my finds. Below are my top field guide picks for accurate edible flower identification:  30+ Best Field Guides & Plant Identification Books

Disclaimer:

The Outdoor Apotheca website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper plant identification and usage.

Please be aware that some plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals for verification of nutritional information, health benefits, and any potential risks associated with edible and medicinal plants mentioned on this website.

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