Pansies being one of my most favorite flower to use can have a mild, fresh flavor or a more prominent wintergreen taste, depending on the variety and on how much of the flower you eat (a whole flower tastes stronger than the petals alone). Eat only pansies that are grown organically, without chemical pesticides; this rules out almost everything from florists, garden centers, and nurseries. If you plan to eat pansies, it's a good idea either to grow them yourself or to order them from an edible-flower source.
Other edible flowers include:
- white daisy
Growing Edible Flowers
Growing edible flowers is essentially the same as growing flowers for ornamental purposes. Most flowers require a well-drained soil. Use a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture, maintain uniform soil temperatures, and reduce the amount of soil splashed onto the plant during a heavy rain. Irrigate to keep plants actively growing and flowering; most plants will need 1 inch of water per week. If possible, avoid overhead irrigation because moisture on the leaf surface for extended periods of time can increase the chances of disease development. Irrigating with a soaker hose works well.
Chemicals for pest control should be avoided, if possible. Hand-pick harmful insects. Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and praying mantids, can be used to decrease insect populations. Growing different flowers together provides diversity to support a good beneficial insect population and keeps pest problems low. Many gardeners locate their edible flower garden away from other plants to avoid chemical spray drift. Many edible flowers can be successfully grown in containers.
Flavor can vary with growing conditions and cultivars. Conduct a taste test before harvesting large amounts of a particular flower. Flowers should be picked in the cool of the day, after the dew has evaporated. For maximum flavor choose flowers at their peak. Avoid flowers that are not fully open or that are past their prime. To maintain maximum freshness, keep flowers cool after harvest. Long-stem flowers should be placed in a container of water. Short-stemmed flowers, such as borage and orange blossoms, should be harvested within 3 to 4 hours of use, placed in a plastic bag, and stored in a refrigerator. Damp paper towels placed in the plastic bag will help maintain high humidity.
Because pollen can distract from the flavor, it's best to remove the pistils and stamens. Pollen may cause an allergic reaction for some people. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. For flowers such as calendula, chrysanthemum, lavender, rose, tulip, and yucca, only the flower petals are edible. The white base of the petal of many flowers may have a bitter taste and should be removed from flowers such as chrysanthemums, dianthus, marigolds, and roses.