So you're inspired by botanical week on the Bake Off. But how do you add some gorgeous blooms to your bakes without everything tasting of pot pourri?

From celeb chefs such as Eric Lanlard to cookbook authors like Hannah Miles, the baking world has gone crazy over cornflowers and helpless over hollyhocks. 


And if you think eating flowers is all a bit hippy, just remember you’re already eating them. Artichoke, broccoli and cauliflower are all flower buds and in Mexico and the Middle East they've been cooking with flower water for yonks. 


So can I eat all flowers?

No. Put your knife and fork down and pay attention – some flowers are actually pretty toxic and can give you a very sore stomach. Do a quick Google search and you'll be able to decipher what's edible and what's not, but never eat anything if you're not sure. Here's our pick of the bunch...

  • Violets
  • Dandelions
  • Nasturtiums
  • Pansies
  • Jasmine
  • Rose
  • Orange blossom
  • Lavender
  • Marigolds
  • Camomile
  • Hibiscus
  • Cornflowers  

And whatever you do, don't eat a daffodil.

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To pick or to buy?

Sadly, it's not just a matter of picking up a cheap bunch of flowers from your local florists. Flowers for eating need to be chemical and pesticide free, as well as edible in the first place.


The good news is they're easy to order online. But if you've got your heart set on picking your own, get them off the beaten track and not from the side of the road where traffic and dogs can contaminate your foraging.

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Water, extract, oil? The list goes on...

Yes, it's all a bit confusing. But whatever you use, use it sparingly. Here's a whistle-stop tour:


FLOWER WATERS are usually a distillation from the blossoms and pretty strong. The most well known is probably rose water, but it's not just for Turkish delight; try a few drops in these rose water meringues.


FLOWER OILS are pressed from the flowers themselves and completely pure (with no alcohol or water added). They're also pricey (though you dilute them before you use them). We found a small bottle of chamomile oil on sale for about £97 – ouch.


EXTRACTS are diluted oils, often with alcohol, which is used to draw out the flavour. A few drops is all you need. 

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And whole flowers?

Yep, you can use those too. Dried lavender buds are more subtle than lavender extract and delicious, if you don't overdo it, in scones and cakes. Crystallised violets are exceptionally pretty (and tasty) too, while colourful edible petals can be used to make 'flowerfetti' – much cooler than sprinkles.


Typically stems and the inner parts of a flower are very bitter – remove these if you're using whole heads.

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And for absolute beginners?

Start with a flower sugar such as lavender and use less caster sugar in your basic recipe. Or add a few drops of orange blossom water to a simple chocolate cake. Floral jams and marmalades are an easy twist on a Vicky sponge, but you could just top a cake off with some daisies or electric blue cornflowers – you don't have to eat them! 


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