Flowers you can eat: A guide to common Indian flowers that are edible

Holi special Indian beverage kesar badam thandai garnished with rose petals. Photo: iStock/Rangeecha

Edible flowers can add a beautiful and unique touch to various dishes, from salads to desserts. However, It's crucial to be cautious when handling and consuming flowers, as some can be poisonous or cause allergic reactions.

'Arali' (Oleander) flower, a common ornamental shrub with vibrant flowers, found in many parts of India, recently made headlines due to concerns over its toxicity. Major Devaswom Boards in Kerala even banned the use of the flower in temple offerings considering how all parts of the plant, including the flowers, leaves, and stems, contain toxic compounds called cardiac glycosides, which can be harmful if ingested. Onmanorama Food will help you out to steer clear of the suspicious and dangerous plant species and pick the right ones for culinary purposes.

Summer salad with edible flowers. Photo: iStock/karma_pema

Here are some of the inedible, toxic and allergy-inducing plants commonly found in India:

Oleander (Arali), Datura (Dhatura), Castor Bean (Arandi), Autumn Crocus (Saffron Crocus), Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii), Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia).

It's essential to be cautious when handling unfamiliar plants and flowers, and never consume any part of a plant unless you are certain it is safe to do so. If in doubt, consult a qualified botanist or horticulturist for identification and guidance.

Edible flowers

Here are some common edible flowers found in India along with ideas for incorporating them into your culinary creations:

Hibiscus flowers are commonly used to make refreshing beverages such as hibiscus tea or sharbat. They have a tangy flavour and are known for their vibrant red colour.

Hibiscus tea. Photo: iStock/TolikoffPhotography

Marigold flowers are often used in Indian festivals and religious ceremonies. They can also be used to make herbal teas or as a garnish for salads and desserts.

Rose petals are used in Indian cuisine for their sweet and floral aroma. They are commonly used to flavour desserts such as rose water-infused rice pudding (kheer) or rose-flavored milk (rose sherbet).

Gulab ka sharbat, a popular Indian refresher made using fresh rose petals. Photo: iStock/mirzamlk

Pumpkin flower
Pumpkin flowers are edible and commonly used in Indian cooking. They can be stuffed and fried to make a delicious snack or added to curries and stir-fries.

Mexican quesadillas with squash blossom. Photo: iStock/carlosrojas20

Banana flower
Banana flowers are used in South Indian cuisine to make dishes such as banana flower stir fry (vazhakoombu thoran) or banana flower fritters (vazhaipoo vadai). They have a unique flavour and texture.

Banana flower payasam. Photo: Onmanorama

Saffron (Kesar)

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus plant. It is used to flavour and colour various Indian dishes, such as biryanis, desserts, and milk-based drinks like kesar milk.

Dried saffron spices next to a saffron flower. Photo: Shutterstock/ZhakYaroslav

Moringa (drumstick flower)

The flowers of the moringa tree are edible and have a mild, slightly sweet flavour. They can be used in salads, stir-fries, or made into fritters.

Moringa flower stir fry. Photo: Special Arrangement

When using edible flowers in cooking, make sure to source them from organic and pesticide-free sources. Additionally, always verify the edibility of the flower and any specific preparation methods required before consuming.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.