Wild in the City: Foraging Fridays

this week:

Edible Flowers

pictured above: Borage (first two photographs, two different varieties), Nasturtium and Salvia.

so this morning was a little frustrating and a bit of a foraging FAIL. i set out to make a flower essence of borage flowers. there were two full plants in the garden, but when i got down there, one of the plants i was hoping to ask for flowers from had been pulled up, and the other was covered with powdery mildew. i ran into my friend, gardener extraordinaire gabriel, who introduced me to a couple of new plant friends, including the first borage (a different variety) you see pictured up there. however, i didn’t have a sense that this was the plant to use for an essence. so then i traipsed around the neighborhood, unwilling to let go of my desire to Make a Borage Essence.

went to koshland park. nada. went to another garden on page street. nada. all of this traipsing included “walking” with my dog leo. for those of you who know leo, you get the quotation marks. going out with leo takes the patience of a saint, a lack of agenda and strong arms to drag him along. i was short on the first two this morning. thus, no borage flowers + my “this-is-my-window-of-opportunity-to-do-anything-without-the-baby” tension made for a miserable walk and lots of utterances of DRAT and BLAST and MUFFEREFFING DOGNABIT DOG.

once i finally gave it up, it dawned on me that the best time to harvest borage flowers for an essence would be on the summer solstice. borage essence lends itself to a buoyant and joyous heart, like a perfect summer day. so instead, today i want to remind you about edible flowers.

so many flowers are edible and are as different in taste as they are in appearance. other than the ones pictured above, some other blossom you can munch include: violets, geraniums, calendula, lilac, radish, mustard, squash blossoms, most herb flowers, rose, carnations and clover! this list is by no means exhaustive.

mustard flower (see hover-text for source)

Where to Find Them:

borage and salvia all tend to be cultivated plants, and while i sometimes see them out and about, your best bet is to find them in diverse gardens, or even better, to grow them yourself! borage especially does well as a cultivated plant, and will seed itself freely.

nasturtiums, on the other hand…well, it’s hard to NOT find nasturtiums. they are EVERYWHERE in san francisco. invasive, and delicious.

Edible Parts

the flower, silly.


How to Harvest

use your fingers to pluck out the bloom, pinching as close to the base as you can. you want only the flower, none of the stem or green leaves.

do remember that plants count on their flowers to reproduce, plus they are vital food for our pollinators. take flowers from healthy plants only, and only if they can spare a few.

in the case of nasturtiums, harvest above your waist…look out for dog pee!

only harvest flowers YOU KNOW are edible and have not been sprayed with pesticide. some flowers can make you sick. don’t take chances.

radish flower (see hover-text for source)

What Does it Taste Like?:

oh my goodness, each one is different!

borage is cool and cucumbery, with a sweet spot in the middle.

nasturtium is fiesty…floral, peppery and a little bit sweet.

this particular salvia (i forgot the name gabriel!!) had an amazing tangerine scent, with the petals bitter like a rind and a syrupy sweet nectar at the base. unbelievable!


you know, folks take edible flowers and do all kinds of wacky things with them…candy them, put them in ice-cubes, use them for decorations, make syrup out of them…my opinion? just eat them. straight off the plant with your eyes closed in rapture and appreciation.

while i was taking pictures of the salvia, i saw another appreciator of edible blooms.

The Disclaimer:

think with your stomach! do not ingest wild plants unless you are sure you have identified them correctly, and are willing to take responsibility for using yourself as a guinea pig. it is SO not my responsibility if you eat the wrong thing and get poopy pants, or die. you’re an adult. you can make your own choices.

have a delicious weekend!


3 thoughts on “Wild in the City: Foraging Fridays

  1. hey terrallectualite, thx for the post. personally, mustard flower is my favorite munchie while hanging out with cows;-) just have to be careful not to ravish so much that a big hoof crushes your foot… almost had that experience last month.

    i have a Mother bottle of borage made on Earth Day at Amma’s ashram if you want some before Summer Solstice.

  2. Amazing shot of the hummingbird! I just had nasturtium flowers in my salad tonight. 🙂

    A note about borage: “reseeds freely” is an euphemism for “takes over like a weed” if you’re not careful. So figure out a way to contain it or know you love it before you plant it.

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