Foraging edible wildflowers is probably one of the more fun aspects of eating wild food and it's a great introduction, especially for kids. Flowers are a lot easier to see than wild greens so foraging them can be a simpler task. Some are sweet, some spicy, and some almost tasteless, but wild edible flowers are perfect for adding color to salads and other foods.
The redbud is one of those trees you rarely notice until spring blossom time. Then they seem to be everywhere--in yards, in the woods, along the roadside. The purple-pink flowers, some of the first to appear in early spring, emerge before the leaves of the redbud, and nearly cover the tree in an easy-to-spot showy display of spring color. Redbud flowers taste almost as good as they look. The buds aren't so tasty but the fully-opened flowers are usually tart and slightly sweet. Get them early while they're tender.
Violets are common on lawns and they're so prolific, it's easy to gather a bunch of flowers quickly. In Europe, violet flowers have a long history of culinary use that includes violet flower tea, candied violets, and chocolate flavored with violets. Our Common violet (in America) can be used similarly but it's not as sweet tasting or smelling as the European Sweet violet that is usually associated with violet confections.
Another common lawn weed, clover flowers are a bit sweet and make a great tea. White clover is preferable to red clover, though both are edible. Make sure to pick flowers that are free of wilted brown petals. You can eat the entire clover flower, but the petals alone are sweetest. Clover does have a few safety caveats: 1) Consume only fresh or dried flowers--never fermented. 2) Clovers grown in warmer tropical regions contain small amounts of cyanide and should be avoided. 3) Some people are allergic to clover so it's best to start with very small quantities unless you know you're safe.
Chickweed is a fairly prolific cool-weather garden weed but its flowers are so tiny, gathering many would prove labor-intensive. Unless you have a few hours to pick and garble a bowlful, these flowers are probably best suited as a garnish.
5. Wood Sorrel
Wood sorrel flowers are also somewhat small but their delicious sourness makes them great as a trail nibble, in salads, on seafoods, and any other food you might season with lemon. The flowers can be yellow, pink, or white.
6. Black Locust
If you blink, you'll miss the black locust bloom. The flowers come in some time in mid to late spring, depending on temperature and region, anywhere from early April to early June. Once they're here, they're only here for week or two. Locust is a legume and the flower's flavor is sweet and pea-like, which makes tasty eaten raw or great for stir-fries.
Dandelion flowers seem to be everywhere by mid-spring. The yellow petals are sweet but pick away the green parts unless you don't mind the bitter. Eat dandelion flowers raw or cooked.
Wisteria blossoms can be seen draped on trees along the roadside for just a few weeks during spring. The lavender-colored flower clusters are easily spotted while driving, but, like any wild edible, avoid picking them near busy roads since plants absorb toxins and heavy metals from exhaust. Be careful with wisteria: All parts of the plant contain glycoside, a toxin, in varying degrees. The flowers are considered edible raw or cooked in moderation but all other parts are extremely poisonous. Use your own judgment and be sure to meticulously remove the stems so you're eating only the flowers.
Forsythia really isn't wild but it's so common, both planted and escaped, it deserves mention. The brilliant yellow flowers are a familiar sight in suburban and rural areas alike, appearing on the bush before the leaves. And since the leaves come later, it's really easy to forage a bunch of flowers quickly without having to pick through to discard the leaves.
There are countless ways to incorporate edible wildflowers into your recipes. Check out our wildflower spring rolls for some motivation!