Some common ornamental plants are edible. They are usually not put on the menu, because we do not know that they are food. Just because we have made a separation between vegetable garden and ornamental. And now usually only have an ornamental garden. However there were formerly known flowers in and around the garden. As in the typical English cottage garden. And you see now, by the influence of permaculture, often even vegetables in the ornamental garden. This merger is also called 'edible garden'.

Edible does not necessarily mean good. But tastes differ. Chicory, syringes, spinach, radishes ... what one sees as a delicacy, is for others rather dirty.

mahonieObvious plants and flowers that are grown in any ornamental garden are of course some edible flowers and herbs. But also many plants from the garden bringing color and shape in the ornamental garden, the large flowers and fruits of twining plants like squash and others, curly endive, eggplant, tomato, purple broccoli, artichoke (Cynara scolymus), cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) .... Cardoon has a large, oblong leaf, which is also very deeply incised.
Actually, there are no unsightly plants or vegetables.

But if we start looking for real 'ornamentals' which are edible we find a nice list too.

That rose petals are suitable for tea is a little bit known. They may also go in salads. The hips are rich in vitamin C and you can make jam with them. However, even the hard seeds in them are surprisingly useful. (For erzats coffee.)

The purple magnolia in my front garden not only has beautiful flowers, they are also edible. A hearty, thick, little chicory-like petal.

Of yew everything is toxic, except the bright red pulp of the berry appearance. Yew is also toxic to pets and livestock. So give them enough food, so that they are not tempted (or given the opportunity) to nibble on it.

Of hawthorn, there are about 200 species. The Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna is the most common, and has one pit. The midland hawthorn Crataegus laevigata) has usually 2 or 3. Hawthorn is often used to make thorn hedges. Not only the young leaves and the blossoms are edible, even the corny, red currant (processed into jam, syrup, chutney). They are sweeter after frost (or freezing). There are varieties with larger and sweeter berries (e.g. Quebec hawthorn (Crataegus submollis, Canadian fruit hawthorn), Altai mountain thorn (Crataegus wattiana, Kyrgyz hawthorn fruit)). 

In parts of Great Britain, the young leaf is known as 'bread and cheese', which was greatly nibbled by children and the less fortunate. Much earlier, just after the winter (February), this was the first new, edible green and therefore often a lifesaver. That is why our ancestors worshiped hawthorn.

Mahogany (Berberis aquifolium or Mahonia aquifolium) is an evergreen shrub with yellow flowers and pointed leaves. The root and bark are poisonous. The mahogany berrie is edible. Remove the seeds, because they are slightly toxic. A child must have eaten 50 (acid) berries to be sick. If the kernel is not chewed, they will disappear without damage to the stool. The juice of this berry is also used for the color of red wine.

Many berries are of course edible: blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, Amelanchier (Amelanchier), the red blueberry or cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), Goji berry (Lycium), sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) ...

Of Solomon's seal (polygonatum commutatum) you can eat the young shoots in spring as a kind of asparagus (also family). Harvest them when they are about 30 cm long. The berries are not edible but even toxic.
The berries of the false Solomon's seal (Smilacena racemosa) are edible (like the young shoots). This plant also has ornate white flower panicles in May / June and beautiful yellow leaves in the autumn.

You can here, just like in Japan (Urui or Oobagibooshi) also eat hostas. Young shoots like asparagus (same family). After the summer, you better get cooking the leaves. The flower is edible too.

Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria, bischop’s goutweed) is a perennial with creeping underground rhizome shoots which easy break down and are difficult to remove. It is a beautiful ground cover that is also sold as an ornamental plant. And is in the top three of the most annoying weeds. The leaf stalk has three leaves at the top and 2x2 lower sheets. Keep picking green leaves until the plant is exhausted, seems to help to get rid of it. Especially at the end of the season, when food is stored in the rhizome to survive. So think it over before planting them (possibly in a pot).
The Romans already used the herb as a vegetable (braising, browning, pesto, salad, tea, soup, stew).

Suppress ground elder (UK) or bishop's goutweed (USA) (Aegopodium podagraria) with Geranium macrorrhizum.

The usury weed can be successfully suppressed by planting Geranium macrorrhizum in the same place.

Remove as many weeds as possible (mow and remove as many rhizomes as possible) before planting the geranium. (There is also a purple version.) Eventually, put some goutweed in a pesto pot. The remaining rhizomes are displaced by the geranium. Yellow dead nettle helps even faster but is a tough usury.


The young leaves of columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) go in early spring (April, May) in the lettuce. The flowers are edible. They sow themselves smoothly into the garden.
Tree Spinach (Chenopodium giganteum) is up to 2.5 meters high. The young leaves are delicious in salad. Cooked like spinach.
Bergamot (Monarda didyma) is an edible ornamental plant! Flowers and leaves fit in salads, garnishes, tea, syrup and liqueur.
The young leaves and tops of the Purple Emperor (sedum telephium) fit also in lettuce (and are useful in wounds).

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is one of the rare fern species known to be safe to eat them. The young shoots are called because of their shape 'fiddleheads’. You need a minimum of 15 minutes of cooking, otherwise you can get stomachache.

The common salsify or oyster plant (Tragopogon porrifolius) is also called oat root and vegetarian oyster. The roots are a delicacy. They look like black salsify. Beautiful purple morning flowers are also edible. The large brown seed pods too.

Fuchsia ( +100 species) berries are soft edible and decorative. They are harvested when they are very dark purple. The flowers are edible. The leaves can be used for tea. (Black paint is made from the wood). Fuchsia magellanica is the hardiest species.

The berries of yellow dogwood (Cornus mas) are processed into jellies, compotes, juice, jam and wine.
Chinese or Japanese dogwood (Cornus kousa) you can see in many parks and gardens. Strawberry-like fruit can deliver delicious jams.

The yellow, fragrant fruits of Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica, Ch. Species) are very suitable for making juice and jam. Remove the seeds, which contain traces of (toxic) prussic acid glycosides and give a bitter taste.

Young leaf of white clover (Trifolium repens) is edible before the plant flowers. The flowers can be used in fresh lettuce as a garnish or in soups. Of dried flowers you can make tea. (Also used in bread.)

Bladder campion or maidenstears (Silence inflata) are in Italy sold as vegetable seed (stridolo). Here they grow also in the wild. In early spring, the shoots (and leaves, possibly bleached) edible untill the stem flowers.

The lablab or hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab purpurea) is a climber (and green manure): roots, leaves, flowers and (immature) beans are edible.
Flowers raw or steamed. The starchy roots steamed or grilled.
Raw ripe and dry beans are poisonous (trypsin inhibitor and cyanogenic glycosides). The pods of young, immature and multicolored beans are soft boiled at least 10 minutes in which at least two times the water is changed.

The fruits of the evergreen strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo 'Rubra') are edible. Un-edo means eat one, to avoid stomach pain.
Blue Sausage Fruits (Decaisnea fargesii, 'Dead Man's Fingers') are edible. The seeds you eat raw, the skins can be stir-fryed.

Marigolds are used in salads and teas (Tagetes lucidus, T. tenuifolia 'orange gem', T. tenuifolia 'Lemon Gem', ..) Leaf, flower and buds are edible.
There are many species of amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus). They have an edible leaf and seed and sowing easily themselves.
Carnation (Lactuca alpina) is a wild plant with edible flowers.
The Bergamot (Monarda didyma) also belongs to the edible herbs.
Borage (Starflower) has edible flowers.
The yellow flowers of forsythia (F. suspena) and broom (Cytisus scoparius) are also edible.
Honesty (Lunaria annua) has purple, edible flowers (April-May), before the 'silver' medals.
Opium poppy (Papaver sp.) has an edible leaf, flower and seed, like the common poppy (Papaver rhoeas).
The ordinary, real daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare, 60 cm high, perennial) has white edible flowers with yellow heart. Also, young leaves are edible. That includes the little sister: daisy (Bellis perennis).
Common salsify or oyster plant (oat root, Tragopogon porrifolius) has nice, soft purple flowers and an edible root.
Primrose (Primula) can be used as a garnish in salads, cakes and pancakes.
Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis) is perennial in the garden, as are some other edible plants.

Of mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum, Tropaeolum tuberosum) can be eaten anything: leaves, flowers, tubers (10-15 cm). They have a high content of isothiocyanates (also known as mustard oil), a very strong peppery taste like radish or mustard. Cooking eliminates the cyanide and improves the taste.

Dahlia surprises: the whole plant is edible, root, leaf, flower. The tubers were originally eaten by the Aztecs as potatoes. They called them 'Acocotli' or 'cocoxochitl. They need to cook long (30 to 50 min).
Dahlias are not hardy. You can dig up the tubers in autumn, wrap them in newspaper and store them frost-free until spring.

The thickened roots and flowers of runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) are edible. Pods also, but they have a tough, parchment-like membrane. The beans can also de dryed.

All components of the locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) are poisonous, but the locust blossoms are still eaten. Strikethrough flour and fry lightly.

Do you know any more appetizing ornamentals? Let us know.