Last updated on March 14th, 2023 at 01:06 am
If you love to grow cosmos in your garden, you may have been wondering if the flowers are edible. Some cosmos are edible, however not all varieties are. Learn about which cosmos varieties can be consumed, before bringing them indoors, to garnish your foods.
Cosmos are beautiful flowers. The delicate petals of cosmos flowers glow in the sunlight, and are simple and romantic in appearance.
Some of these blooms can also be used as edible flowers, to decorate baking, cookies and other desserts.
As it turns out however, not all cosmos flowers should be brought inside to use in this manner.
Some are best left to enjoy in the garden, or to use in a floral arrangement on the table, rather than presenting them on your plate.
Are Cosmos Edible?
Several varieties of cosmos are edible, and are used for culinary purposes. One of these edible varieties is Cosmos sulphureus, or sulphur cosmos. Another edible variety is Cosmos caudatus, or King’s salad. Cosmos atrosanguineus, or chocolate cosmos, and Cosmos bipinnatus, the common garden cosmos, are generally not considered to be edible.
With the recent interest in use of edible flowers, many are looking towards their garden, and wondering which flowers can be used in the kitchen.
Cosmos is not generally cultivated for culinary purposes. Rather, the plant itself is mostly enjoyed as the wonderful ornamental garden plant that it is.
Cosmos is also valued for it’s beauty in floral arrangements, and most varieties make good cut flowers.
Which Cosmos Flowers Are Edible?
Most edible flower resources reference both Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos caudatus as edible varieties of cosmos.
Cosmos atrosanguineus is an inedible flower that smells edible, due to it’s chocolatey fragrance.
Cosmos bipinnatus has been studied as an edible flower for carotenoid composition, volatiles and bioactive compounds, as well as for it’s nutritive and antioxidant effects, and yet is rarely referenced as an edible flower with common use.
Also known as garden cosmos and Mexican aster, C. bipinnatus is rarely referred to as an edible flower. Although not considered to be a toxic plant, the flowers of this cosmos cultivar are common garden flowers, and are appreciated and grown mostly in the garden space.
With that in mind therefore, I will then focus on the two species most often presented as edibles, and which have more common use.
- These species include the annual plants Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos caudatus.
Cosmos sulphureus is a half hardy annual plant species native to Mexico, Central America, and South America. The plant belongs to the Family Asteraceae, and Genus Cosmos.
Also known as sulphur cosmos and yellow cosmos, this particular species of cosmos has daisy-like flowers which begin to bloom in early summer, and continue until late summer or early fall.
These annual cosmos are very easy to grow from seed. They are brightly colored cosmos, with orange and yellow flowers, and yellow centers.
A colorful plant for the flower beds, the plants are also a magnet for beneficial insects.
The flowers and leaves of cosmos sulphureus are similar to those of the pink and white garden cosmos, Cosmos bipinnatus, both in shape and form, as well as in texture. They are however, a completely different color, with their orange and yellow flowers.
The cosmos flower petals are thin and almost translucent. When they catch the sunbeams at just the right angle, the flowers glow in the garden.
These bright blooms are perfect for using as a garnish. Use them to sprinkle over salads, or to garnish your baking, such as edible flower cookies and cakes, and other desserts.
Cosmos sulphureus flowers can be used either in the fresh or dried forms.
The flowers can be used whole, or alternatively you can pull off the petals, to use just the edible flower petals alone.
Cosmos caudatus is an annual flowering plant species, native to Latin America. The plant belongs to the Family Asteraceae, and Genus Cosmos.
Also known as Ulam Raja and King’s salad, it is mainly for the edible leaves that this cosmos plant is grown.
The flowers of cosmos caudatus are purple, pale pink or white, with a yellow centre. The blooms are daisy-like in appearance and shaped very much like a typical cosmos flower.
Both the leaves and the flowers of this cosmos cultivar are edible, but it’s mainly the leaves that are used. The young leaves and flower heads are often used in herbal salads.
Young shoots from this plant are said to have the flavor of mango.
What Do Cosmos Flowers Taste Like?
Cosmos sulphureus flowers are known to have a somewhat bitter and earthy flavor. They are generally used in culinary applications, but more as a decorative garnish, rather than for nutritive value or taste.
I dried some cosmos sulphureus at the end of the growing season, and preserved the blooms for future culinary use. The dried flowers were placed in an airtight mason jar, and stored in a cool and dark place.
I recently took the flowers out of their storage location, specifically to taste the dried flower petals, and to give a review of their flavor.
On opening the mason jar, the first thing that struck me was the earthy tea like scent coming from the jar. The fragrance smelled much like a mild floral tea.
The taste of the dried petals was pleasing, with an earthy floral flavor. The petals were very mildly bitter, yet at the same time, very appealing.
Is Cosmos Good For You?
Most edible flowers do have nutritive value, and many have been studied for their nutritional qualities and composition.
Both Cosmos caudatus as well as Cosmos sulphureus have been studied and found to have beneficial compounds within the plants.
- Cosmos caudatus has been used as a traditional vegetable and herb in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and in Thailand. Cosmos caudatus is known to have an appealing flavor and aroma .
- In Malasia, Cosmos caudatus is referred to as Ulam Raja, which means King’s salad, as the plant is often consumed as a salad. It is considered to be one of the country’s most popular medicinal herbs.
- Studies reviewed in the Global Journal of Pharmacology, in an article titled: Cosmos Caudatus Kunth: A Traditional Medicinal Herb, have identified and reviewed some of the bioactive compounds within C. caudatus.
- The publication reviews and summarizes the phytochemical and pharmacological properties of the plant. Some of these properties include flavonoids, antioxidants, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins.
- An article in the International Journal of Food Properties, A Review On Cosmos Caudatus As A Potential Medicinal Plant Based On Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, and Pharmacological Activities, reviews Cosmos caudatus as a medicinal plant with medicinal uses.
- Cosmos sulphureus has also been studied, and is known to have beneficial nutritive composition. A recent research article in Plant Introduction, titled The Content Of Flavonoids In Cosmos Sulphureus, reviews the content of flavonols, chalcones, and anthocyanin within the plants and flowers of Cosmos sulphureus.
Use Safe Practices When Consuming Cosmos
Both Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos caudatus have been studied for their nutritional compounds, and are known to contain beneficial value.
That being said, it is always important to use caution when eating edible flowers.
Whenever planning to consume any flowers, always be safe and use in moderation. Follow edible flower safety guidelines for any flowers that you intend to eat.
Make sure that the flowers that you plan to use are harvested safely. Choose organic flowers if at all possible.
Avoid using flowers harvested from areas in which there may be exposure to chemicals, pesticides, or pollutants.
How To Grow Cosmos For Eating
- Since the edible varies of cosmos are annual flowers, they will be able to be grown by most gardeners in many different growing zones.
- Choose to plant organic cosmos seeds if possible.
- Direct sow the seeds into a prepared garden bed in early spring. Alternatively, start the seeds indoors and plant the young seedlings into the garden after the last frost.
- Plant into well-drained soil in a full sun location for best flowering. Plant the new plants in the flower garden, vegetable or herb garden, for a splash of bright color.
- Cosmos sulphureus also grows well in containers, with fertile soil and good drainage.
- These are warm weather annuals, which love the warm temperatures of hot summers.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Purple Cosmos Edible?
The answer to this question is based on the type of purple cosmos which you are considering consuming. Depending on the cultivar of cosmos, the purple cosmos flower may or may not be edible.
Cosmos caudatus has flowers in a variety of colors, including white, pink, and purple.
If the purple cosmos flower is cosmos caudatus, then it is definitely edible, and can be consumed.
Are Cosmos Flowers Medicinal?
Cosmos caudatus is known to be a medicinal herb, and has been used traditionally for medicinal purposes.
The National Library Of Medicine and PubMed Central have reviewed the potential medicinal benefits of the plant in their article Potential Medicinal Benefits of Cosmos Caudatus (Ulam Raja): A Scoping Review.
Reported medicinal benefits include anti-diabetic effects, anti-hypertensive properties, anti-inflammatory properties, as well as anti-microbial benefits.
Although not all cosmos plants are edible, two different varieties of cosmos can be consumed, and have a history of edible usage.
Both Cosmos sulphureus and caudatus are excellent choices to use as edible flowers, and are great plants from the cosmos family to add to your garden.
Consider planting some cosmos seeds in your garden next season.
Not only will you get to enjoy them, but the bees and other the other beneficial insects will benefit from the flowers as well.
Then harvest your cosmos seeds at the end of the season, to grow more edible cosmos in your garden, year after year.