Peonies are beautiful flowers that fetch high prices as both cut blossoms and potted perennials. They’re commonly used in bridal bouquets, where their beautiful petals fill the room with both color and scent.
More than just beautiful, peonies are also edible!
When we first moved to our homestead, I wasn’t much of a flower garden person. I really didn’t see the point in tending flowers, when I could tend vegetables instead and feed my family.
The previous owners had put a lot of work into beautiful perennial gardens, full of expensive and showy blooms, such as peonies. I’ll admit, their beauty was really captivating, but a part of me still wanted to put my effort into tending edibles.
Doing a bit of research on our existing plantings, I learned that many of the perennials we had growing in our gardens were, in fact, edible flowers. Lilacs are incredibly delicious, and every spring I come up with new lilac recipes to put them onto the table.
Lilac wine is lovely, and the kids loved these lilac donuts. Hostas make up a good portion of our gardens, and not only are hostas edible, but they also taste spectacular. The shoots taste like a cross between leeks and asparagus, and the flowers are mild and a bit sweet.
Roses are both edible and medicinal, and they often make their way into our kitchen every year for rose cordial.
Learning that peonies are edible really excited me because we have so many of these fragrant blooms.
(If you don’t have any peonies in your garden, you can get peony root divisions here for literally dozens of beautiful varieties.)
Over time though, my perspective has shifted and I’m finally learning to appreciate the beauty in a stroll through the flower garden on a breezy summer day. Now knowing that peonies are edible is just icing on the cake.
Peony Flower Recipes
Though peonies are not commonly eaten today, they were a common part of medieval cooking when in season. I’ve read that the medieval cookbook Utilis Coquinario contains a recipe for poultry garnished with peonies, but I’ve yet to find a copy because I’d love to try to make that ancient recipe.
Beyond that, long ago I read that they were used as a drink flavoring for summertime beverages in the middle ages, at least for households affluent enough to support a peony patch.
While the roots and seeds are also edible, the blossoms are the most commonly used part used these days. They impart a beautiful pink color to jellies and cocktails, and peonies taste just like they smell.
The process for making peony jam or jelly is no different than any other floral jelly. Be aware that each peony variety tastes a bit different, and some taste a lot better than others.
As a rule, the most fragrant peonies will make the best jelly.
Peony Frozen Treats
Since these edible flowers blossom right at the start of summer, frozen treats are an obvious choice.
Again, opt for the most fragrant blossoms for best results.
- Peony Ice Cream with a Blackberry Honey Swirrel from Food52
- Peony and Rose Petal Ice Cream from Healthy Green Kitchen
While the kids are enjoying peony ice cream, the adults are sipping peony cocktails in the shade.
It’s been a long day in the garden…time to put my feet up? Don’t mind if I do!
- Peony Colada from Brit Co.
- Pomegranate and Peony Martini from Shawna Coranado
- Peony Tarragon Gimlet from Edible Hudson Valley
- Peony Royal Cocktail with Peony Vodka from Frosted Petti Coat Blog
Using Peony Root
Using Peony Seeds
The seeds of peony plants were a seasoning in medieval kitchens, and its use was wrapped in superstition and medical folklore. Supposedly they can be used to ease troubled sleep, especially when mulled in wine or mead (honey wine).
A medieval cooking site provides a few uses:
“The seeds were used in flavoring meat, or were eaten raw to warm the tastebuds and stabilize the temperament; they were also drunk in hot wine and ale before retiring at night to avoid disturbing dreams.”
Another site on English Heritage mentions that monks grew it in medieval gardens for superstitious as well as culinary and medicinal reasons:
“There are several superstitions attached to the peony. In ancient times the flower was considered to be of divine origin with connections to the moon and was thought to keep evil spirits at bay. Sometimes peony seeds were even strung as a necklace to ward off evil spirits.
The 16th-century botanist John Gerard noted: ‘The black grains (the seed) to the number of fifteen taken in wine or mead is a special remedie for those that are troubled in the night with the disease called the Nightmare.’”
The thing is, though we grow peonies, I’ve never actually seen their seeds. I was told once that the fancy peonies of today are only propagated by root divisions because the flowers have so many petals that the bees cannot properly pollinate them. All of mine are the “double petaled” varieties, and there’s no way a bee is getting in to work that blossom.
If you happen to have the single varieties, I’d love to know more about their seeds, if you’re bold enough to taste them.
Other Ways to Use Peonies
Given their intoxicating smell, body products are a great way to use peony blossoms. Simple sugar or salt scrubs can be made by blending the blossoms with salt/sugar in a food processor. I also love using dried peonies as a natural potpourri in my car when they’re in season.
Peony sugar scrub is incredibly easy to make and just involves putting the petals in a food processor with a bit of sugar. I found that about 1/2 cup of sugar per gigantic double peony blossom was about right, and I got a whole summer’s worth of exfoliating scrub from just a few blossoms. Blend in a bit of sweet almond oil too and you’ve got a moisturizing shower scrub that keeps your skin fresh all season.
- Peony Sugar Scrub from Rhyme and Reverie
- Peony Bath Salts from Garden Therapy
- How to Dry Peony Flowers from Better Homes and Gardens
- DIY Peony Bath Bombs (uses peony fragrance oil, but could just use blossoms) from A Pumpkin and A Princess
How are you going to use your peonies this season?
Thank You for all this wonderful info!
I know my peony makes pods, but I never opened them to see if they are seeds in there. I will take a look next week If you are curious, drop me a line, in case I forget to get back to you!
Nadie à Aylmer, Gatineau, Québec.
I didn’t know Peonies are edible I certainly will try it out.
Thank you for providing all the recopies too.
All the best
Jerome J Wolbert
Thank you. I love it when I discover things growing in my garden have another use. As another reader posted, I also have pods and was thinking how they would be pretty in an arrangement. Definitely looking at peonies in a new light.
Hi, I have used wild peony root medicinally as with the domestic variety, the roots smell identical. I have eaten sauteed wild peony flower buds and they are delicious, almost sausage like flavor. I have a huge bush of the single petal variety that I let go to seed this spring. I will let you know how the seeds taste. Peony is definitely a magical plant. the roots make a great antiinflammatory salve esp. when combined with arnica and St. John’s Wort. Best Regards, Jane
The Crunchy Urbanite
Fascinating. I find I love the short-lasting flowers too much to do anything more than enjoy them, but the leaves last all summer long — any uses for them that you can think of?
Hmm…good question. I don’t actually, but now I’m going to look into it…
The recipes look lovely but you should highlight that people who may be pregnant should not consume peony because, as the WebMD article you quote mentions, it can cause abortion. It isn’t an abortifacient but is emmenagogic – capable of stimulating the menstrual flow even when it is not due, and to be avoided during pregnancy as it can induce miscarriage. (The difference is mostly that emmenagogues can be used in carefully controlled doses used by trained professionals to prevent miscarriage, while abortifacients have no positive pregnancy outcomes). Reference info: ‘Pregnancy and Botanical Medicine Use and Safety’ by Aviva Romm, in Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, 2010 via ScienceDirect.
Have always use the flower petal on my carpets
Leave over nite and vacuum up next day freshen up the whole house and clean the carpet.
love this blog thank you for sharing so much info on peonies. most pages on the web state peonies are not edible but poisonous. makes one think. i just planted some seeds hope to try out scrubs and peony jams! thank you xx
You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the post.
So cool. Do you have to dry the peony before putting it into a sugar scrub? If not does it mold or anything after awhile? Thanks!
That’s a good question…I did it fresh, but used it fresh too. If you wanted to keep it, I’d imagine you’d want to dry it first.
Have you played with peony petals in wine at all? Somehow it landed on my “to-brew” list, and with peony season impending I’m wondering if maybe dried peony petals could be used in secondary for a floral shot of aroma…
I think they’d be wonderful in added in secondary =)
Here is the rough translation of the recipe you were looking for. You can find it at:
Tak | partriches & pyes þat flen, & roste hem þat þey be half ynow. & þan tak þe broth of chikenes & of fresch beef boyled, & tak bred, & stepe in þe same broth, & drawe it þorw a streynour. & tak pouder of gynger & of greyn de parys & of peper, of ech alich & medele hem togedere; & quartre þy partriches & þe pyes & do hem in a pot, & do alle þy thynges þerto, & boyle alle togedere, & salte it, & florsche þe disches aboue with floures of pyany & with þe same frut, & serue it forth manerliche.
Hi, I found this too 🙂 hope she enjoys trying to recreate it.
Please don’t eat my peony! lol
Has anyone used just the stamen of the flower, like saffron? The blooms make a ton of them and I was wondering if I could dry them and put them in dishes similar to saffron rice.
I haven’t, but I don’t see why you can’t.
Thank you – that’s a super interesting post and my hunt for whether my seeds are edible led me to your website which I love! I live in Scotland and by accident bought a peony tree (thought it was a bush). It has far fewer petals than the ornamental ones which might be why each flower goes on to produce a little cluster of seeds about the size of hazelnuts. The dogs go wild for them and I wondered whether I ought to try them too.
Interesting…I didn’t know they came as a tree?
Cristina E Scala
Poisonous to dogs and cats
Love your site, do you have recipes for cooking the peony petals, do you saute them like onions and mushrooms? I’m diabetic, can’t eat all the sugar in the recipes for jam and drinks!
Thanks a lot!
I imagine that’d be lovely. I’ve seen mostly savory recipes using them with chicken, but I imagine you could try them in all manner of savory dishes.
I am shocked to read that peonies are edible! In “The Herb Book” by John Lust, he clearly states that the flowers especially are poisonous and drinking a tea made from the flowers can be fatal.
I found this article in the New York Times that references this information from the same book that you listed here. It says that “the peony is not listed in any of the standard references for poisonous plants”, “there is nothing to indicate that peony petals are troublesome” and there is “no evidence that they are toxic.” There are also lots of sources that show peonies as being edible.
Please do not eat flowers of any kind bought from a florist. The pesticides are pretty strong.
It’s always a good idea to know where your food is coming from to avoid pesticides.
Love the info. I make tea for sleep from the just beginning to open buds. I use 2-3 buds with the green parts removed from the bud. Cover buds with boiling water and put a lid on your container. Steep for 15min. The flavor is astringent with a sweet aftertaste. Drink 20 min before bed and enjoy the sweetest sleep.
That sounds lovely. Thanks so much for sharing.
Hi, thank you so much for your website. I made your rhubarb jam (without pectin) yesterday and it’s perfect!! And SO simple. The link to the website for the peony and rose petal ice cream doesn’t actually give the recipe though. Even though she has a recipe index, it only takes you to the page where it is described but I can’t find any ingredients or directions. Just thought you may want to know. Enjoy your gardens! 🙂
Thank you so much for letting us know. We are actually in the process of going through all of the posts and making sure that the links are still active so hopefully we can get that corrected soon.
Deborah A Robbins
can you eat dried flower petals?
Yes, they can be used dry as well.
This is great, thanks!
You’re very welcome.
Hi there! I was especially interested in making Lilac wine after reading your blog last year. It turned out so yummy that I was inspired to try the recipe using my beautiful Peonies. I was not disappointed! The fragrance came through beautifully, and the color was amazing! If you are looking to make a wine that will Wow, give it a try.
That sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for all this peony info as I have been a peony collector for some 30 years now. Tree peony, Itoh and herbaceous all add so much excitement to the spring blooming season. Yes, some do go to seed if I miss deaheading some, but have never thought about eating them! Food for thought this year for sure!
You’re very welcome. We’re glad you enjoyed the post. Let us know if you decide to try them.
You can easily grow peony from seed off of your plants or you can purchase them. The seed pods here is zone 7 (Virginia) mature Aug to Sept. The pods split and the seeds are released so you need to watch to harvest them before they are all released. Plant the seeds about 1/2 inch deep after harvesting. When they germinate, they send a root down and then the next spring a leaf will appear. Grow them in a bed that gets at least 1/2 day of sun for about a year before planting out. They take about 4 years before they bloom, and you don’t know what you will end up with.
There are 3 main types of peonies. Herbaceous, tree, and a cross between the two called Itoh. For more info on peonies go to https://americanpeonysociety.org/. If you join the Peony Society, you can even purchase seeds.
Thank you so much for sharing this.