Chrysanthemums: In the Garden & On the Dinner Plate

The Queen of the Fall Garden at Smith College

Smith College 2007 Fall Chrysanthemum Show (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Smith College 2007 Fall Chrysanthemum Show (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Friday my family stopped by the Fall Chrysanthemum Show at the Botanic Garden of Smith College in Northampton, MA. Cascades of chrysanthemums lined the walls in the Lyman Conservatory, creating an amazing display of “floral pyrotechnics.” Our 5yo daughter went around smelling and counting the different colors that were being displayed, while looking for petals on the ground. She gathered a pretty large collection of fallen petals, storing them in the front pocket of my coat as we strolled around the conservatory. I tried to get her to examine the wide array of petal forms that had been cultivated, but she was more interested in squirreling away the petals found on the ground.

I recommend the show as an community based educational opportunity to supplement a botanical home/school. Explore the rich history of the chrysanthemum and examining the wide array of forms and colors that are cultivated. See if you can get your kids to pick out the different varieties of chrysanthemum forms displayed at the show. Check the show brochure for a list. Click here for printable coloring sheets of different flowering forms.

(c) Hilltown Families - Chrysanthemum Show at Smith College

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

(c) Hilltown Families - Chrysanthemum Show at Smith

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Did you know that chrysanthemum petals are edible? Not that you’d want to eat the petals found on the ground there, like my daughter wanted to do when I told her they were edible. But potted chrysanthemums kept on the kitchen window sill, or petals gathered in the fall from your garden, would be more suitable. The Forgotten Art of Flower Cookery by Leona Woodring Smith has a whole chapter on the chrysanthemum with sixteen different recipes that call for chrysanthemum petals.

I found a recipe in Cooking with Flowers: Wherein An Age-Old Art is Revived by Zack Hanle that I’ll share here:


  • 1 dozen fresh lichee nuts (you could probably use the canned ones instead)
  • 2 mangos
  • 2 fresh peaches (and again, probably canned or frozen since peaches might not be around in the fall)
  • 2 large bananas
  • 4 tangerines
  • 1 or 2 large, yellow chrysanthemums
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (maybe more of the whipped cream instead of mayo?)

Peel and slice mangoes, peaches, bananas and place in a salad bowl. Peel lichee nuts (or open the can) and tangerines and remove tangerine segment skins. Add to bowl. Whip cream and fold into mayo (or whip extra cream and skip the mayo). Pour mixture over the fruit. Wash chrysanthemums, drain and remove petals. Scatter over the salad and serve ice cold. Serves 4.

2 Comments on “Chrysanthemums: In the Garden & On the Dinner Plate

  1. what do the ‘mums petals taste like?

    are they flowery, or spicy/peppery (like nastursiums are)?

    thanks for the link to the printables, i’m thrilled that there is such a thing as a ‘national chrysanthemum society!’

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