if you plant the right ones! Edible flowers add such a unique elegance to your table! Many fruits, vegetables, and herbs have edible flowers, performing double duty in the garden. Not only do they add beauty and bounty, but also flavor and whimsy to the table.
It’s surprisingly easy to grow edible flowers in your home garden, but there are a few simple things to keep in mind.
- First, make sure you know what you’re tasting. Check a reliable source for proper identification and to ensure the flowers are fit to eat or use as a garnish. For instance, check this article by the University of Minnesota extension.
- Make sure that children understand that they must never sample a flower or berry they don’t know without checking with a knowledgeable adult first.
- Some flowers may simply taste unpleasant, but others may contain chemical substances that are actually toxic to ingest. For example, foxglove is a striking flower but it contains a compound used to make the drug digitalis, a heart medication. Eating the flowers can have an adverse effect on the heart. Exquisitely scented lily-of-the-valley flowers are quite toxic if ingested, as are the berries.
- Don’t assume that because the fruit from a plant is edible, the flower is also edible. Bean and pea flowers are perfectly edible but eggplant, tomato, potato, and pepper flowers are toxic.
- It’s important never to use pesticides on plants from which you will harvest flowers. Even if you use a particular type of pesticide on your vegetables, don’t assume that it’s okay to use it on the flowers. Usually, a strong spray of water will rid you of the insect problems. If it doesn’t, just don’t eat those flowers.
- Finally, don’t use flowers from a florist unless they were specifically grown for eating. You can never be sure that they don’t have preservatives or insecticides on them.
Most edible flowers simply need well-drained soil, usually full sun and plenty of water. You can grow edible flowers in garden beds with other plants, in raised beds, single containers, and even hanging baskets. Consider using herbs for their flowers in other places than an herb garden.
To capture best flavor, harvest edible flowers early in the morning just after they’ve opened. Rinse the flowers in cool water and pull out the stamens, which are often bitter. Store them between paper towels in a plastic container in the refrigerator until ready to use in your gourmet meals!
A Few Suggestions
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Very mild flavor; tastes like it smells; sprinkle bright yellow and orange petals on endive salad.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) – Flowers and leaves have peppery flavor, a nice contrast to a vinaigrette-dressed salad or a chicken salad sandwich; garnish cheesecake with fresh raspberries, mint leaves and bright red and yellow nasturtiums
Marigold (Tagetes spp.) – Flavor is overwhelmingly pungent; signet marigolds have a citrus-like flavor; nice in a glass of iced tea; the bright colors complement pastas.
Violets, pansies and Johnny-jump-ups (Viola spp.) – Add an old-fashioned, whimsical note to salads and vegetable dishes; freeze Johnny-jump-ups into ice cubes for punch; candied violets are a beautiful decoration on a white frosted cake. Add a deep blue violet to a glass of sparkling water.
Rose (Rosa spp.) – Some roses are more flavorful than others; petals add a soft, romantic flavor to honey for glazing chicken; red rose petals make soft pink vinegar for a floral salad; rose sorbet; scent the sugar bowl for use in tea.
Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) and squash (Curcubita spp.) – Dip the blossoms in batter and fry; stuff with crabmeat or chicken salad; float a zucchini squash blossom in a bowl of cucumber; use as a dipping bowl for cream cheese dip.