Apple Blossoms If you have an apple tree don’t just eat the apples try the blossoms too. You can add crystallized petals and decorate apple pies.
Calendula is a very colorful and easy to grow flower of orange, apricot and yellow. It has a slightly tangy bitter taste and adds some color and zing into salads and rice dishes. Calendulas grow from 10” – 18” depending on the variety and are deer resistant.
Dianthus - Pinks spp. These miniature carnations are perennial and have a spicy floral clove like taste. This flavor is super when used in sorbets, custards, and salads or use it to garnish cakes, or decorate the punch bowl. Remove the white base as sometimes it has a bitter taste. They grow in average well drained soil; love a sunny location and make an excellent addition to your rock garden.
Bellis Daisy (English daisy) is a very hardy perennial that thrives almost anywhere. With a slightly bitter taste you can use the petals in salads and soups or on steamed vegetables. Remove the white base before using.
Hemerocallis (Daylily) is a versatile plant that is very easy to grow and all parts of it can be used as a food source. They have a variety of flavours from sweet floral to slightly metallic so be sure to taste them first before you put them in your salad. The buds are used in Oriental stir fries or Japanese tempura. They can also be sautéed or baked giving them a crunchy asparagus flavor. The sweet variety makes an excellent sorbet or ice cream.
Lavender is a great plant to use as both a showy flower and an excellent border plant. It echoes back to days long ago when the dried blossoms were used to fill sachets that were placed in a drawer to scent your linens. It has a very distinctive flavour and scent and is very medicinal when used as bath oil or made as a scent for candles. It can also be steeped and used for jellies, sorbets, caramel custard and ice cream. Flavoured syrup can be drizzle over poached pears or on an almond tart. Pick the buds when they are new for drying purposes. Remove the small petals from the stem and use them fresh or steep them to make a liquid to add to desserts.
Lilacs Remember cycling down streets filled with lilac trees and the sweet perfume wafting through the air. Although the fragrance seems sweet not all varieties taste as sweet as they smell. Taste them first before you add them to soft cheese, frozen yogurt or as a garnish. Pick them in the morning as soon as the heads begin to open. Use the little florets to decorate your platters and add to desserts for a wonderful visual and tasty treat.
Marigolds : Tagetes lemon and Tangerine Gem Not all marigolds are pleasant to eat. The tagetes have a distinctive lemon or citrus flavor to add to salads.
Monarda (Bee Balm) is a hardy plant from 12” to 3 feet tall depending on the variety, easy to grow and will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It makes a great tea, and the petals can be added to salads. Try sprinkling their petals over red snapper or other mild fish. With their strong spicy minty taste they spruce up apricots, peach and plum dishes and give a kick to fruit salads.
Nasturiums are wonderful plants. Add them to your planter boxes or concrete wall pockets and watch the colors cascade over. There are many varieties on the market in an array of colors. You can start them easily from seed or buy them as transplants. The most common varieties such as ‘Alaska mix’ with green and white foliage produce yellow, burgundy and orange flowers. The ‘Empress of India’ has the darker leaves and the deep red orange flowers. Other mixes such as ‘Whirlybird’ and the “Trailing mix” deliver a mass of blooms and for a border plant try the “Dwarf Jewel” mix which only 10” high. Both the flowers and leaves are edible. Pick the flowers as they open and use in butter, cheeses, or add the flavour to oils and vinegars. And definitely use the flowers in salads for both the color and tangy mustard perfume sweetness.
Roses You have heard of rose water. How about rose flavoured sugar? You can add rose petals to any dessert. Again taste the petal before using to make sure that’s the flavour you want. Do not use any roses that have been sprayed with a pesticide.
Scarlet Runner Beans The bean is nutritious but the red blossoms are both decorative and delicious in salads. Nasturtiums and scarlet runner beans are perfect plants to grow in a children’s garden. And they’ll have fun picking it and adding it to their meals.
Squash Blossoms As with the beans, the squash is one form of food but the flowers are also decorative and tasty in salads. They actually have a sweet taste which is great to decorate on top of canapés.
Tuberous Begonias Not many people realize that these gorgeous shade plants are edible. Their blossoms look so romantically wonderful floating in a bowl of water they look too good to eat - but try them. They have a slightly lemon taste and a crisp texture. Use them in salads or to garnish a platter. The colors are fabulous and very impressive.
Violas and Pansies I’ll end with these cheery faces of color. The petals have a texture like lettuce and they are often used as candied decoration on desserts especially cakes. Or you can freeze them and use them in ice cubes .
A great resource is Rosalind Creasy’s colorful and informative book “The Edible Flower Garden”. She has many recipes and ‘how to’s’ that are easy to follow.
Herbs :You can also eat the flowers of these Herbs: Anise, Borage, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme,
This is actually a wonderful adventure to add to your gardening and culinary experience.
A few words of caution:
Check if you have an allergy to a new food by adding small quantities of the blossoms at a time to your diet. Don’t eat flowers from a road side. Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating and eat only the flower petals of most flowers. Tips: Pick fully open flowers in the cool of the day. Do not use flowers which are starting to wilt. Sample them for taste before harvest and after you harvest, place them in a cool location. You can place them between layers of damp paper toweling or in a plastic bag in the fridge. Just before using, wash the flowers to remove dirt and check for insects.
Separate the flower petals from the rest of the flower just before using to prevent wilting. Roses, Dianthus, English daisies and Marigolds have a bitter white area at the base of the petal where it was attached to the flower. Break or cut off this portion before using.
How does that saying go...’Buy bread for the body and flowers for the soul’… well how about buying flowers for both. It certainly will stump those who say ‘what’s the good of growing flowers if they can’t be eaten’. Happy Gardening.