By Sommer Cartier.
Edible flowers are the new black for both gardeners and foodies. Not only do they make an edible garden pop with color, but they also attract beneficial insects, which reduces pests and pollinates our fruiting crops, improving productivity in the garden. You might say they are the perfect vegetable garden companion, and with the following how-tos and list of my top ten easy to grow flowers, you'll find them to be a source of inspiration in the kitchen!
Before diving into the exquisite world of edible flowers, eat only pesticide-free and organic flowers that you are certain are edible. Also, eat flowers in small quantities and use caution when eating flowers if you have hay fever, asthma, or allergies.
Tips for growing and preparing edible flowers:
To avoid heavy use of fertilizers, prepare the bed with nutrient rich soil.
Use the same growing methods as your ornamentals, minus the pesticides.
As always, learn your plants' growing needs and place them next to plants with similar needs.
Deadhead spent flowers often to encourage plants to put more energy towards producing more new flowers.
Harvest flowers when they’ve just fully opened and when temperatures are cool in the morning or late afternoon.
Soak flowers in a bowl of water to remove lingering insects.
Sepals (the parts below the petals) should be removed from most flowers before eating to eliminate any bitter taste.
It's best to use flowers the same day; if you need to store them longer, place them on a damp cloth in a sealed container in the fridge.
Ten delicious, easy to grow edible flowers:
Nasturtium: peppery, spicy flavor similar to arugula, and pollinator-friendly
Chive: mild onion flavor; insect deterrent; attracts pollinators
Daylily: mild asparagus-like flavor that tastes great battered and fried or stuffed; attracts pollinators
Borage (see photo above): cucumber-like flavor; great at attracting pollinators; enriches soil with trace minerals and nitrogen; makes great green manure crop for the compost pile
Calendula: tangy, peppery taste with a hint of saffron; great herbal remedy for a number of skin alignments; pest repellant; roots enrich the soil by forming relationships with soil fungi
Lavender: floral taste with a hint of rosemary; relaxing and soothing properties; helps repel pests and attract pollinators
Rose: sweet flavor with faint hint of spice
Squash blossom: mild raw squash flavor that tastes great battered and fried, stuffed, or in a quesadilla
Pansy/Viola: subtle sweetness
Dianthus: clove-like flavor
With a bit of knowledge and these helpful tips, you can grow beautiful delicious edible flowers that will increase diversity in your garden, maximize productivity and surely impress any dinner guests lucky enough to receive an invitation to your party!