Table of Contents

Edible Flowers – From Garden to Table

Pansies, Petals, and Possibilities

It may surprise you to learn just how many flowers are actually edible. You know I love my chive blossoms, and you might have seen me toss a pansy or two onto a garden-fresh salad. But did you also know nasturtium flowers are edible and delicious?

As a teenager in the early 90s, my mom dropped a bombshell on us one day at the dinner table: “You can eat pansies.” She had casually placed salads in front of us, each one adorned with vibrant purple, orange, and yellow pansy petals. We all looked at each other puzzled, until my brother cautiously asked, “Wait, mom, we can eat this?” Carefully nibbling on a petal, we realized it had a slightly sweet, mild lettuce flavor that complemented the salad perfectly.

Thirty years later, I’m still wondering why anyone would bother with sugar sprinkles when you can decorate cakes and salads with petals. Not convinced? Fast forward to July 2023, when my daughters and I hosted a ladies-only garden party. Our guests marveled over the borage ice cubes, eager to add them to their watermelon mojitos. Some even asked the same question my brother did decades ago, surprised that these simple things could have such a great impact.

Beyond the Pretty Face

As an organic gardener, a chemical-free garden is important to me, and edible flowers help me keep it that way. Their value to the garden goes so much deeper than just being a pretty face. Certain flowers, when planted alongside vegetables, can act as a natural pest deterrent, improving pollination and attracting beneficial insects that keep pests in check.

Companion Planting with Edible Flowers

Companion planting is the practice of growing certain plants together to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Just like we surround ourselves with our favorite people, vegetables do better when planted with certain flowers.

For example, the dainty, cucumber-flavored edible flowers of borage attract predatory beneficial insects like ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and lacewings that prey on other insects. It’s said that the scent of borage deters corn worms. In my own garden, I direct-sowed borage around the perimeter of my corn bed, and not a single ear had a corn worm this year. While I can’t definitively say it was the borage, it does stand to reason that this new addition had something to do with my successful harvest.

Another study conducted by Iowa State University found that planting nasturtiums with zucchini significantly decreased the presence of squash bugs, a common pest that can be devastating to young plants. Nasturtiums are another edible flower you can direct-sow in the garden, and I love the way the trailing and bushing varieties spill over the sides of my raised beds.

Pollinators and Edible Flowers

Edible flowers don’t just deter pests; they also attract pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Chives, for example, are covered in round purple balls in May that the pollinators can’t resist. I love snipping the long green leaves for sprinkling on mashed potatoes or adding the flowers and leaves to butter for herbed butter.

Roses are another pollinator-friendly edible flower, especially my rugosas, whose flowers attract tons of pollinators. But one rose caught my eye while I was attending the Proven Winners Creators Roundtable back in November 2022. They introduced a rose bred specifically for flavor – the Flavorette Honey Apricot rose. While I didn’t detect a honey apricot flavor, I found the taste of the petals more pleasing on newer flowers.

What’s even more interesting about this edible rose is the team of female rose breeders from Pheno Geno in Serbia and the Netherlands who developed it. Traditionally a male-dominated industry, these innovative women are making their mark and bringing us culinary roses that are recognized by Proven Winners.

Edible Flowers in the Kitchen

Of course, the best part about edible flowers is getting to enjoy them on our plates. Whether sprinkled on a salad, incorporated into a cocktail or ice cubes, or candied for a cake, flower petals bring an exciting flair of the garden to any moment.

Squash Blossoms: A Culinary Delight

One of my personal favorites is the squash blossom. Fried or baked, they are an absolute delight. The first time I experienced them was while dining at the Italian Village in Chicago. My husband and I ordered them as an appetizer, and our tastebuds were in heaven.

I have yet to prepare stuffed squash blossoms myself, but I can tell you the bees love them. Pollen-covered bee butts are a frequent discovery in these large yellow blossoms early in the morning – I can’t imagine a better place for them to catch a snooze than in a beautiful flower.

Edible Flower Varieties to Explore

In addition to pansies, nasturtiums, and squash blossoms, there are many other edible flower varieties to explore. Daylilies, for example, are not only edible but downright delicious. The fully-opened flowers can be used in salads and as a garnish, but the best way to enjoy this beauty is to consume the unopened flower bud, which tastes like a spicy sweet green bean.

Signet or gem marigolds are another edible flower I love. Smart Pots overflowing with these darling little flowers were scattered across the rooftop of Uncommon Ground, a restaurant in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood that I visited back in 2015. The pollinators enjoyed sipping from them, and the chef used the orange and yellow flowers to garnish salads and drinks.

And let’s not forget about borage, which I’ve already mentioned for its pest-deterring properties. In addition to that, I’ve steeped the purple flowers in champagne vinegar to make the most beautiful and tasty chive vinegar. It was a big hit on salad with a splash of olive oil.

The possibilities with edible flowers are endless, from decorating cakes and cocktails to enhancing everyday dishes. Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just starting to explore the world of edible flowers, I encourage you to get creative and add a touch of the garden to your table.

Remember, as you venture into the world of edible flowers, it’s essential to do your research and make sure you’ve correctly identified the plant and that the flowers are safe to consume. Stick to those you’ve grown yourself from verified seeds in your own garden, and you’ll know you haven’t used any harmful chemicals.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to let your garden bloom, both in and out of the kitchen. Who knows, you might even surprise your guests with a flourish of floral flair, just like my mom did all those years ago. Happy gardening, and bon app├ętit!

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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