Flowers types you can eat - edible garden flowers
Edible Flowers from the garden
We all love to see pretty flowers growing in our gardens and in pots on our terraces but have you ever thought about which colourful blooms you can eat? That’s right, there is actually a large variety of garden flowers that are perfectly edible and can be used to brighten up a salad or act as a garnish.
Rose petals have a delicate taste and come in as many different colours as there are different types of roses. Rose bushes grow well in Tenerife even in the south of the island as long as they get enough water and are shaded from the scorching rays of the sun. Rose petals can be eaten fresh or used in teas, jams or jelly, and dried they are a traditional ingredient of pot-pourri.
Marigold petals are edible too and are a very healthy flower to eat as well. The flowers can be added to rice and fish dishes and petals and leaves can be used in salads. The petals can also be baked in buns and biscuits. Because of the colour it can add to food the Marigold was once known as the “Poor man’s saffron”. Marigolds can be grown easily enough in Tenerife but make sure you have the Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) and not the French or African Marigold (Tagetes species).
Nasturtiums are hot stuf!
The Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is a commonly seen garden flower, especially in the north of Tenerife where it is often found growing wild along roadsides and on waste ground forming huge patches of its rounded leaves and colourful flowers of red, orange or yellow.
This is a wonderful edible plant with a peppery taste that reminds me of watercress. Nasturtium flowers and leaves make a great addition to salads or can be eaten in sandwiches. The large green seeds can be pickled and make a substitute for capers. The Nasturtium has lots of Vitamin C in it so is very good for your health and for preventing colds and flu. It is also rumoured to be an aphrodisiac. This flower can perk you up in more ways than one!
Pansy and Petunia
Pansies are edible too and they are easy enough to grow in borders or even in hanging baskets, and so too are Petunias that also come in a very wide range of colours and have edible flowers. They have a mid taste but make a very colourful garnish or addition to a salad. Both these flowers are commonly seen in gardens in the UK but also grow well here in the Canary Islands.
The Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) is yet another popular garden plant grown in British gardens and here on Tenerife that has edible flowers that come in a very wide range of colours.
The large and brightly-coloured flowers of the Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) are edible too. This shrub is grown all over the island for its ornamental qualities and can be white, pink, red or yellow. The flowers can be eaten raw in salad or can be used to make an herbal tea, Drinks made using Hibiscus flowers are popular in many parts of the world, including Egypt, Mexico and Brazil, and are served hot and cold.
Aloe vera flowers
Aloe vera gel
Aloe Vera flowers are sweet and juicy and are best picked before they open. This succulent plant is very easy to grow in Tenerife and will tolerate very high temperatures and dry conditions. It forms large rosettes of spiky grey-green leaves and carries its yellow tubular flowers in spring on flowering spikes that reach 2-3ft in height.
Aloe Vera sap has many health-giving properties and is used in herbal medicine and in lots of commercially available cosmetic products too. The gel from the plant is used to treat skin conditions and heal burns. Aloe Vera should not be taken internally though by pregnant women.
Prickly Pear flowers
Edible flowers poll
Have you eaten an edible flower?
Moving on from a succulent plant to a cactus, the yellow or reddish-orange flowers of the Prickly Pear are edible just like the fruit and green pads once the spines have been carefully removed. There are two main types of Prickly Pear cactus seen on Tenerife. The first of these is Opuntia dillenii, which has longer spines on its pads and smoother purple-red juicy fruit. This is the Prickly Pear most commonly seen in the south of the island. O. ficus-barbarica has shorter spines but far more of them, grows more often in the north of Tenerife, and has green prickly fruits that go yellow or reddish as they ripen. Great care is needed for obvious reasons with these cacti but the flower petals can easily be pulled out of the flowers and are mild-tasting and juicy.
So there you have a wide selection of flowers you can eat and make use of in the kitchen to amaze your friends and family. Don’t just grow flowers to look at but grow them to eat as well!
First published in the Tenerife Weekly, March 2013
© 2014 Steve Andrews