Flowers That We Can Eat
Many gardeners are not aware of the number of flowers we grow that are edible. I had very little idea as well, until I read Lois Hole’s book. I have tried some of them, and was pleasantly surprised at the flavour.
My favourite one has to be the Nasturtium. It has an almost peppery taste, which is more pronounced in the unopened flower buds. It is a very easy flower to grow and its large seeds make it a nice candidate for a child’s garden. All parts of the nasturtium are edible...personally I like the flower buds the best.
Marigolds are another flower that can be eaten. Pot marigold, English marigold and signet marigold are the best ones for eating, as they have a milder flavour. African and French marigolds are quite bitter. The young leaves can be boiled or steamed as a green vegetable. I have tried marigolds, but did make the mistake of taking a bite of the center. A word of advice...eat only the petals as the center tends to be bitter.
The pansy is a pretty flower, with a slight Wintergreen taste. The entire flower can be eaten, but never eat the seeds, rhizomes or roots. They are also ideal for a child’s garden as they are easy to grow and children like the ‘faces’ they have.
As everyone knows, sunflowers are also on this list. Along with the seeds, the petals and flower buds can also be eaten. If using the flower buds, choose a multi-stemmed variety as opposed to a single-stem. If using for the seeds, choose a single-stemmed variety and do not harvest any petals form the flower heads.
Also, as many people know, the dandelion is also an edible flower. I can remember going out into the yard as a child and picking young leaves for a salad. They were very tasty with a little oil and vinegar. I sometimes made the mistake of getting the bigger leaves...they are a little more bitter. The leaves can also be boiled like spinach. The roots can be dried and ground up as a coffee substitute, although I have never personally tried this. It is very tempting though, because dandelions are plentiful around here in the spring and summer. Young flower buds are high in protein, and can be stir-fried.
Chickweed can be added to salads or steamed and served as a leafy vegetable. Chickweed is also one of those plentiful ‘weeds’ that we battle all summer long. It spreads rapidly, and likes cool moist areas and will tolerate shade. It makes a very nice potted plant if kept confined. It is one of those plants that could be kept on a bright windowsill all winter long.
Honeysuckle has aromatic flowers that taste great in fruit salads. They can also be boiled to make syrup. It blooms all season long, so the flowers can be enjoyed by you and hummingbirds alike.
These are just a few of the flowers that can be eaten. Some of them go great together with herbs and mixed in with other foods. For more information on the above mentioned flowers, I suggest Lois Hole's book on Herbs and Edible Flowers.