As someone utterly fascinated by edible plants, I’m always thrilled to learn about new ways to eat what’s growing in my yard. Like most edible weeds, flowers often escape the average cook’s attention. Want to jazz up your next meal? Look no further than your flower bed!
Things to Consider Before You Harvest
- Not all flowers are edible. It’s important to be certain you’ve identified the correct plant. Get a good guide to help you safely locate and select new plants to add to your cooking.
- Be sure what you’re picking hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides. It’s wise to avoid flowers by roadsides and from nurseries, since it’s likely they’ve been treated with chemicals.
- Consume flowers in moderation. In some cases, eating too many edible flowers may cause stomach upset. If you have pollen or food allergies, it’s best to try a little of a flower at a time to make sure you don’t have a reaction.
- Remember to harvest responsibly, especially if foraging in a wild area. A good rule of thumb is to take less than thirty percent of what’s growing. This practice allows plants to continue to thrive and leaves food for our pollinators.
How to Use Edible Flowers in the Kitchen
A number of flowers work well in salads, and you may have even seen nasturtiums and pansies served up at restaurants. Others may be added to baked goods or used as decorative toppings, and many make delicious medicinal teas. You can also infuse flowers into vinegars for stunning homemade gifts.
Because picking them can be labor intensive, using smaller numbers of flowers as garnishes and add-ins is the simplest route. But if you have the time — or a lot of helpers — you can harvest enough flowers to make such treats as dandelion muffins or violet jelly.
Some flowers can be eaten whole, like dandelions, violets, daylily buds, and herb blossoms. Only the petals of larger flowers like roses are eaten. Their green bases can be bitter.
As an added bonus, many of these beautiful elements of your garden attract beneficial insects and repel unwanted ones. Consider adding these delicacies to your landscape if you don’t already have them there.
The delicate blue flower on otherwise somewhat rangy-looking borage plants make gorgeous decorations for cakes, iced teas, and dinner plates. They don’t have a lot of flavor, but they’re so lovely, no one cares! The leaves, which have a pleasant melon flavor, can be used to brew tasty teas or to lightly flavor ice water. The bees love borage flowers as well, so they’re a great way to bring to pollinators to your yard. (A word of caution: Borage is a prolific self-seeder, so be prepared to find it growing all over your neighborhood if you plant it.)
Calendula is a beautiful addition to the summer garden — and to summer meals! Also called “poor man’s saffron,” the petals make a tasty and pretty addition to rice dishes, salads, soups, and eggs. If you like to make homemade salves, save some calendula for infusing in oil, which is…