Flowers Can do More Than Just Stand There and Look Pretty!
Did you eat that parsley garnish the last time it was served when you dined out? Gardeners know to eat that garnish for it’s potent vitamin C as well as to freshen the breath after a meal. Otherwise, it’s like throwing away vitamins, and we just wouldn’t do that. But what about those edible flowers? It’s likely that you can eat them too… and probably should!
Flowers served with food, colors a meal with an exotic, beautiful and vibrant presentation. But flowers can do so much more than just look pretty. Many of them are edible and contain nourishing and even healing properties.
Flowers not only contribute a unique array colors and textures, but also add interesting flavors to any dish. You’d probably be surprised at how many edible flowers are already in your garden.
Naturally you’ll need to verify which flowers are edible before you pop them into your mouth or top off your salad. To keep it simple, you might plant only edible flowers in and around your garden. That way you’ll know and if you have children, it will be easy for them to know which ones are safe. E.g. in the garden = safe to eat.
It might seem odd to eat flowers. We just aren’t accustomed to thinking of flowers as food. That’s the way it is for many people with parsley. They see parsley as garnish, and more often than not it’s left behind to be tossed in the garbage. But flowers have been used as food, medicine and cosmetics for centuries, and according to Home Cooking, the first recorded use of flowers in food dates back to 140 AD.1)http://homecooking.about.com/od/foodhistory/a/flowerhistory.htm
There are hundreds of flowers you can eat. In this article we’re covering six of the most common ones.
From Garden to Table
Tricia, from Grow Organic, shares the top ten tips for harvesting and eating flowers from your garden.
These first 5 are excerpted from an article by Kris Wetherbee on OregonLive.com2)http://www.oregonlive.com/hg/index.ssf/2012/06/10_of_the_best_edible_flowers.html
Borage (Borago officinalis)
Star-shaped blooms with eye-catching appeal in pink, violet or shades of blue. Subtle flavor slightly akin to cucumbers, though some note a grassy undertone.
How to use: Show off their beauty by freezing the flowers into ice cubes and floating them in a beverage, or sprinkle over soups, salads or dips.
Growing tip: This self-seeding annual tolerates a wide range of soil conditions and can be grown in full sun to light shade.
You can get Borage seeds on Amazon.
The giant of culinary flowers, all squash flowers are edible — both winter and summer squash– though zucchini tends to produce the largest flowers. The texture is somewhat crisp with a sweet zucchini-like flavor, only milder.
How to use: The large yellow blooms are perfect for stuffing or deep frying.
Editor’s Note: Since deep fried foods are not healthy, we’d recommend topping off stir fry and salads instead.
Growing tip: Plant this warm-summer annual in deep, rich and well-drained but moist soil containing plenty of organic matter.
GardensAll Facebook community member, Teresa McCullar first told us about eating squash blossoms.
Flavor profile varies from sweet and floral to vegetal or slightly metallic, depending on the variety. Always harvest the plumpest buds, just before they open.
How to use: In Asian cuisine, salads, desserts, deep-fried, or sautéed with garlic and asparagus.
Growing tip: Best in full sun or light shade in fairly moist, well-drained soil amended with organic matter.
Get your daylily seeds here!
Blooms accentuate sweet and savory dishes with a sweet mingling of floral, fresh pine and rosemary with citrus notes. English lavender varieties (L. angustifolia) have the best culinary flavor.
How to use: Its flavor complements a variety of foods — from fish, poultry and most fruits and vegetables to sauces, marinades and dressings along with beverages, baked goods and desserts. Strip the flowers from the stalk before using.
Growing tip: Best in full sun and well-drained soil.
And you can get lavender seeds here!
All rose types vary greatly in flavor — from full-bodied floral to pleasantly sweet and floral, to slightly metallic or even overtones of ginger — so it’s best to taste-test first.
How to use: Use petals to flavor honey, beverages, a sorbet or fruit compote or make a classic rose-petal jam.
Growing tip: Best in full sun to light shade and moderately moist, well-drained soil.3)http://www.oregonlive.com/hg/index.ssf/2012/06/10_of_the_best_edible_flowers.html
Get your rose seeds here.
If you have pollen allergies, be careful about eating flowers. Even though you’re mainly consuming the petals, rinse them well, and start with small amounts.
Oh! And don’t forget the dandelions!! Dandelions were brought to North America by European ancestors as a food crop! Find out more on the amazingly healthy and delicious dandelion in this article which we will also link in the footnotes at the end of the article.4)https://gardensall.com/dandelion-for-food-medicine-tea-and-wine/
And… one of our favorites…
These flowers come in all sorts of colors and practically every part of the plant is edible.
How to use: Both the flowers and leaves have a tangy peppery taste which is a great addition to salads and for topping sandwiches, stir fry and soups, and nasturtium seeds are often used like capers. If you use the flower for garnish, make sure family and friends know to at least try the flower too. To let this gem be only for decoration, would be a loss of more than its nutritional value.
Nutrition: Nasturtiums are high in vitamins C A & D, plus iron.
Medicinal Benefits: Nasturtium contains vitamin C and is used as an antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and also beneficial for urinary tract infections, coughs, bronchitis and possibly tumors, as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Applied externally, nasturtium is beneficial for muscle pain and as a scalp treatment for hair loss prevention.
Not recommended for children or pregnant women or those with kidney disease, stomach or intestinal ulcers.5)http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-526-nasturtium.aspx?activeingredientid=526&activeingredientname=nasturtium
Growing Tip: Nasturtiums are great perennials for children to grow because they’re easy and even thrive in poor soil. If left alone, they can even take over like weeds.6)http://www.almanac.com/plant/nasturtium
For an excellent article on Nasturtium, you’ll enjoy this article on CalorieBee.com by Fiona Jean McKay.7)https://caloriebee.com/nutrition/The-Various-Health-Benefits-and-Uses-of-Nasturtiums
Next up, some beautiful flower salad recipes that will bring ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of delight to any meal, but first, a nasturtium leaf pesto you’ll want to garnish with nasturtium flowers.
Recipe by Donna Cook of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods, as printed in the KansasCity.com.8)http://www.kansascity.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/chow-town/article326554/Not-just-pretty-edible-flowers-pack-nutritional-punch.html
- 2 cups nasturtium leaves
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced nasturtium stems
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup olive oil*
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* Editor’s Note: for lower calorie pesto, we’ll try this with less oil first, starting at 1/2 cup and then adding more as needed to achieve preferred taste and moistness.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. Add nasturtium leaves to boiling water and cook for 10 seconds. Drain and transfer to ice-water bath until cool. Drain and set aside. Place leaves, pine nuts, garlic and oil in the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and fold in stems and cheese.
Editor’s Note: We recommend serving on a spiralized squash or spaghetti squash, especially lemon squash. Garnish with nasturtium flowers, for a delightful presentation of a delicious gourmet dish.
Note: I have thrown everything in a blender including the stems and cheese and processed and it worked fine.
Donna Cook is the owner of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods in Louisburg, Kan. She is also a Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer and on the board of directors of the Home Baking Association.
Lovely Lavender Festival Salad
• 5 tablespoons lemon juice
• 5 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
• 8 cups red and green oak leaf lettuce or other mixed salad greens, washed and dried
• 4 slices red onion
• 1 sweet red pepper, seeded and sliced thin
• 1 large peach or nectarine cut into slices
• 1 to 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1. In a large salad bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together.
2. Add the greens, onion, pepper, and fruit, toss with the dressing, and top with the feta cheese.
Salad with Rose Petals, Chive Flowers & Light Vinaigrette
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot grated
petals of 2 organic roses
petals of 2 chive flowers
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. honey*
1/4 cup olive oil
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