When you think of edible plants, what comes to mind? Carrots? Broccoli? Squash? Watermelon?
What about flowers?
While not often talked about, a great number of plants produce edible flowers, and I’ll bet you’ve even eaten a few without realizing it.
We’re big fans of edible flowers here at the nursery, and that’s why today we’re going to share a few of our favorites. We’ll cover tips for choosing, growing, and (most fun of all) eating them. These flowers are all fun and easy to grow, and they’re perfect to start your garden off this spring.
Let’s get going!
Often called the “perfect perennial,” this brilliant colored flower is low maintenance and can tolerate a broad range of conditions. Its scientific name, Hemerocallis, comes from two Greek words meaning “day” and “beautiful.” Could a flower have a lovelier name?
There are over 19 different species of day lily, but the edible variety is Hemerocallis citrina. Day lilies tend to grow in clumps and have fragrant red, yellow, or orange flowers.
How to grow: Day lilies can grow in either sun or partial shade. They prefer well-drained, fertile soil, but they can tolerate other conditions. They thrive with a deep watering that reaches 8-10 inches into the soil.
How to eat: The flowers are used in traditional dishes such as hot and sour soup, daylily soup, Buddha’s delight, and moo shu pork. If you want to start out small just throw them into a stir fry! On the nutritional front, they are a good source of beta carotene and vitamin C.
Marigolds will keep your garden full of bright golden blooms all summer long. They tend to be either orange or yellow, and while several species are edible, Tagetes tenuifolia is the most popular and appetizing.
How to grow: Marigolds need full sun exposure and grow well in all types of soil. Water them regularly, but allow the soil to dry thoroughly between waterings. Avoid using fertilizers with marigolds, as this will decrease the amount of flowering.
How to eat: Marigolds have a citrusy flavor, similar to a lemon. They’re great in salads, drinks, or anywhere a burst of citrus flavor is useful. They make a fun garnish for seafood!
Marigolds are high in antioxidants, which can help prevent diseases such as cancer.
Impatiens are another beautiful edible addition to your summer garden. Impatiens wallerana are the edible variety. The flowers tend to be red, white, or even pink.
How to grow: Impatiens prefer shade and moist, well-drained soil. Water them regularly.
How to eat: With their sweet flavor and brilliant color, impatiens make an interesting addition to salads or a creative drink garnish. They’re super fun in a fairy cocktail!
Pansies can add a rainbow of colors to both your garden and your plate. Viola x wittrockiana is the most common edible variety. It comes in blue, purple, pink, orange, red, and yellow.
How to grow: Pansies need full sun, and they grow best in moist, well-drained soil. Water them regularly and periodically remove faded/dead flowers to make room for new ones.
How to eat: The petals of the flower are edible and have a grassy, wintergreen flavor. They make a lovely salad garnish.
If you want to introduce your kids to gardening, nasturtiums are a great plant to start with. They grow so quickly that your kids will be able to see the “blooms” of their labor in no time. Not to mention that Nasturtiums are also gorgeous, with blossoms of orange, red, and yellow.
How to grow: Nasturtiums need full sun and moist, well-drained soil. They bloom better in poorer soil, so don’t use fertilizer. Water them regularly. They are a sprawling ground cover so be sure to plant it somewhere you don’t mind seeing it spread out a bit.
How to eat: Both the leaves and flowers are edible. Nasturtiums get their name from the Latin words for “nose” and “twist,” because their spicy flavor can create a “nose-twisting” response. 🙂 Use them anywhere that you want a bit of spice. Check out this article for a nasturtium-inspired salad recipe. Nasturtiums are also high in vitamin C.
Kitchen Herb Flowers
I mentioned at the beginning of the article that you had probably eaten flowers without even realizing it. The following common kitchen herb flowers make a great addition to any garden and complement a plethora of foods.
Tarragon has long, light green leaves and tiny yellowish white flowers. It comes in two varieties: French and Russian. French tarragon is better for cooking, as it is more flavorful.
How to grow: Tarragon grows best in full or partial sun or well-drained soil. Regularly harvest the leaves. The harvested leaves can be dried, but don’t wait to long to use them, or they will lose their flavor (this is true of any fresh herb). If you decide to not harvest the leaves it will flower sooner.
How to eat: French tarragon is a great accompaniment to meat, poultry, and seafood. Tarragon is high in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B.
Quick-growing cilantro aka Chinese Parsley has a lovely aroma and flavor. Choose a slow-growing variety for a longer harvesting season.
How to grow: Cilantro grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. Water regularly, especially when first planted. Cilantro benefits from fertilizer during its growing season (spring and fall), but make sure to use an organic fertilizer with any edible plants.
How to eat: The entire plant is edible. You may know the seeds by their more common name, coriander. Rarely used on its own, coriander is usually pared with spices such as cumin and is common in Indian and Latin American cuisines. Cilantro has a delicate white flower that is a unique garnish for salads, soups, or meat dishes.
Cilantro is also a nutritional powerhouse. It’s high in antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin K, and such minerals as potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
Easy to grow and delicious, basil is known as the “holy herb” in many cultures. Sweet basil is the most well-known variety, but there’s also cinnamon basil, purple basil (it adds a gorgeous color to dishes), and Thai basil (it has a licorice flavor).
How to grow: Basil likes full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Give it lots of water–basil loves moisture. Don’t allow the plant to flower.
How to eat: Even though the leaves are commonly the most edible, the dainty and Orchid like flowers add a delightful detail to any dish. Basil is useful in salads, pesto, and sauces of all kinds (to name a few things). Have a look at this article for recipes.
Basil is high in vitamin K, vitamin A, and iron.
In addition to being delicious, this member of the onion family also has beautiful purple flowers.
How to grow: Garlic chives grow best in full sun in moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Fertilize them lightly when first planting, and water them consistently to keep the soil moist. Be sure to remove the flowers when they appear, or else they will spread the seeds and overwhelm your garden.
How to eat: Make sure to cut the leaves down to the base when you harvest. Once mature, they can be harvested 3-4 times a year. If storing, make sure to freeze them. Use them in any dish that can benefit from a subtle garlic flavor. The little purple flowers are fun as a dinner garnish or in a cocktail. Try it in a bloody mary for a spicy twist!
Garlic chives are high in dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin A, and folate.
A lovely perennial that will provide your garden with a pleasant aroma year after year, rosemary is also a versatile herb in cooking. The ancient Greeks believed it was sacred to friendship.
How to grow: Rosemary grows best in well-drained, alkaline soil in full sun. Water evenly and regularly, and trim after flowering.
How to eat: Harvest the leaves for use in cooking. Rosemary pairs well with lamb, chicken, fish, and bean dishes. Don’t forget to use those purple flowers in your herb butters. Rosemary is high in antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron.
We hope this post has opened your eyes to the wonderful world of edible flowers and inspired you to start growing some of your own. If you have any questions, make sure to contact us or stop by the nursery. We’re happy to answer any of your gardening questions.
We wish you a tasty flowering garden!