A couple of months ago I noticed a tweet from a fellow blogger who was trying to find out where she could buy some edible flowers for a baking project she was working on. My initial reaction was to suggest looking in the garden, failing that then head to the local nursery. It may seem a little strange, but you can actually eat many of the common flowers you find in your garden. They can be eaten and enjoyed in the same way you’d enjoy herbs like basil, mint and parsley.
Flowers in the veggie garden are an important element of biodiversity and many flowers serve the dual purpose of looking pretty as well as being edible. Flowers encourage bees into your garden, can help protect your plants from pests and even improve your soil.
I’ve always got some edible flowers on the go in my garden, and am forever trying to work out how to get more in. Some of the common flowers I like to keep are nasturtium, lavender and violets. I also like to let a number of my herb plants go to flower each season, especially rocket and dill which, when added to a salad or pasta dish, add an unbelievably gourmet feel that costs you next to nothing.
Common edible flowers:
Nasturtium: Probably the most common and most useful plant for your garden, the trusty nasturtium is an excellent addition to the backyard veggie plot. They are fast-growing and do well in soil that is a little tired, so they are good in those spots where weeds are an issue. They attract predatory wasps to your garden, which will help keep things like caterpillars under control, and also act as a good catch plant if you’ve got aphids. Pretty much all of the nasturtium can be eaten, the flowers look and taste great in a salad (see recipe below), the leaves add a peppery flavour much like rocket, and the seeds can be used as a stand-in for capers (though I’ve never tried this myself).
Violets: I inherited a patch of violets from the previous owners of our house and have deliberately encouraged them to spread throughout the garden because they are just so lovely. Their main job in my garden is as a groundcover in shady parts of the garden, but I also use their tender young leaves and flowers in cooking. The flowers in particular are divine, they have a wonderful sweet scent and can be candied and used on top of cupcakes for an incredible garnish.
Lavender: Lavender is another must-have for me in the garden. I have a small plant that grew up between a crack in the paving, they are pretty hardy! Lavender has a beautiful aroma that is often used in perfume and potpourri, but that aroma is not particularly attractive to whitefly and aphids, so planting in areas where you have problems may help you get it under control. It is also a good attractant for bees, so planting around pumpkins and zucchini will help with pollination. And yep, you can eat the flowers! I’ve dried a couple of bunches of flowers and use them from time to time as a tea if I’m having trouble sleeping, in baking such as in these macarons and in this gorgeous slice.
There are a stack of other flowers I could list here, but these are a good starting point. If you’re interested in learning more about edible flowers then this page has a great list to help get you started. As always, please be really careful when eating garden plants – make sure you know exactly what you are eating and ensure that the plants haven’t been coated in nasty chemicals.
To make this salad I simply added a handful of trimmed leaves and flowers to a green salad comprised of lettuce, baby spinach and cucumber. Coat lightly in your favourite dressing or vinaigrette.
Do you use flowers in your cooking? What are your faves?