Edible flowers for your veggie garden

Nasturtium Salad | she cooks, she gardens

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.

Nasturtium Salad | she cooks, she gardens

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 | she cooks, she gardens

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 | she cooks, she gardens

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 Tea | she cooks, she gardens

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.

Nasturtium Salad | she cooks, she gardens

Nasturtium Salad

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?

  • http://thelittlegreenhouse.net Koren

    This is such an informative post, Erin! I confess I had no idea about the awesomeness of violets. Now to find some and get cooking!

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Thanks Koren, I’m glad you found it useful. Violets are my absolute fave, I love having a little posy of them in a tiny jar on my desk – they smell heavenly!

  • http://www.clairekcreations.com Claire @ Claire K Creations

    Great post Erin! I can remember eating nasturtiums straight from the bush when I was younger. There was a bed of them where we used to wait to be picked up from school. I must plant some violets.

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Yes, you must! They are so lovely. :)

    • MrRustic

      Just be careful with violets, some can get invasive like the African violet. I’m a gardener at a retirement village and the African violets are nearly impossible to get rid of.

      I forget the name of it but I have a strain at home that is great on deserts and is easily controlled.

  • http://afreshlegacy.net Kyrstie @ A Fresh Legacy

    Lovely post Erin, gorgeous photos. I have planted nasturtiums for the first time this year and am looking forward to trying them in salads. Are there only certain varieties of lavender that are suitable to eat or are they all ok?

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Thanks Kyrstie, I think most varieties are able to be eaten but I’ve only had experience with English Lavender. Enjoy your nasturtiums!

  • Grant

    Gorgeous looking salad and such a wonderful post full of great ideas and info

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Thanks Grant! :)

  • http://www.whatsonthelist.net Joanne T Ferguson

    G’day and thanks Erin! I must have missed the post first time round, true!
    It might have been me (amongst others) in Adelaide re the edible flowers, but there are companies who sell them inexpensively. As don’t have a green thumb, but now that I have read your post, I will see how I go in trying to grow my first edible flower to use in cooking and baking too! Thank you!
    Cheers! Joanne

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Hey Joanne, it wasn’t you but I’d love to know more about where you can buy them (in case I need them in the future!).

  • http:growingallthings.com Tanya Jackson

    HI, great article, I love adding edible flowers to my salads. I also make my kids eat them (That’s just for my own amusement)

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Hehe, that’s great Tanya – I bet they love it.

  • http://www.thelifeofclare.com.au The Life of Clare

    We have a plant that looks like nasturtium but people keep telling me that it isn’t, so I’m going to look and make sure. I love dainty little violets, and think we much plant some! Lavender however, is not my friend, and sadly I’ll never plant it or eat it.

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Oh dear, are you allergic?

  • http://www.gdaysouffle.com Fran @ G’day Souffle’

    Erin, it was nice catching up with you at the picnic last Saturday. Looking at the quality of your photos, I’ll have to try shooting with RAW. I have never used flowers in my cooking but would like to make some stuffed Zucchini flowers sometime soon!

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Thanks Fran, it was great to meet you too. Good luck with the RAW shots, it takes a bit of adjusting but once you have the hang of it you’ll be fine.

  • http://www.chompchomp.com.au Martine @ Chompchomp

    I had no idea I could eat my violets, but then in retrospect I should because they are often served in restaurants!

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Yep! They are delish. :)

  • http://TBA Nick

    Thanks Erin, hope you got to look into evening primrose, they are beautiful in salads also calandula’s (pot marigolds) are great too.
    Keep up the great work! Nick

    • http://shecooksshegardens.com Erin B

      Thanks for the reminder, Nick – I’m going to investigate evening primrose today!

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