Loads of us grow our own fruit and vegetables, and happily there are more gardening converts every day, but has anybody planted an edible flower garden?
Your vegetables give you a really worthwhile, satisfying, harvest but how about a garden, perhaps surrounding your vegetable beds, where all the flowers are edible, as well as being beautiful, and probably beautifully fragrant too ?
We know that the flowers of lots of vegetables and herbs are delicious.
Basil, Chives, Courgettes and Marrow, Fennel, Mint, Onions, Peas, Squashes, Radishes, Rocket, Strawberry, Rosemary,Sage, Borage and so many other herbs and vegetables have edible flowers which generally have a milder, subtler flavour (with the possible exception of Mint and Basil) than the actual vegetable – and mustn’t forget apple blossom too.
Yep, we know about them – but how many flowers from garden plants can you name that can be eaten, and enjoyed, safely ?
Most could probably mention Nasturtiums, lovely with a peppery flavour, which are often added as garnish to salads. Rose petals too may come to mind (best remove the white bit at the bottom of the petal) and the more fragrant the rose the better generally, but how many others can you mention ?
Well there are loads and loads; and here are a few which can really add a little something extra to your food and drinks, as well as looking lovely in your garden.
Bergamot – pretty and with a lovely spicy flavour you can use them to flavour everything from salads to pasta. (The leaves can be used to make a tea too.)
Busy Lizzie – garnish your salads with these brightly coloured flowers.
Cape Jasmine and Jasmine- the wonderful fragrance still comes through when you pickle or preserve them, cakes take on that extra something too. Tea has always been made from Jasmine flowers, but it does compliment fish dishes I think. ( Avoid the ‘false Jasmine’ – Gelsemium sempervirens – though, it’s a bit poisonous! )
Carnations, Sweet Williams and Dianthus in general – difficult to describe the flavours; floral, spicy, almost like cloves or nutmeg even. Again the more fragrant the better, but they can be added to all sorts of things from cakes to stir fries. (Best to remove the white bits, as with roses it can be a bit bitter.)
Cornflowers – lovely I think, so make a great garnish.They taste a little like cloves too
Evening Primrose – really these can be treated like a salad leaf, add them to the salad for a bit of extra colour.
Fuchsia – so lovely and delicate, look wonderful as a garnish or even added to jellies.
Hyssop – add to your salads again, or make ‘tea’ with it. Try the flavour with chicken, pork, or fish.
Lavender – they add a lovely flavour to cakes and biscuits, and can be added to the topping, but also try adding it to your stock, it can really give something extra to sauces for duck, or poultry in general.
Lilac – beautiful garnish, but also it has a subtle lemon flavour. Try it with ice cream or yoghurt perhaps.
Pansies and Violas – Lettucy flavour can be used like Evening Primrose to really perk up a salad. They look really pretty decorating cakes too.
Polyanthus – Added to salads they give colour and a hint of sweetness or again, crystallised or fresh, they make lovely cake or pudding decorations.
Pot Marigolds – gentle, peppery taste that can be added to soups, or savoury baking. Again they can add that bit extra when added to salads.
Pelargoniums – both the flowers and the leaves have citrus flavour and fragrance and are ideal added to all sorts of desserts and puddings.
Sunflowers – real cornucopia as the buds, seeds and petals are all edible. The nutty taste of the petals adds wonderfully to salads, while you can treat the buds similarly to courgette flowers and toss lightly in butter. The seed kernels can be eaten raw, but I like them fried as a cold snack. Leave lots for the birds though !
Tagetes (Marigold) – as well as being ideal companion plants, and controlling soil born pests too (commercial break – take a look at http://bit.ly/1sa1dUi ) the flowers and leaves of this family have a citrusy flavour which make them ideal all rounders, everything from salads to seafood sauces. Eat sparingly though, not too much in one go or every day!
Yucca – the white petals are a crunchy and sweet tasting addition to salads.
There are other plants that are edible, but may have some drawbacks, for example some people are strongly allergic to Tulip petals (which taste like a slightly crunchy pea) or there are sure to be some I have missed altogether, but you get the general idea.
You can have a beautiful garden and really enjoy a fragrant harvest to enhance loads of your favourite dishes.
Not to mention that lots of the plants above are ideal for encouraging bees and other pollinators – rosemary, fennel, cornflowers, fuchsia, lavender, angelica, crab apple , apple, thyme, lilac, shrub roses, catmint, violas and pansies are just a few flowers that will attract bees and help your garden grow. (Perhaps take a look at my earlier blog, a simple tip bees love purple!)
Remember that not all of your garden is tasty though, and some beautiful plants can be downright dangerous – but that’s another blog!