Those with botanical leanings will already know that broccoli and cauliflower are really edible flowers, but there are also flowering plants with edible blooms that can be enjoyed as ornamentals or food at once. Use them for garnishing, candy them to use as cake decorations, or toss them into salads for extra visual appeal and some interesting flavour extras. And yes, flowers can be tasty too!
There are many more edible flowers than we cover in just one article, and not all of them are easy to grow or obtain. But in this blog post, we’ll stick to easy options that will allow you to try this out at home.
To those in the know, this may seem like an all-too-obvious option, but there are many people who don’t realize that the nasturtiums they see strewn on buffet snack plates are much more than just garnish. Nasturtium flowers have a piquant flavor with a touch of sweetness, and they’re loaded with vitamin C. By the way, you can also enjoy the leaves and stems, and nasturtium seeds prepared correctly can make a great substitute for capers.
When growing nasturtiums, remember that there are compact, dwarf nasturtium varieties as well as the more sprawling varieties. Those with smaller gardens may find the “wilder” nasturtiums a little too space intensive. Nasturtiums usually self-seed with ease, but over time, mixed colours are often replaced with the dominant orange. If you’d like a higher percentage of reds and yellow with shades of peach, it’s time to sow fresh Nasturtium seeds.
2. Violets, Violas, and Pansies
Annual Violas and Pansies as well as perennial English Violets and Australian Violets all have edible flowers with a sweet flavour. They don’t like super-hot weather, but in cooler seasons, they make a colourful addition to the dinner plate.
Pansies, with their big, brightly-coloured blooms are the showiest, but my personal favorites are the cute little “Johnny Jump Ups” with their highly-detailed petals. True to their name, they self-seed quite easily in most gardens, “jumping up” in unexpected spots – even in cracked masonry or paving!Scatter the booms atop salads or use them freshly-picked to decorate cakes – it’s a feast for the eyes!
3. Runner Bean Flowers
It’s no surprise that bean flowers are edible, but for edible flowers, we recommend runner beans simply because they’re so vigorous that you’ll have a surplus anyway. Choose a prolific variety, and you won’t miss the beans themselves after picking a few flowers to add to salads. Like most edible flowers, the flavour is sweet, but you can definitely get a light “legume” taste off them too. Needless to say, pea flowers are edible too, but I love peas so much that there’s never a surplus no matter how many I grow!
When you’re planning your cool-season flower garden, don’t forget to plant Calendulas. They look great in flower. Good enough to eat? You bet! In fact, they can even make a great substite for the most expensive spice of all – saffron. Cook them up with rice, add them to casseroles, or toss them into salads – but do remove the petals from the green parts of the flower. It’s not poisonous, but it has a bitter, unpalatable flavour while the colourful petals have a sweet, floral flavor that just about anyone will enjoy.
5. French Marigolds
French Marigolds are so easy to grow, and there’s such a range of colours and varieties that you’re sure to have a few your summer flower garden can’t do without. Like Calendulas, the green parts (including those at the base of the petals) don’t have a pleasant flavour, but it’s easy to snip these off using a sharp pair of scissors. The flavour is rather sharper and stronger than that of Calendula, so use marigolds sparingly at first. Used purley as a garnish, you can’t go wrong – they’re certainly not poisonous.
5. Rocket and Basil Flowers
When rocket and basil begins to flower, you know its nearing the end of its lifespan. With rocket, the leaves lose their tasty flavour when the plant begins to flower, but the blooms are still tender and have that sharp flavour that makes rocket so popular in salads. Basil flowers also keep the aroma you’d expect from basil and both look pretty in salads. Do leave some flowers to set seeds – it’s the natural way to keep your garden growing food effortlessly, but treat yourself to a few blooms too.
Whether you’re growing them for their flowers or are looking forward to healthy, homegrown sunflower seeds to snack on, you really need to sacrifice a few flower buds to enjoy as vegetables. Sunflower buds taste a little like artichokes, and they’re delicious when lightly blanched or steamed and drenched with butter and garlic. As with Calendulas and marigolds, the green parts have to go before you prepare them. Alternatively, you can eat sunflower petals (only think how pretty they will be in your salads) – but once again, the green part isn’t particularly tasty.
7. Pumpkin Flowers
Before you discard this idea because you think it a waste to eat potential pumpkins when they’re still flowers, remember that pumpkins produce male and female flowers separately. These appear on the same plant at once, and you definitely won’t get pumpkins from the male flowers. It’s easy to tell the difference: the female flowers will have a swollen ovary at the base while the males won’t. How do they taste? Pumpkin flowers taste… pumpkiny, and they’re so delicious that you’ll find hundreds of recipes for stuffed flowers, deep-fried flowers, and more. So, make those male flowers work for you – but do remember to leave a few for pollination – even though they’re so tasty!
Wanna Eat Flowers?
If you’ve suddenly developed a yen to go out and start munching flowers after reading this post, go ahead. Looking for the right seeds to make it happen? Seeds of Plenty has what you’re looking for. And, if you have a favorite flower you love to eat, tell us about it! Gardening is about community, and the Seeds of Plenty family would love to hear from you!