Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
April, 2001
Regional Report

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Nasturtium leaves and flowers spice up any salad or sandwich with their peppery taste.

Growing Edible Flowers

Flowers are grown for decoration, effect, and beauty, but they can also be grown to eat. Add some flowers to your garden not only for their fragrance, foliage, and bloom but for their flavor in the kitchen, as well. For some vegetables, such as broccoli, artichoke, and cauliflower, you're already eating the immature flowers. However, the flowers I like to experiment with are some we commonly don't eat, such as nasturtium, pineapple sage, and roses.

Types of Flowers

Edible flowers are generally categorized into three taste groups. Spicy flowers include tuberous begonia, chives, 'Lemon Gem' marigold, nasturtium, and onion. Sweet or floral flavors include bee balm, catmint, chamomile, rose geranium, honeysuckle, anise hyssop, lavender, pansy, English and rugosa roses, rose of Sharon, pineapple sage, viola, and violet. Beany- or lettucy-tasting flowers include borage, calendula, chrysanthemum, English daisy, daylily, hollyhock, safflower, and scarlet runner bean.

A Beginner's List

A beginner's list of possibilities to tempt your tastebuds includes calendula, carnation, chamomile, chive, chrysanthemum, dandelion, daylily, dianthus, dill, gardenia, scented geranium, gladiolus, pineapple guava, pineapple sage, hibiscus, honeysuckle, jasmine, Johnny-jump-up viola, lavender, lilac, lily, 'Signet' marigold, mint, nasturtium, pansy, primrose, radish, rose, squash, sunflower, tulip, sweet violet, and yucca.

Picking Flowers for Eating

Flower flavor can vary depending on many characteristics. Varieties and where they're grown can sometimes make a difference in flavor. For example, some marigolds taste unpleasantly strong, while others are mild. It's up to your tastebuds. To get the best flavor, harvest flowers in the morning, when water content is at its peak. If just the petals will be used, snip them from the base of the flower. Give them a gentle bath in salt water, then dip them in ice water to perk them up. Drain on paper towels. They won't keep long, so plan on serving within a few hours of harvesting.

I like to add them to soups, desserts, beverages, and salads or use them as a colorful garnish.

Choose Wisely

Before you dive into your flower bed with fork in hand, I offer a few words of caution. Not all flowers are edible, and some are poisonous. People with hay fever, asthma, or allergies should not eat flowers. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries, garden centers, or those picked from the side of the road. Try to eat only flowers that have been grown organically.

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