Herbs have always been the first plants into my garden – primarily culinary herbs. When I built my first house the yard was a new canvas upon which to experiment with more diverse herbs, vegetables and, of course, landscaping plants. When the kids were at story time at the library I was investigating and researching plants to put into my gardens. The culinary herbs were quickly followed by a tea garden and physic garden. When the summer arrived and we planted lots of vegetable seeds and a couple of tomato plants, I was feeling a little deprived of color. The landscape plants were either too small to have a major impact or they were not flowering plants at all; edible flowers became my next focus.
Naturally, we already eat some flowers, those of broccoli and cauliflower should be most obvious. The herbs flower prolifically all summer; these flowers are completely edible, but small. Squash blossoms, a fun way to reduce the number of squash produced by your plants, and garlic scapes (the immature curly flower stalks of the garlic plant) were surprises to me at the time.
Outside of the vegetable category, I wanted more variety. For my birthday I received a lovely container of tuberous begonias – which I had just learned had edible flowers. Naturally, as these were from a nursery, we didn’t eat them. But I did get tubers to plant myself the following year. Sweet Williams, part of the genus Dianthus (related to carnations), violets and pansies, nasturtiums, daylilies and roses, especially a clove scented ‘wild rose’, became blankets of color in the landscape beds and festive decorations for meals and desserts. Simple pleasures, fond memories.
Although I have enjoyed hibiscus as a tea for many years, this winter I was introduced to preserved hibiscus flowers preserved in syrup for use in drinks and desserts. My February 5, 2013 blog is all about this, check it out.
Now, with more allergies each year, I limit my flower eating – no composite flowers (i.e. calandula, sunflower) – so I don’t have to give them all up entirely. There are several university extension websites with great information related to this topic. If you are interested, google edible flowers to be sure you are eating the right flower parts from the right flowers and how to preserve them if they can be.
Later this week I will be at the Ephrata Community Garden for the First Friday (4-5 PM) Master Gardener Q&A. As it is my first official appearance as a Master Gardener; I am pretty excited.