Edible Flowers: Eat Beautifully

I have gone gonzo over edible flowers this winter. It started last year when the stand of our favorite farm at the market was giving away pints of nasturtium blooms with any order over $20. Our daughter loves flowers, so I decided to bring them home for that evening’s salad to see if it would go over. Not only was she hooked, but apparently Dad was too! I loved the added texture and zest, but even more it felt so incredibly decadent to eat flowers -the salad was almost to beautiful to eat!


Fast forward to my winter project to create a garden design. Intrinsic in any Sustainable Garden/Farm is the inclusion of flowering plants to attract and maintain a diverse ecosystem that will balance the insect populations in your plot. But even more than that, I greatly prefer a diverse planting for the sheer beauty of a garden that is a’buzz with insects and with blooms beckoning the eye at every turn. To my occasionally poetic mind it helps to blend the stark intentional plantings of a harvest-able plot with a more natural landscape, easing the transition from natural system to structured society.

I have had some lament the “wasted” space of the perennial plantings around my sustainable market garden. They do admit that one could sell bouquets, but that isn’t really “farming”. But the truth of the matter is that an incredible amount of flowers are edible, better yet… they’re delicious!

Perhaps the most commonly eaten edible flower is Nasturtium, which adds a bit of zest to the salad. Also high on my list are the blooms of Chives (similar flavor to the greens), Pansies and Johnny Jump Ups (subtly sweet), Bee Balm (minty) and Borage which apparently taste oddly of cucumbers. As many of these flowers are perennials they fit in perfectly to my “edible hedgerow” approach to attracting benificials. One of the most comprehensive lists of edible flowers I have found, including descriptions can be found here.

The more diverse our plantings the more stable they become as they include multiple redundancies and supports, and I truly believe that is true of our diets as well. In dry beans, the more colorful the bean, the higher they are in antioxidants and other essential trace nutrients… could the same be true of other foods? Apparently very little has been researched on the nutrition of blooms, but dandelion blooms are rich in vitamins A and C, nasturtium flowers packed with vitamin C, and every flower is rich in pollen and nectar known to be rich in nutrients.

Besides, this deep into a dark Wisconsin Winter they help to bring a ray color into my research!


4 Responses

  1. Don’t know how it’ll work with your climate but in the UK I’ve found nasturtiums to be effectively a self-regenerating annual crop as we always seem to have a few volunteers. I’m guessing you could add value pretty easily to your “flower crop” by mixing and matching a few of the f1 cultivars initially (eg a lemon yellow, a velvet red, a bright orange) so that seed retained produces a calidescope of different colour flowers. The round leaves are interesting in salad too but can be a little peppery.

  2. Yum! We grew a ton of nasturtiums last year–they’re great. Kelly read somewhere (How to Grow More Vegetables, I think?) that they’re good companion plants for squash, as they deter squash bugs. We’re going to plant a bunch in with all of our squash and let them go nuts.

    I’m not sure if you sell to restaurants at all, but I’ve read that edible flowers comand a nice price: http://dervaesgardens.com/produce/producelist.shtml#edibleflowers (though that business is based right outside of LA).

  3. A friend of mine turned me on to borage two years ago, the leaves are fantastic but from what I understand should not be consumed too regularly as they have a mild liver toxicity…very mild. I froze some of the flowers in ice cubes and served them in ice tea…people are blown away by stuff like that.

    FWIW the nasturtium leaves are peppery so I usually cut them before I add them to the salad, so you don’t get a whole one in a single forkfull.

  4. Beautiful – and yummy!

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