You grow your flowers for their beauty, of course. But did you know that quite a few of them are edible? No, no, don’t look at this column as if YardShare had gone nuts. Think about it. Fruits are the seedpod of a plant. If the fruit is edible, isn’t it logical that the flower might be edible, too?
Before we get into this discussion more thoroughly, please read these cautionary notes:
Don’t ever eat anything that might have been treated with herbicide or pesticide. This includes plants bought at a nursery as well as plants growing by the side of the road. Those latter could have all kinds of pollutants and heavy metals in them.
Don’t get over-confident. Eat only flowers that you know are edible. Just as with mushrooms, there are some lookalikes that can mess you up.
Ever thought about putting impatiens, pansies, violas (or johnny-jump-ups), and nasturtiums in green salads? First off, they look wonderful, but they taste even better. Impatiens, pansies, and violas have a delicate, sweetish taste, as if you’re eating a flower – which, of course, you are. Nasturtiums are very different; they have a slightly peppery taste. Impatiens also look (and taste) terrific floating on summer drinks.
Many herb flowers are edible, including those of thyme, dill, cilantro, chives, and basil. In general, an herb’s flowers will taste like its leaves, which are what you generally use when you cook. The flower’s taste might be more intense.
Surprisingly, the marigold flower (also called calendula) is edible. The taste varies considerably because there are so many different kinds, so you’ll have to try this one for yourself to figure out where to use it. Sprinkle the petals on cooked rice, pasta, or soup; or mix them into soft foods like dip or scrambled eggs to make them yellower. Farmers often marigold petals to chickens, because they lend an appealing yellow tinge to the meat. Marigold has also been used as a herb of healing. Different cultures have different uses for them, from getting rid of infection to attracting money! (I knew I liked marigolds!)
One flower that many of us try hard to remove can be very tasty. The dandelion flower is sweetest when it is young and still close to the ground. They can be steamed or eaten raw. Dandelion petals look very festive when sprinkled like confetti over plain cooked rice. Some people still make wine out of them, too.
Sunflowers can be eaten when they are very young, as buds. It is said that they taste like artichokes, which makes sense, because artichokes are really flowers. You can steam the buds like artichokes, too.
Try dipping pumpkin or squash in a mixture of milk and egg, dredging them in seasoned flour or cornmeal, and frying them. It’s incredibly delicious! Be sure to choose male flowers, though. Here’s how to tell them apart: the female flowers have a big bulb between the flower and the stem, and that turns into the fruit of the plant when the flower is fertilized.
So don’t be afraid to try one of these tasty treats. You never know – you just might like it!