By Diane Ziomek
When most people think flowers, they think only decoration or to provide the bees and hummingbirds with the nectar they need.
Several years ago, I bought a book and learned there’s more to flowers than I initially thought. Some are actually quite tasty.
I have tried some of the ones I have listed in this article, and others I have not. For those I have tried I will give you my thoughts on them.
- Nasturtiums. I’m putting this annual at the top of the list because they are my absolute favourite when it comes to edible flowers. They have a peppery flavour and can be used in salads, as an edible decoration or even pickled with shallots, garlic and red peppers. I haven’t tried the pickling yet, but it’s on my list for this summer.
- Marigolds. An annual that will self-sow if given the chance. A few years ago, I didn’t plant any yet had several pop up in pots and beside the house we were living in. If you want good flavoured ones, avoid African and French varieties as they are bitter. Pot marigolds make lovely tea, which is what I have made in the past. The flowers may also be added to muffins and breads and the leaves may be boiled or steamed as a green vegetable.
- Hops. The most common use for hops is to make beer, but they may be used for salads and added to scrambled eggs as well. They are a fast growing, climbing, twining vine that can easily live for fifty years, thus making a great screen. The male flowers and new shoots of the hops plant are edible. I planted a couple of hops plants to provide some privacy between our back yard and the neighbours when my children were little because of the fast-growing nature. I never did utilize the plant for anything other than that as a major life change resulted in me no longer living there.
- Roses. I can remember picking the rose hips from the Wild Rose when I was a kid and eating the flesh. They are packed with Vitamin C and have a pleasant flavour. As I grew older, I was exposed to more varieties of roses but never did forget about our provincial flower. We have them growing in abundance along fence lines on and near our home, plus along the roadside. It is one of my favourite flowers, and I plan to have an actual rose garden within the next few years. I have tried the petals but did find them on the bland side. They would be very pretty as an edible garnish though. In addition to the Wild Rose, there are literally hundreds of other varieties available, from miniature to climbing. I do not currently have any roses in my garden but as I mentioned earlier it is in the works.
- Violas, pansies and violets. Johnny Jump-Ups, pansies and violas; some with a slight wintergreen flavour while others have a sweet flavour. I have tried them and found they’ll never overpower the flavour of a dish yet will look too good to eat. They may be crystallized and added to the top of a cake for an elegant, yet edible garnish.
- Sunflowers. I’m sure everyone has tried sunflower seeds, but did you know the small seed heads can also be eaten? Or that the seeds may be sprouted and added to salads and sandwiches? I have personally not tried the latter, but it is on my to-try list now that I am enjoying my sprouting journey. The petals have the same nutty flavour as the seeds and are a colourful addition to salads. Plant a lot of sunflowers for a bee-friendly yard, as they provide the hives with large amounts of wax and nectar. If growing for the buds use a multi-stemmed variety, and a single-stemmed variety for seeds.
- Snapdragons. This brightly coloured annual can be sprinkled on salads, fruit salads or used as an edible garnish. Try different varieties and make note of the flavour. Some are more bitter than others. I have yet to try them so can’t give my personal review on them.
There is so much more that can be written about each of these edible flowers. My source of information has been my own experience and the referencing of Lois Hole’s book. It is my goal to eventually be able to try each edible flower.
As a final note: remember to eat flowers only from your own garden or organically grown. Cut flowers in flower shops have undoubtedly been treated with pesticides and/or herbicides, plus other chemicals to preserve them. Don’t take the chance of becoming ill by eating any commercially grown flowers unless you are guaranteed they are organic.
Have you ever eaten any flowers? If so what are your thoughts on the flavour?