Edible flowers enhance garden, table
For the Nevada Appeal
Gardeners love flowers. We also like growing things to eat. Why not combine these two passions and eat our flowers? An advantage to planting edible flowers is that all the water used to sustain them is then reused when we eat the blooms rather than wasted as the blossoms die away.
Have you tried lavender petal ice cream or zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta cheese? Have you ever sauteed rose buds in butter. Have you candied pansies? Try garnishing rice with calendula petals or tossing pansy petals in a salad.
Other edible flowers include Johnny-jump-ups, nasturtiums, tuberous begonias, geraniums, violets and fuchsias. We can also eat daylilies, tulip flowers and apple blossoms.
Many of our vegetable plants such as broccoli and mustard have edible flowers too, according to author Rosalind Creasey in “The Edible Garden – Herbs and Flowers,” a good resource for edible plants. Although many flowers are edible, such as marigolds, Creasey reports that while some marigolds taste lemony, others have no taste, and still others taste like a skunk smells! While carnation petals are edible, they are quite astringent. It is important to know what flower parts to eat and how to prepare them. Creasey’s book has a listing of edible plants at the end.
Most plants we buy were not bred for the taste of their flowers, so if you can try flowers out for taste before buying, do so. However, be cautious, because you will not want to eat anything that has been sprayed with pesticides unsafe for human consumption. You might try tasting flowers at friends’ homes where you can ask if pesticides were used.
Always positively identify a plant before eating it. For safety, identification is crucial. Also, do your research. Know what plants or plant parts are edible and which are poisonous. Rhubarb stalks and potatoes tubers are edible, but their leaves are poisonous. Plants may be poisonous at one stage of growth, but not another. Some plant family members may not be poisonous while other family members are. Look plants up on a poisonous plants list before eating.
If you are at all in doubt about the safety of a plant, don’t eat it. Don’t use non-edible flowers as a garnish. Your guests may assume they are edible if there are edible flowers or herbs in the dish.
Augment your culinary dishes with edible flowers. Please the eye and the palate.
• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at skellyj
@unce.unr.edu or 887-2252.