Some gardeners are all about the veggies, turning their landscapes into productive spaces that help add healthy food to the table. Others are strict ornamentalists with gorgeous beds overflowing with flowers. If you’ve ever had trouble deciding what to grow, good news! You don’t have to keep these two worlds separate. Edible flowers let you bridge the gap between form and function.
Edible flowers do double duty, adding beauty to both your landscape and your plate. To get started, try these favorites:
The queen of the garden, roses add delicious scent to the air — but you can also eat them! Rose petals can be added to salads, steeped to make tea, or made into luxurious ice cream. If you grow a variety that produces lots of hips (the Vitamin C-packed fruit of the rose), you can collect them to make rose hip jelly.
Pro Tip: For best results on the table, choose red or dark pink roses with lots of aromas.
Lavender has been used in soothing soaps and lotions for centuries, but you can also cook with it. It’s easiest to use if you cut and hang it to dry first. Try adding lavender to an herb blend to make your own Herbes de Provence to use as a dry rub on poultry. You can also steep it to delicately flavor baked goods that call for milk — perhaps scones or a moist tea cake.
Borage is a big plant that gets covered with tiny, star-shaped flowers. It’s valuable as an ornamental because the flowers are true blue, a color that’s hard to come by. The flowers themselves taste a lot like cucumber, making them a refreshing addition to all sorts of summer salads. Sprinkle them on anything you want to make pretty just before serving.
Calendula, also known as pot marigold, is different from the ruffly Mexican marigolds you see in nursery six-packs. These orange flowers are lankier but still quite pretty, and the petals can be added fresh to salad or dried to use as a substitute for saffron. It doesn’t exactly taste like saffron, but rather adds an herby, nutty flavor and lots of pretty color to rice dishes.
Nasturtiums are a great annual for hot spots in your garden, and they are easy to grow once you get the tough seeds to sprout. They come in all manner of warm colors like yellow, red, orange, and hot pink. Best of all, nasturtium petals have a peppery bite that tastes like mature arugula. Use them in salads or to top a blue cheese and bacon burger for a colorful conversation starter at your next barbecue.
Whether you’re looking for a perennial showstopper or a quick shot of annual color, you’re sure to find an edible flower that meets your needs — in both the garden and the kitchen.
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