Nothing brightens up a salad or serves as a better garnish than edible flowers. Who can resist smiling when served a plate complete with the happy faces of some pansies or violas looking up at you?
Many restaurants are taking advantage of this phenomenon and including chives, calendulas, clovers, nasturtiums and marigolds in their meals. If you want to truly astonish your guest at your next dinner party, it might be time to include some edible flowers in the menu.
There are actually quite a number of flowers that are edible. Besides the squash blossoms and day lillies that most of us are familiar with, there are some easy to plant and even beneficial blooms that can be incorporated into a garden.
Marigolds planted right in the beds with all of the brasiccas (broccoli, Brussel's sprouts, cabbages and cauliflower) help greatly to keep the cabbage moth away. Two varieties — 'Lemon Gem' and 'Tangerine Gem' — put out lovely flowers that don't have much of a taste but dress up a dish with pizzaz. The plants also, when rubbed, give off a lemony scent that is a delightful aroma when wandering in the garden.
Nasturtiums can be planted right in the beds with the cucumbers to help deter the cucumber beetle. These come in a variety of colors and can be served up whole or broken into pieces to add bright colors to a pasta salad or cold rice dish.
Chives are exceptionally easy to grow and have a delicate purple flower that can be added to a plate whole or pulled apart and used like a spice. They taste much like the chives themselves. They can also be used to make chive vinegar. Just put them in a jar with some organic white vinegar and set them in a sunny location for about two weeks. Strain out the flowers and store the liquid in the pantry.
Pansies and violas are old-time favorites. These plants are easy to grow and, with a little care, can be encouraged to flower for months. It's important to pick all the flowers as they appear in order to get the plants to keep sending them out. They can also be dried and added to dishes later in the year.
Violets make wonderful additions to a dish. These wild flowers come in purple and white. They are often added to cakes and other pastries and can be dried like the pansies in order to be used at a later date.
Calendulas have been used for centuries for their healing properties. They are particularly helpful with skin issues such as rashes, bites and stings. They can also help to keep some garden pests at bay. These colorful orange and yellow flowers can be used as a garnish or pulled apart to spice up an entire dish. They are very easy to dry — simply pull them apart and place on a cookie sheet. Place this in a dry spot for a few days then store in dry, sealed glass jars.
Squash blossoms are also edible. These can be stuffed with cheesy fillings, dusted with flour and fried or used as a garnish.
Put a smile on your guests' faces at your next dinner party — serve up some edible flowers! It's easy and fun and they will be delighted.
Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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