Many people with a small amount of space for gardening find themselves having to make a difficult decision: grow flowers, or grow food? If you’ve found yourself facing this dilemma, we’re here to tell you that you can have your cake (or, in this case, flower) and eat it, too. Yes, it’s true. You can actually eat many flowers that grow well in small spaces. So you can have the best of both worlds – a lovely flower garden on your balcony, and tasty, nutritious, home-grown food to add to salads, sandwiches, and stir fries. Many flowers contain Vitamin C and antioxidants, adding a healthy nutritional punch as well as a dose of color and flavor to your cooking.
Be careful, though – not all flowers are edible, and some are even toxic. So be sure you make sure you know exactly what you’re growing before you pluck the blooms and toss them in your food – and avoid using chemical fertilizers or pesticides if you plan on eating your garden’s bounty. Here are some of the most attractive and easy-to-grow edible flowers for which you should be able to find seeds or starter plants at any garden center.
Best Blooms for Your Plate
- Nasturtium: Perhaps the most popular and easy-to-grow culinary flower, nasturtiums come in lovely shades of yellow, orange, and red, and have a light, peppery taste perfect for salads.
- Lavender: These bright purple blossoms can be used fresh or dried to add flavor as a garnish for desserts, soups and stews, or iced tea and cocktails. They can also be dried for use well after the fresh supply is used up, or steeped in hot water to make lavender tea.
- Pansies or Johnny-Jump-Ups: Among the most common outdoor potted flowers, these lovely, delicate blooms add an ultra-gourmet air to salads or desserts with their stunning looks and delicate minty flavor. They can also be frozen in ice cubes to create that wow factor in summer drinks.
- Roses: Yes, they are edible, and have been used in cooking since as early as the seventh century B.C.! Rose petals can be used in baking and other desserts, or can be used to make syrup and jelly. They can have a strong flavor, so start with just a few petals to make sure the scent and flavor are not overpowering. Remove the white bottom of the petal, which is bitter.
- “Bonus” flowers: You can also eat the flowers of many herbs and greens you may already be growing in your garden. Chive, mint, basil, rosemary, and arugula blossoms all fall into this category. And if you’ve got any kind of squash (including zucchini) planted in your garden, you have access to one of the best edible flower treats of all – squash blossoms, which are lovely in salads, soups, or stir-fries.
The Bottom Line
If you think it seems strange to eat flowers, keep in mind that you already do! Broccoli, cauliflower, and artichoke are all flower buds. And flowers have been used in cooking for thousands of years. With their intense visual appeal and unique flavors, there is no reason not to plant a pot of two on your patio to enjoy in your kitchen.
Just a reminder that you need to be sure your flowers are actually edible before eating them. Ask at the garden center where you purchase your gardening supplies if you are not sure. It’s best not to gather flowers to eat from the wild, where you can’t be as sure what you’re getting. And you should not eat flowers purchased from floral shops, as they are not food-safe. Grow your edible flowers yourself to get maximum enjoyment from both their beauty and their flavor.