When people think of gardening for produce, they often think of planting tomatoes, root crops, and maybe some fruits. If they ever do plant flower gardens, they’re often just for decoration, to be able to have fresh flowers for the living room vase. What people often forget, however, is that there are certain types of flowers that can be grown in your garden and make for a stunning salad.
The Home Cooking section of About.com has some great guidelines for choosing what flowers to grow and put in your dishes. Blogging for M&S, Jules Gilbert notes that “It’s not just rose, lavender and elderflower that can have culinary uses – other edible flowers, ranging in colour and flavour, from the peppery nasturtiums to the fresh, cucumber-like borage and the sweet, heady perfume of violas can also make magical ingredients.”
Of course, the beauty of growing your own flowers lies in knowing what chemicals go into them exactly. A good rule of thumb is to only eat flowers that you recognize and know to be safe and free of pesticides – and to only eat the petals.
Now don’t get overexcited and just go planting flowers willy-nilly. Decide what you’d like to use the flowers for, and go from there. WikiHow has a really nice guide detailing what flowers are used for what dishes, but here are some flowers that you should have no trouble starting with:
Lavender are perhaps the most famous edible flower, lavender is often used as a garnish and to add a distinct aroma to tea, cookies, and ice cream. I have used lavender in a number of recipes, including this one for Peach, Honey and Lavender Tart.
Rose Petals are often thought of as mere garnish, but the flavor is often infused in butter, ice cream, and jellies. And of course fresh and dried rose petals are added to a number of North African and Indian recipes.
Chive blossoms will add a light, onion flavor to dishes that they are added to, while garlic blossoms will infuse a garlicky aroma to any dish. These are useful for when you want to limit the onion and garlic in your dish to a soft fragrance. I grow chives in my garden and use them not only as a garnish but as a subtle flavouring for things like omelettes and salad dressing.
Carnations are very pretty flowers that work extremely well in salads and has a flavor reminiscent of nutmeg.
Nasturtiums work extremely well in salads, especially leafy greens ones. And we can pickle the seed pods to make what is known as “poor man’s caper’s” – more free food!
Adding flowers to your dishes is a great way to add a touch of sophistication to an otherwise bland dish. Just remember to eat flowers in moderation, especially if you’ve never had them before!
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