July 22, 2008

Edible flowers in my garden

Update: We have launched our "Show Us Your Garden Photos" community feature this week and our garden devotees are giving us glorious images. Please join in the fun!

I love using edible flowers in my culinary creations.  They add a bit of color and interesting flavor additions.  Plus, they make for pretty and unusual garnishes.  People have been enjoying edible flowers for thousands of years.  The Romans were fond of violets, and mallow.  Daylily buds have long been popular in Asian cuisine.  Squash blossoms have always been favored by the Italian and Hispanic cultures.  And in India, rose petals are used extensively as a garnish and flavoring.

Of course, it’s important to know which flowers are safe to eat and to only pick those that have not been sprayed with any kind of chemical.  Here are some edible blooms that we grow in the vegetable garden.

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These are calendula flowers – they have a little spicy and pungent flavor and some people use the petals in place of saffron.
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These happy flowers are nasturtiums – they taste sort of peppery and are wonderful in green salads.
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These pretty blue flowers are borage.  The green leaves taste like
cucumber and are used in the traditional recipe for Pimm’s Cup.  The
flowers have a sweet honey-like flavor and make a lovely garnish for
cold drinks and desserts.
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Pretty little chamomile blooms – these flowers taste sweet and fruity
and are used extensively in herbal teas.  Chamomile has a calming
effect on the digestive tract and is thought to help with sleep.
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Miniature marigold blooms taste spicy and pungent.
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This bee is really enjoying these basil flowers.  Depending on the
variety, basil flowers can taste lemony or minty.  They’re great with
sliced tomatoes.
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Our garden intern, George, used these fresh-as-can-be ingredients in a
beautiful gardeners’ luncheon salad – mesclun mix, red carrots, yellow
beets, fennel bulb, mache, claytonia, and calendula flowers.
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George also added grilled salmon (dinner leftovers) and raspberries
from the berry patch.  He dressed it with a balsamic-maple syrup
vinaigrette and I’m told it was delicious and satisfying.  You can see
how pretty the calendula petals look.
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