Wednesday, June 6, 2018
I used to think that edible flowers belonged solely in the realm of fancy restaurants. Yet once I started gardening, harvesting and eating flowers seemed unavoidable—there were just so many of them, both cultivated and growing in the wild. And many were not only edible, but delicious. You can create your own beautiful floral garnish at home, or explore the countless other culinary uses for flowers, including in teas, wine, beer, infusions for ice cream and more.
When you pluck a flower from the garden or your yard and pop it into your mouth, you'll feel like you've been let in on one of nature's secrets. However, you should always make sure that a flower is edible before you eat it. And of course, don't eat plants that have been sprayed with any kind of pesticide or herbicide.
Here are five flowers that you can easily grow or forage from your yard.
Elderflower. These towering leafy bushes topped with lacy white flowers crop up alongside highways and drainage ditches in late May through early June. Elderflower has a delicate botanical taste that pairs well with citrus fruit. Try your hand at elderflower wine or an elderflower-infused simple syrup. When harvesting, make sure to leave a few flowers on each plant, then go back a couple months later to harvest the elderberries.
Herb flowers. Herbs are some of the simplest and most rewarding plants to grow at home. Basil, sage, rosemary, thyme and mint are easy to grow in a bright windowsill or just outside the kitchen door. You can easily find recipes using fresh herb leaves, but don't overlook the herb flowers, which often contain a more delicate, floral version of the plant's flavor. Sprinkle a salad with basil and thyme flowers. Add a sprig of barely flowering mint to cocktails or mocktails. You can even reach Martha Stewart levels of culinary fanciness by frying sage flowers in a simple flour batter.
Borage. Borage ranks highly for me in both beauty and taste. A good pollinator-attracting companion in vegetable gardens, borage plants produce constellations of starry blue flowers that taste sweet, like sugar snap peas. Borage is beautiful in a salad, or candied and garnished atop sweet treats.
Dandelion. I despise those commercials in which frustrated homeowners spray the "evil" dandelions that innocently crop up in their lawns and sidewalk cracks. One could easily just harvest the dandelions and brew a refreshing, healthy skin-promoting tea. The roots and leaves are also highly nutritious. Please think twice before treating those bright, sunny dandelions like weeds.
Nasturtium. These fire-hued flowers are prolific and attractive, not to mention spicy and flavorful. You can use both nasturtium leaves and flowers in recipes—both are spicy, like watercress. Try stuffing the larger flowers with a small dollop of soft goat cheese. You'll be amazed with how easy it is to re-create that fancy restaurant feeling at home.