We’re used to growing vegetables for the table, but did you know edible flowers are tasty too? Lots of plants produce delicious flowers, but here are the best ten edible flowers you can plant in your garden, plus how to use them to spice up your food and drinks.
Borage is a nectar powerhouse. Experts say it refills its nectar glands every five minutes, so it’s an excellent choice for bees and butterfly-friendly yards. Aside from its wildlife benefits, borage is an outstanding edible flower you can grow in your garden.
It has bright blue star-shaped flowers that bloom in summer. Borage flowers taste like cucumber. The subtle refreshing taste is perfect in soups, salads, ice-cream toppings, and frozen in ice cubes for a refreshing hot day drink. Pick the flowers and remove the hairy inner parts for the best flavor.
Borage grows annually in zones 2-11 and prefers full sun to partial shade. All soil types except waterlogged make great growing conditions for this hardy wildflower.
Fragrant lavender is another edible plant you can grow in your garden. It has a sweet, floral taste that enhances desserts, jellies, marinades, and plain water as a no-calorie sweetener. You can add some to baking sugar too, but only add a few flowers becauthe se lavender flavor is strong.
The best lavender cultivars for eating are Hidcote and Munstead. Both are blue-purple summer flowering lavender that grows in a dry, sunny spot in U.S. zones 5-8. They don’t like humidity or wet soggy soil. If your soil is heavy and damp, grow lavender in a container.
There are two types of begonia that suit drinks and food: Begonia x typerhybrida and Begonia cucullata.
These tuberous begonias suit tart-flavored food because their petals have a lemon-like flavor. Add whole flowers or just a few petals to salad and soups for a hint of fresh and clean tart flavors.
Summer flowering multi-colored begonias shine in white, red, pink, yellow, and bi-color tones. They prefer moist, well-drained soil in U.S. growing zones 9-11, but cooler zones with a bright and sunny yard can grow begonias too. Keep the roots moist, but the flowerheads dry for the best flavor.
Perennial elderberry shrubs produce lots of edible flowers with a sweet, fruity taste.
Large umbels of white flowerheads thrive in zones 5-8 in full sun to partial shade. Elderberry bushes are greedy, so for the best harvest of tasty flowers, grow them in humus-rich, moist soil. If your soil is thin or dry, add lots of well-rotted organic matter to the roots in early spring.
Harvest elderberry flowers before they turn to berries in summer. Pick flowers (discard the stems) and add them to syrups, jellies, and ice cream. Dried elderberry flowers steep into sweet, healthy tea too. It’s best to dry them on a piece of kitchen towel for several days until the moisture evaporates before storing them in an airproof jar.
5. Bee Balm
Spiky perennial bee balm produces edible tubular red, pink, or purple flowers and green leaves. Its flowers and leaves taste citrusy, so the best way to eat them is on ice cream or topping salads, but if you’re feeling inventive, try infusing them into kinds of butter for a fresh and tart-baked potato topping.
Bee balm is also an excellent refreshing tea or cold drinAddadd flowers and leaves to cold water or dry them on a kitchen toast for tea. Dehydrators work well on bee balm flowers because they are fairly robust.
Grow bee balm in zones 4-9 in full sun. Rich, moist soil works best, but ensure it’s well drained and leave some flowers on the plant for our bee friends.
Annual white, yellow, orange, lavender, purple, red, and bicolor chrysanthemums (better knowns as “mums”) make top-notch tea when they’re dry. Still, their tangy, bitter taste also makes excellent garnish on chicken, fish, pork, and tofu dishes. Simply pick fresh petals and add them just before serving. Japanese medicines widely use chrysanthemums to treat stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Mums need fertile, well-drained soil in full sun to reach their full flowering potential. If your yard is shady, try container growing in the brightest spot you can find. Zones 5-9 are best for mums.
Best known for soothing tea, chamomile is an easy-grow edible flower you can plant in your garden.
The two species best for eating are German and Roman chamomile. They both taste bitter and earthy, but German chamomile is the sweeter of the two.
Chamomile grows best in full sun to partial shade in most types of well-drained soil. It’s hardy enough to grow in zones 2-9. Water it sparingly and try to keep the flowers dry. Harvest it first thing in the morning after the dew has dried from the flowerheads. Simply pick off whole flowerheads between your finger and thumb.
White and yellow daisy-like chamomile is best infused into tea, but it’s also excellent fried in butter and added to plain dishes of rice, oatmeal, or noodles.
Who doesn’t recognize a yellow or orange pot marigold?
Not only does this annual daisy-like flower deter aphids, but the petals taste tangy and spicy. Harvest calendula petals (discard the flower centers) and add them to salads, soups, rice, and cheese dishes.
Pot marigold petals add a vivid splash of color to food and top off a cold cocktail to perfection.
Annual calendulas grow widely in zones 2-9. They need full sun to partial shade and thrive in most well-drained, moist soils. They’re also great container plants, hence the name “pot marigold.” Grow them amid tomatoes to keep aphids at bay and attract bees.
Beautiful roses smell divine, but did you know their petals taste sweet and floral?
The best edible rose you can plant in your garden is an heirloom or wild type because they hold the most scent and, therefore, the most flavor. Roses need full sun and lots of rich, moist soil to flower well. They grow in zones 5-9 and dislike humidity. All color roses, from white, yellow, cream, coral, pink, and red, make suitable edible plants.
It’s best to remove the white inner petal parts because these may taste bitter before adding them to ice cubes, gin drinks, salads, and cakes. Chefs infuse rose petals into butter, honey, jelly, and vinegar for unusual sweet floral tastes.
We’re used to eating chive leaves, but those pink, purple, or white flowers sitting atop the plant taste of mild onion too.
Harvest them before they dry out and sprinkle them on top of egg dishes such as omelets and poached eggs for a beautiful sweet onion flavor. Chive flowers also infuse in kinds of butter, white vinegar, sauces, and sandwich spreads.
Dried chive flowers have little flavor, so it’s best to harvest and use them straight from the plant.
Annual chives grow in zones 4-8 and enjoy full sun in average, well-drained soil. They’re fairly drought resistant, but if watered well, they produce more flowers, just don’t overdo it; chives need well-drained roots.
How to Grow Edible Flowers
Edible flowers have different growing needs, so it’s important to research the right location and soil before planting up.
Water: Generally speaking, edible flowers you can plant in your garden appear in spring and summer. They need enough water not only to survive but produce tasty flowerheads. Lavender and chamomile need little water once established, but begonias and calendulas need moist soil.
Chiefly speaking, plants with small dry leaves need less water and more sun than plants with large leafy green foliage, but it’s best to do research on individual plants first.
Soil: Few plants enjoy consistently waterlogged soil. All of the above plants need well-drained but moist soil, which means regular water that can escape the container or soil confines. A few, such as heat-loving lavender and bee balm, only need water in dry spells.
Location: Full sun lovers like roses need 6-8 hours of full sun to thrive, whereas full sun to partial shade-loving plants can manage with less. Unless your plant is a shade lover, the more light, the better, so try to position it in a sunny place. Try container gardening if your yard only has a few sunny spots.
Edible Flowers You Can Grow in Your Garden: Care Requirements
Well-cared-for plants produce more edible flowers. Here’s how to care for edible flowers you can plant in your garden:
Fertilizer: Lavender, chamomile, and bee balm won’t need fertilizer unless they’re container grown. Too much fertilizer makes them leggy and unattractive. The others on this list need regular fertilizer once a week if they’re container grown and every few weeks in the soil. Roses, in particular, need lots of fertilizer and prefer well-rotted organic mulch.
Deadheading: Deadheading means removing spent flowers. If you’re growing edible flowers, try to pick them before they’re spent.
Deadheading works because flowers aren’t actually dead but turning into seeds, and that uses lots of plant energy. When removed, the plant puts energy back into making more beautiful and tasty flowers.
Deadheading isn’t difficult, just snap them off with your fingers or snip them off with secateurs. Edible plants like borage will self-seed all over your garden, so it’s worth leaving a few seed heads in place.
How to Harvest and Use Edible Flowers
You should only use edible flowers grown organically. Insecticide or herbicide-sprayed flowers aren’t suitable for eating. If you find a lot of bugs, gently hose them off or rub the stems with dish soap to remove and deter them from coming back.
It’s best to harvest edible flowers on a dry, sunny morning just after any dew has dried. This is when they have the most essential oils and, therefore, the most flavor.
After picking, rinse edible flowers briefly under cold water to remove bugs and dirt. Gently shake and air-dry them on a clean towel. Be sure to use them before wilting starts because they’ll lose their flavor.
Summary of 10 Edible Flowers You Can Plant in Your Garden
Here’s a handy table of edible flowers you can plant in your garden, what they taste like, and a few tips on how to use them.
|How To Use It
|Garnish on soup, salad, rice, and cheese dishes
|Soups, salad, ice cream, ice cubes
|Sweet and floral
|Salad, soup, main meal garnish
|Tart and lemony
|Wine, tea, ice cubes, syrup, jelly, ice-cream
|Sweet and fresh
|Ice cream, tea, salad, butter
|Tea, garnish on chicken, fish, pork, tofu main dish
|Tangy and bitter
|Tea, fried in butter on rice, oatmeal, noodles
|Garnish on soup, salad, rice, and cheese dishes
|Tangy and spicy
|On desserts, infused in butter, honey, jelly, vinegar, ice-cubes
|Floral and sweet
|On eggs, white vinegar, sandwich spread, butter
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Olena Rudo/Shutterstock.com
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