Grow your own flowers … and eat them too

Flowers and vegetables that offer some tasty tidbits for your table

So, time to fess up now. Do you ever feel like a bit of a show off?

I might have been showing off a bit when my new Italian friend Josie dropped by last week to see my greenhouse.

“Take some zucchinis,” I offered. Eventually gardeners have so many zucchinis we are stuffing them into unlocked cars and leaving them on neighbors’ doorsteps – but it is early June and my greenhouse zucchinis are ready to give away before most gardeners have any fruit at all.

I have a big greenhouse full of food and I was showing it off when Josie replied: “I’ll take the zucchinis Donna, but I really want the [zucchini] flowers. Can I have a few of those?”

Eating zucchini flowers wasn’t what I was thinking of when I was showing off my garden but – with
Josie’s encouragement, I have started making zucchini bloom frittata and nasturtium-decorated salads. If you are interested in edible flowers, like those of the zucchini, here are some basic guidelines.

In general:

  • Sweet pea flowers are poisonous while green peas have safe, tasty blooms. Google everything before you pick or cook with it. Be cautious – and find several references before eating any flowers.
  • Eat only flowers you have grown yourself. Wild collected or purchased flowers may have been sprayed (deliberately or with roadside sprays) and that isn’t good for you!
  • Focus on eating the petals – not the whole flower – because the petals are usually the prettiest part.
  • Keep flowers fresh before eating by washing them, then rolling them in a damp paper towel in the fridge.

The specifics:

  • You can use some flowers whole such as African violets as well as Pansies and Violas.
  • Begonias and Bachelor buttons are pulled apart for maximum effect in salads.
  • Nasturtium and Calendula are spicy and Calendula is often called pot marigold even though it is not the same as pot or marigold.
  • Perennial Daylily (Hemerocallis species) is edible but tastes green and is not the same as the non-edible real lily (Lilium species).
  • Most vegetable blooms are edible but some are better than others. Radish blooms are spicy and Bean blooms actually taste like beans. All members of the cabbage family have edible flowers including Broccoli, Pak Choi, Kale and cabbage. All kinds of squash blooms including pumpkins, butternut and spaghetti squash are edible.

I was vitalized, not traumatized that Josie wanted my zucchini flowers more than my zucchinis. Italians, she informed me, specialize in cooking squash flowers and her mom’s favourite way to cook Zucchini and squash blooms is on YouTube of course at: http://youtu.be/BXKzwNdf-Qo

* Donna Balzer is a garden writer and speaker. Check out her blog or follow @NoGuffGardener.

 

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