Edible Flowers Are Garden Must-Haves
It may surprise you to learn just how many flowers are actually edible. You know I love my chive blossoms, and you might have seen me toss a pansy or two onto a garden-fresh salad, but did you also know nasturtium flowers are edible (and delicious)?
We’re going to focus today on flowers with petals that we can harvest, dry, and use to make teas (or salves, if you’re so inclined). Think: echinacea, chamomile, and one of my favorites, calendula. (My other favorites, zinnias, are also edible, but taste a little bitter. They’re better for adding gorgeous pops of color as a garnish.)
A quick word of caution before you eat a flower...
Keep in mind that not all flowers are edible. Some are, in fact, poisonous or toxic and can make you very sick. These include azaleas, buttercups, daffodils, foxgloves, lilies, oleander, wisteria, and the flowers of any plant in the Nightshade family (such as tomato flowers and potato flowers).
Some plants can look very similar, so make sure you have correctly identified the plant and double-checked online that the flowers are edible before consuming anything.
The best way to enjoy edible flowers is by sticking to those you've grown yourself from verified seeds in your garden. You'll know then that you haven't used any herbicides or dangerous chemicals on any part of the plant.
How to harvest edible flowers
The optimal time to harvest flowers is once the bud has opened and you see a full flower head. Once the flower has dried and gone to seed, it’s a little late, though you could still pull off some petals and use them to make a tea (you might sacrifice a bit of flavor).
The best time of day to harvest is in the morning.
To harvest, go all the way down to where the stem meets a node to another stem, and cut the whole stem. The only part you need to save is the actual flower head, so you can compost the rest.
Leave the plant to continue to flower and form more delicious petals for you to eat later.
Harvesting regularly tells your plant to keep producing blooms.
Bring your flower heads inside to wash carefully and dry.
How to dry edible flowers
I put my petals in a dehydrator, but if you don’t have one, you can also lay your petals on a flat tray to do it the natural way in a cool, dry place. It takes a couple of weeks for the petals to dry naturally.
Before you toss your petals in a jar or a container, make sure they’re completely dried out—like there is no moisture in them whatsoever. You don’t want to end up with mold or mildew.
How to use edible flowers
Tossing dried petals onto a dish is a great way to get a little taste of summer all winter long. I like to use dried petals to make calendula, echinacea, and/or chamomile tea. (Why limit yourself?) You could get fancy with some pastry, herb butter, or special gourmet dips.
How to save flower seeds for next year
If you leave some flowers in the garden, the plant will eventually go to seed and dry out on its own. The seeds, of course, form right on the flower head. You can pick the flower head and then sift the seeds to separate them from the chaff.
You could drop the seeds right there in your garden and let the plants essentially reseed themselves, or you could take the seeds from the plants you loved the most and bring them inside to save for next season. That’ll put you on track to grow these flowers for the rest of your life!
Start Your Own Edible Flower Garden
I always say the garden keeps on giving, but it really amazes me when I think of edible flowers, which have benefits beyond the nutrients and antioxidants you can get from eating them.
Calendula, for example, attracts beneficial insects and repels bad ones, making it a great thing to put next to your plants (think: cucumbers, squash, and zucchini) that need to be pollinated by bees and butterflies. I can’t imagine having a kitchen garden without these beautiful edible flowers!
Each month, we celebrate a different aspect of gardening in Gardenary 365 and drop video lessons to help you continue growing your self and your garden. Join Gardenary 365 to access our Cut Flower Garden course to learn how to plant, grow, and harvest your own beautiful flowers.