What’s the idea?
Grow edible flowers and add a vibrant array of colour to your favourite summer dish straight from your garden.
What’s the story?
I was inspired to start growing edible flowers some time ago.
After taking an early morning walk and noticing some beautiful golden nasturtiums growing wild along the coastal path.
It brought back childhood memories of summers spent in the garden where they grew along the driveway.
I recall on one occasion my mum picking one, casually popping it into her mouth and eating it – I thought she had gone mad!
Nowadays edible flowers are becoming more and more popular as an intricate garnish or trendy ingredient in a number of dishes.
When I’m entertaining I’ll often add edible flowers to a green salad for example.
It certainly spruces up an ordinary dish and adds that wow factor.
My current favourites are the little delicate yellow and purple pansies and the bright blue borage flowers
These really pop amongst dark green spinach leaves or courgettes.
Edible flowers are so versatile and I’m continually looking for new ways to use them in my kitchen.
People should do this because…?
Not only do edible flowers bring added joy to your mealtime
But they are also a feast for the eyes in your garden, on your veranda or balcony.
They’ll also do wonders for your veggie patch and newly planted radishes.
They add a wonderful biodiversity and the brightly coloured blooms will attract all the good pollinating insects including bees and butterflies.
The added coverage will also shelter and protect nature’s own pest control such as spiders and ground beetles.
Remember, however, not every flower is edible.
Some are poisonous so beware!
Watch out for plants that may have been treated with pesticide, fungicide or herbicide.
Never eat flowers from a florist, nursery or the roadside.
In some cases only the petals are edible. In this instance discard the stamen, especially if you are prone to allergies.
Popular edible flowers that you can safely grow include:
- Alliums such as chives, leeks and garlic.
- Nasturtiums, which are bright orange and yellow and have a peppery flavour. You can also eat the leaves.
- Marigolds, which come in a number of colours and have a citrus flavour.
- Pansies, often used on cakes and desserts, have delicate yellow and purple petals and a wintergreen taste.
- Calendula are easy to grow and will bloom continuously.
- Honeysuckle is a pretty addition to salads. Beware the berries, which are poisonous.
- Borage flowers, which taste like cucumber, are also great to freeze in ice cubes. Impress your guests by adding them to your gin and tonic or Pimm’s! Certainly a great addition to your posh picnic.
- Violets are deep purple and delicate.
- Lavender is bold and has a beautiful scent. It’s great at attracting bees.
- Chamomile, which looks similar to a daisy and tastes like apple.
- Flowers from herbs such as mint and basil are edible and often peppery
- Courgette, squash, marrow and pumpkin flowers are large, yellow and versatile.
See this list of edible flowers for more information.
Although best eaten freshly picked, there are an abundance of recipes that include edible flowers.
How do you do it?
Growing your own edible flowers is not much different from growing other regular garden flowers.
You can grow them in your garden, an allotment, a veggie patch, on your balcony or even in a window box.
The key is to ensure a warm sunny position and free draining soil.
Sow your seeds in warm summer soil, 4-6 inches apart and no more than half an inch deep.
It’s a nice idea to include labels so you know what’s what when it’s time to harvest.
Make sure the plants receive adequate water and love. Some people go as far as singing to their plants!
I would also recommend a fertiliser high in potash to encourage flower production as well as adding some organic compost.
Finally, prune and pick your flowers regularly to encourage new blooms.
It’s important to note that flowers are best eaten freshly picked as they will quickly wilt and lose their flavour.
You’re sure to pick up some gardening hints and tips from the virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2020.
Stuff you may need
- Most importantly you’ll need a place to plant your edible flowers – a garden, plant box or pot.
- You’ll need the correct soil and seeds, which you can pick up from your local garden centre.
- Most of us have some basic garden tools lying around – you’ll really only need a small spade for the planting.
- Once you have your mature plants you can even try propagating your own