PHOTO: Jessica Walliser
Edible flowers are a delightful addition to salads, sandwiches, desserts and more. They add color and flavor, and they make downright beautiful garnishes. If you’d like to include some edible flowers in this year’s garden, here are our choices for the best edible flowers you can grow. We’ve selected them for their ease of growth, flavor and versatility.
The Best Edible Flowers for Your Garden and Kitchen
Not only are nasturtiums incredibly easy to grow, they’re also full of a peppery punch that is surprisingly versatile in the kitchen. Nasturtiums come in a wide range of bloom colors, from bright red to sunny yellow and brilliant orange. Easy to grow by direct sowing the seeds into the garden’s soil soon after the danger of frost has passed, nasturtiums produce their edible blooms for months on end. Sprinkle the petals in salads and slaws, or stuff the blooms with seasoned ricotta and serve them on a cracker with a sprinkling of fresh chopped chives.
2. Squash Blossoms
When it comes to the best edible flowers, squash blossoms take the prize for both their size and their finesse. Harvest male squash flower buds (the ones with the straight stems) in the morning, before the blooms open. You can harvest from either summer or winter squash, or pumpkins. Gently open the flowers and remove the anther before rinsing the petals off. Leave the flower stem attached and prepare your squash blossoms for eating on the day of harvest, if possible. Try coating them in a light tempura batter and deep frying them, or stuff the blossoms with cooked rice and beans, top them with cheese and bake them until the cheese bubbles. You can also pickle squash blossoms, too.
Violets are among the best edible flowers, even though lawn-lovers often see them as the enemy. Violets are in fact a wonderful addition to the lawn and garden, for they serve as an early-season nectar source for pollinators and they’re the larval host food for several species of fritillary butterflies. But, even if you’re not a bug, violets are good eating. Their sweet, floral flavor is unparalleled. Make a lavender-colored violet syrup for mixing cocktails and mocktails, or candy them by coating them with beaten egg whites and sprinkling them with fine granulated sugar. Candied violets make great cake and cupcake toppers. You can also infuse home-made lemonade with violet blooms to add a unique, sweet flavor to the beverage. Violets are also delicious just plain, when sprinkled onto sweets and salads.
Another favorite of edible flower fans, the crisp, cucumber-like flavor of borage blooms is a real stand out on the plate. Plus, their brilliant blue hue adds a ton of beauty, too. Top crackers with a cheese spread and a borage bloom for a flavorful appetizer. Borage is also a beautiful flower to decorate a wedding or birthday cake. Borage blooms are also a favorite of many bees so having them in the garden improves pollination rates, too. Easy to start from seed planted directly into the garden, borage is tops when it comes to the best edible flowers.
The bright, colorful petals of calendula flowers are simply gorgeous sprinkled into summer salad greens, potato and cucumber salads, and other dishes. You can also sauté calendula petals in olive oil to add a subtle orange hue to dishes and a slight saffron-like flavor. Calendula petals can even be mixed with icing to decorate cakes or dried and blended into homemade herbal teas. Easy to start from seed, calendula is a garden powerhouse. It’s in continual flower from early summer until frost, as long as you deadhead the spent flowers from time to time. It also self-sows quite nicely, returning to the garden year after year.
No matter which of these edible flowers you grow, never use pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on plants from which you plan to harvest. Remember also that edible flowers are best harvested in the morning, and they can be stored in plastic bags in the fridge for just a few days at a time.