Lots of people grow fruit, veggies and herbs but a lot of people don’t realise that some decorative flowers are also edible! They look great in the garden, they attract wildlife (bees, butterflies, hoverflies, pollinating beetles, birds), but they can also be used in the kitchen. Some edible flowers are used to tart up a salad, some are frozen into ice cubes and used in a popular summer drink (yaasss), and others can actually be battered and deep-fried! Attracting wildlife is a good thing – birds will eat lots of caterpillars and aphids which means you have a free pest-control without using chemicals.
Which Ones to Grow?
I like colourful, bright things – the brighter the better. I also like to grow a mix of things, and chuck everything in the raised bed together. My Selly Oak volunteers will tell you that I don’t believe in spacing plants out and often end up with things on top of other things, on top of other things.
For interest in the garden, grow things of different heights. You could get the kids involved and see who can grow the biggest sunflower, who gets the biggest clump of nasturtium, or maybe grow colourful veg such as pumpkins and courgette, and see who can get the biggest pumpkin flower?
Edible flowers include: – click the link to go to the RHS site
- Nasturtium – leaves and flowers. Pick the leaves when they are 4-5cm across and toss them in with salad leaves. The flowers can also be added to salad.
- Borage – freeze a flower in each ice cube compartment on a tray, then add the ice cubes to summer drinks. The flowers can also be added to salads.
- Calendula – use the petals in salad.
- Chives – chop the stems to use in scrambled egg, stir fry, paella, or in salads. Add the flowers to salads too!
- Lavender – quite a strong flavour so you don’t need much. Can be chopped up fine and baked into shortbread.
- Pinks – the Dianthus family. This includes carnations.
- Hollyhock – not tried it, but I did once have some leaf-cutter bees use it for their egg cells, so it has great wildlife value.
- Sunflower – yes! Seeds and petals are both edible.
- Mint – rip a couple of leaves off, check for hiding bugs, then eat! Can also be added to water for a refreshing drink, or steeped in boiling water for a minty tea.
- Love-In-A-Mist – a beautiful addition to the garden, but I am biased as it is my favourite flower. I have never eaten them but they can be used to flavour foods.
How Many to Grow?
More is more. Ask the Selly Oak team. Think you’ve got no more room? Stop being so negative.
^^^ I bought this pack from Sainsburys at the start of the year, I am not sure if they still have them though. You can make your own seed mix using individual packets.
Where to Grow Edible Flowers
This article was written pre-lockdown, but there is still time to sow flowers for a late summer bloom.
You can grow them wherever! I am going to use raised beds, hanging trough planters at the tops of fence panels, growing them directly in the ground, and also normal plant pots. You could also use hanging baskets (very good for trailing things like nasturtium, and I have grown courgette in hanging baskets before).
Some of the flowers (sunflowers) will need support either from garden canes or some trellis/fencing which they can they be tied to as they grow tall.
Pick individual flowers when they are in bloom and ready, and chop leaves when you have enough to use! Pick leaves small and use them whole – they tend to have a stronger flavour when they are small.
Don’t pick the whole plant as it needs leaves to photosynthesize and continue to grow, so only pick what you need. Keep leaves fresh and crisp in the fridge maybe on a plate with a piece of damp kitchen roll.
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