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By: The Villages | May 10, 2022

Grow Your Own Edible Flowers

All kinds of plants are blossoming in the garden and beyond. But have you ever thought about growing edible flowers? There are many beautiful and yummy varieties you can grow in your own backyard.

Matter of fact, flowers have been used for culinary purposes dating back thousands of years. They were very popular in the Victorian Era. Today, we see edible flowers most often used in Middle Eastern and Asian cooking. However, this trend is making a comeback. More and more people are choosing to grow their own food. This is especially so with the emerging awareness that so many fruits and vegetables not grown indoors are sprayed with chemicals that poison or hurt the body, rather than help it.

One major tip when growing edible flowers is to make sure to not use pesticides and other poisons on or near the flowering plants. This also goes for purchasing edible flowers elsewhere. Make sure you know they are chemical and pesticide-free. If you are sensitive to allergies, make sure to wash the flowers well to remove most of the pollen that may otherwise trigger allergies. There are so many ways to incorporate edible flowers including adding them to a salad and/or decorating a favorite dish.
In Central Florida, there are many types of edible flowers. One of the most popular are nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are not only beautiful but add vibrant colors and style to your dishes. These pretty flowers have many health benefits as well.

With its round and peppery leaves, it is less of a salad ingredient and more of a natural remedy. Natives of Central America have used the plant for its antibiotic properties, to heal urinary tract conditions and to prevent scurvy. In medieval times, nasturtium served as a staple of a healthy diet. Nasturtium is one of the most powerful natural antibiotics that also has antifungal and antiseptic properties.

Nasturtium is:

  • Rich in vitamin C, boosting the immune system
  • Rich in sulfur, which is important to the body because it helps detoxify, bring down swelling and protect against UV radiation
  • There’s also a link between sulfur and improving foggy mind, poor memory and inability to concentrate
  • A cold and flu fighter, but also sore throat, bronchitis and various respiratory problems
  • Similar to watercress, with both the leaves and flowers providing a sweet, spicy flavor

Other edible flowers include marigold, kachnar, pansies, violas, daisies, Johnny-Jump-Ups, calendulas, chrysanthemums, roses and carnations. The kachnar flower is used to treat hemorrhoids and has anti-cancer properties. Just about all edible flowers have amazing health benefits and are used in herbal medicine. But please don’t assume all blossoms are safe to consume. Make sure the edible you wish to use is truly edible.

Calendula has a taste similar to saffron and is even called “poor man’s saffron.” The blooms add a yellow tint to soups, spreads and scrambled eggs. Sprinkle dried petals in soups, pasta or rice dishes for color. Calendula flowers have potent antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, which help heal infections and relieve skin irritations, reduce muscle cramping and more.

The flowers that grow out of most herb plants have a taste that’s like the herb leaf. Not all herb flower blossoms are edible, either; again, always do your homework. As far as edible flowers of herb plants, the favorites include garlic, chives, anise hyssop, basil, borage, fennel, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.

Herb flowers add a bit of color and flavor to spreads, butters or seasonings. Basils have some of the most flavorful flowers of all. Try adding the blooms to sour cream for baked potatoes. You may also consider using them for flavoring and/or infusing oils and vinegars. The flowers of lemon basil make a delicious tea, and the blooms of most any basil give a nice kick to salads.

You can use fresh flowers to decorate cakes or make candied flowers by painting them with beaten egg whites and sprinkling with cinnamon. Let them dry at room temperature until brittle to the touch.
And then there is the popular squash blossom. Raised at ‘The Villages Grown and now on the Harvest & Bar Restaurant menu in Brownwood, this beauty soon will be available at The Villages Grown stores.

Try this recipe from ‘The Florida Gardening Project:

Floral Honey
Warm one cup of honey over steaming water. Stir in one cup of petals from rosemary, lavender, thyme or any favorite culinary herbs. Use on waffles, toast, biscuits and the like.

Billie Weiss is a retail sales associate at The Villages Grown.