By Renée Kohlman
You often don’t think of your flower garden as a good place to harvest your lunch, but there are a surprising number of tasty edibles growing in many yards, gardens and farms across Canada. Edible flowers come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes you can eat the leaves, stems, and tubers too. Before consuming any flowers, and parts thereof, be sure you know what you are eating, as some flowers can be poisonous. Make sure the flowers have not had any contact with chemical sprays. For best flavour, pick the flowers at their peak, and use as soon as possible. Pick the flowers in the early morning, when the plants are most filled with water.
A tall, striking plant with flowers resembling Queen Anne’s Lace. With a mild licorice flavour, the flowers can be eaten right out of the garden, while the stalks can be added to jam alongside rhubarb, or even candied.
While it’s renowned for attracting bees and other beneficial insects to the garden, the striking pink, red, or purple blossoms have a minty sweet flavour and can be added to salads, infused in vinegar, or dried and made into a refreshing tea.
Flowers are harvested and dried to make a calming tea. This tea can then infuse whipped cream to frost cakes. The fresh flowers are a pretty garnish for desserts. Dried flowers can be ground up and used in scones and other baked goods.
The flowers are a bit bland, with a mild vegetable flavor, but they add a beautiful touch to salads. Every part of the plant is edible. The leaves add freshness to salads, and all parts of the hollyhock plant can be used as a medicinal tea.
The beautiful petals make a delicious, floral jelly.
Bright blue edible flowers with a mild grassy flavour. Avoid the green parts of the flower, as their taste is unpleasant. Use the petals in a salad.
The orange/yellow flowers of calendula make a beautiful annual in the garden, and the bright petals have a slightly bitter flavour that can range from tangy to spicy. The petals have a similar taste to saffron, but are less expensive. Use the petals as a dessert garnish, or in cookies such as shortbread.
One of the best- known edible flowers, nasturtiums are annual flowers commonly grown for adding spice and color to salads. The spicy fragranced flowers should be eaten fresh and have a peppery flavour similar to watercress. The entire flower is edible: buds, seeds, flowers, leaves. The leaves can be stuffed, like dolma, and they can be made into pesto too.
The flowers have a grass-like flavour with a hint of wintergreen. Use in salads, or to garnish desserts. The whole flower can be eaten.
Flowers are often added to cold drinks and salads as a garnish. The young cucumber-flavoured leaves make a pleasant addition to salads, and can be cooked and added to anything in place of spinach.
The blossoms taste similar to the spicy onion flavour of the attached greens, but with subtle floral notes in the background. Blossoms are added to salads or as a garnish for appetizers and entrées. Preserve the blossoms in vinegar, or make chive -blossom butter.
Fresh or dried lavender flowers can be added to baked goods and jellies. The flowers can be added to a simple syrup and used to sweeten cocktails.
The greens are highly nutritional and best harvested for salads when young, or cooked into savoury dishes. Roots can be roasted and eaten or brewed as a coffee substitute. The petals are often used for making wine, and even ice cream.
Like many edible flowers, they taste very much like they smell. Do not use the leaves as they are bitter. A simple way to use the blossoms is by making a simple lilac sugar, or syrup. They make a pretty garnish for baked goods as well.
Fresh rose petals taste wonderfully floral. Be sure to remove the white petal base before consuming it as they are bitter. Turn the petals into a cordial, and into baked goods such as shortbread cookies and cakes. Rosehips can be made into jelly and tea.