From micro gardening to colorful beds
With America’s passion for farm-to-table cuisine, backyard “farming” has become the food lover’s hobby. But growing what you eat can be time consuming. That’s why we recommend you start small and try your hand at growing edible flowers. Even if you’re already a green thumb with a thriving garden, adding fresh edible flowers to the mix will add beauty to your yard and to your plate.
And did I mention that most edible flowers have a history as aphrodisiac? So an edible garden will not only improve the presentation of your meals, it can improve your chances of getting lucky on your next date night. Not bad for a hobby that gets you outdoors and adds color to your visual landscape.
When I moved into my home, I reimagined all the green space to reduce water usage. But, because of my roots in the food industry, I not only researched what plants were low water, I sought out as many edible plants as possible that were suited to my climate.
My yard now includes organically-grown rosemary, Spanish and Provencal lavender, spearmint, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, almonds, lemons, tangerines, guavas and lemongrass. But our favorite part of the garden is the flowers. We work to have at least one edible bloom growing at every time of year.
Planning the edible garden that works for you
Even if your only growing space is a windowsill, you can have your own edible flower garden. There are a surprising number of edible blooms that will enjoy living indoors. For example, the flower petals of orchids, most of which prefer indirect light, are edible.
By trying your hand at this style of aphrodisiac gardening, you will be rewarded not only with a new ingredient for your culinary repertoire, but a living bouquet to brighten each and every day.
Growing nasturtium for color and attracting pollinators
A great starter flower is the nasturtium. It really is one of the best edible flowers to grow for a variety of reasons. Nasturtiums are hearty plants with vibrant red, orange or yellow flowers. They make great companion plants to a vegetable garden because nasturtiums attract pollinators. This bodes well for the health of your entire garden. And the thought that they attract a little extra plant sex really makes nasturtium the vixen of the edible flower world.
Nasturtiums grow well in pots, too. Nasturtiums in pots should be treated to full sunlight. They are drought tolerant so be sure not to overwater but if you forget about the for a couple of days, they’re likely to survive. (Make sure not to start them until after the last frost of the year. Or you can start your nasturtium plants indoors and transfer them later.)
You can use both the leaves and nasturtium flowers in cooking. And they don’t just have to be added raw as a garnish. You can add them to stir fries or even make nasturtium fritters as you would with zucchini blossoms.
Edible roses for romance
In the world of aphrodisiacs, rose is a symbol of love and desire. According to Temptations by Ellen and Michael Albertson, Cleopatra carpeted an entire room in rose petals to seduce Mark Antony with their scent. And ancient Romans were said to use rose oil as a beauty treatment. Even in China, lovers enjoy a drink flavored with rose petals to stimulate romance.
Roses are a bit more finicky than nasturtiums but a happy rose bush will reward you with fragrant, edible roses for many years. You can eat rose buds, petals and rose hips, (the fruit produced by the rose flower). Small rose buds and candied rose petals both make beautiful decorations. Roses truly are my favorite edible flowers for cakes. But there are other uses. You can infuse a syrup or oil with the delicate taste of rose, chop the petals and use in a fruit sorbet, steep in tea, flavor vinegar for a salad dressing.
An edible flowers list for your climate
Not all edible blooms thrive in all climates. So we’ve prepared lists of flowers that grow well in the more humid East Coast of the United States and some that prefer the drier West. If you live in a different country, base your choice on the similarity of your climate to one of these or consult a guide to growing zones in your country.
Growing edible flowers on the East Coast
Offers slightly bitter, lemony flavor. Blooms in late spring, early summer.
This common weed has dozens of uses. The root can be steeped as a drink, the flowers into wine and the bitter greens sautéed or in salads.
These beautiful flowers have an intriguing, onion-like flavor.
These delicate flowers with a slightly sour flavor are generally found in late spring and summer.
One of the more interesting flowers you can choose, it is used as natural sweetener like honey and is known to relive stress and promote hormone balance.
A member of the tarragon family with a peppery flavor, it is a welcome addition to any organic garden as it acts as a natural bug repellant.
Types of edible flowers to grow if you live in the West
Many of the East Coast choices also thrive in the West, but here are some additional choices to try in a long, hot growing season. (At different times of year, our garden boasts tulips, violets, and almost year-round we have nasturtiums.)
Both the fleshy edible stems and the flowers offer a tangy flavor.
These bell-shaped flowers can be stuffed like squash blossoms and are insect-resistant.
These pretty, easy-to-grow flowers have a faintly minty flavor.
Also called poor man’s saffron, it can be used to color food with a brilliant, golden glow.
Uses for edible petals
In addition to the uses mentioned above, edible flower petals or flower buds or even whole flowers add a splash of color to a green salad. Raw, they can also be used to flavor delicate seafoods. Many are delicious steeped as teas. Hibiscus, one of our favorite floral aphrodisiacs, makes a deliciously fruity herbal brew. Or, if you like your drinks a little stronger, try this hibiscus cocktail idea.
I also use edible flowers to garnish soups and other dishes both savory and sweet. One of the most fun uses is to insert a petal or, if the flower is smaller, an entire bud into an ice cube tray to dress up ice for water or summer drinks.
Tips for gardening organically
The most important factor in growing an edible garden is knowing how your seedlings were started. If you aren’t growing from seed, make sure you know how your flowers were grown. You want to find plants that have been organically grown. Flowers sprouted with a blanket of pesticides are not considered safe to eat.
Need natural pest control? Try soap
If your trouble is flying insects, mix two teaspoons of dish soap with one cup of warm water in a clean spray bottle. Be sure to spray both the tops and bottoms of leaves. Spray once/week or more frequently if it rains.
If the soapy spray isn’t doing the job, try planting marigolds among the problem plants. If the problem persists, you may consider identifying the troublemaker and nixing it from next year’s planting. (For us, the problem child was dill, a lovely herb we will, in future, happily purchase at the grocery store.)
Additional edible gardening resources
When you are ready to move on to more challenging and time-consuming plants, there are many great gardening resources online. If you plan to grow enough to share, explore produce exchanges in your area before you select the plants to grow.
Exchanges allow home gardeners to enjoy a wider variety of home grown produce than they can plant on their own—for free! If everyone in the local produce exchange is planting tomatoes and cucumbers this summer, you might want to plant a garden full of herbs and endear yourself to every exchange member’s palate.
For more on organic, edible gardening, check out
The Bee Friendly Garden
research by Lashanda Chadwick
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