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A Quick Guide to Growing Edible Flowers


 

Decorate your garden, help keep the bees happy and brighten up many a drab salad or meal with the glorious addition of a tasty dash of colour. In recent years edible flowers have been all the rage, but is important that ensure you pick the right flowers from the right place.So before getting started, it’s worth:

  • Make sure that you either grow from seed, or buy organically or from an edible plant section in a garden centre. If you choose flowers that have been grown for ornamental purposes there is no guarantee that they haven’t been sprayed with something that isn’t suitable for human consumption.
  • Be sure that the flowers you are consuming are edible. If you’re not sure don’t risk it as some flowers are poisonous. For some ideas on what is edible, keep on reading!

 But make sure this doesn't put you off. For as long as you're a little careful, edible flowers are easy to grow, often delicious and are a great way to make ameal fit for instagram (and it'll taste nice too)!

 

List of Edible Flowers

Anise Hyssop

 

20120722 Agastache foeniculum and honey bee (c) Chipmonk_1 (flickr.com/photos/42919152@N04/7634475662) CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Both the flowers and the leaves have a deliciously subtle anise or liquorice flavour. The small lavender coloured double-lobed blossoms are loved by bees. The flowers and leaves taste great in a fruit salad or can be used to make an aromatic tea.

Grows around 90cm tall

Growing Info - Grows in full sun or shade. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Angelica

 

왜당귀꽃 (Angelica acutilobae) 2014년 6월 21일) (c)영철 이 (flickr.com/photos/bastus917/14516973393) CC BY-SA 2.0

 

This shiny leafed herb produces a mass of usually white flowers (some varieties produce green and yellow flowers) and grow in large roundish umbels. Grows as a biennial and the flowers are produced in their second year. The flowers are used in the production of absinthes, gins and some other alcoholic drinks and they have a liquorice-like flavour.

Growing Info -  Best in part to full sun. Needs free-draining soil (it won’t cope with damp feet) rich in organic matter.

 

Bergamot Bee Balm

 

Bergamot (c) Explore Create Submit  Photos, people, or groups Upload Log In Sign Up Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (flickr.com/photos/widnr/6512519651) CC BY-ND 2.0

 

This perennial flower produces eye-catching lavender blooms that are beloved by bees and have a spicy scent and mild, sweet flavour. Traditionally the leaves and blooms were used to make a tea that was believed to help soothe sore throats and ease cold symptoms.

Grows around 1m tall.   

Growing Info - Best in full sun. Needs free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Borage

 

Borage (c)Ken McMIllan (flickr.com/photos/kamcmillan/14662528640) CC BY 2.0

 

This easy to grow annual plant self-seeds readily (though it isn’t likely to become a pest), has broad slightly hairy leaves and gorgeous blue (or occasionally white). The flowers are often candied and used to stunning effect on cakes and muffins. They can also be frozen into an ice cube to make them a little bit fancy. The leaves taste like cucumber and when crushed taste great when added to gin and tonics.

Grows 60-100cm tall.

Growing Info – Best in full sun. Prefers free-draining garden beds rich in organic matter. For best results, protect from slugs and snails.

 

Calendula

 

Ringelblumen (c)Joachim Quandt (flickr.com/photos/joqel/14609947389) CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Also known as winter marigolds or poor man’s saffron. This delightful annual looks great in your veggie or flower beds and in Auckland they can be grown all year round, though they tend to do best over winter. The flowers can be used as a garnish, in salads or to add a saffron like taste to your meals.

Height varies depending on the variety grown.

Growing Info – Best in full sun. Prefers free-draining garden beds rich in organic matter.

 

Chamomile

 

Chamomile (c) Toshiyuki IMAI (flickr.com/photos/matsuyuki/505644227)CC BY-SA 2.0

 

These daisy-like plants in the Asteraceae family looks stunning and the flowers can be used to make a nice relaxing tea. There are two kinds commonly available: German Chamomile, an upright annual that grows to around 30cm tall and Roman Chamomile, a low growing ground cover that is sometimes grown as a lawn replacement.

Growing Info - Best in full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Chives 

 

 

Known for their long, tasty and mildly pungent leaves this relative of onion and garlic also produces attractive and tasty purple flowers. The flowers have a sweeter milder taste than the leaves and are great in salads. 

Growing Info - Perennial herb. Best in full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Dill

 

dill (c) liz west (flickr.com/photos/calliope/3867702873) CC BY 2.0

 

Producing an umbrella-shaped cluster of tiny blossoms, these flowers are great for bees and other beneficial insects. The flowers have a muted dill taste and are great when used as a garnish or when added to pickles they tend to retain their shape and colour.

Different varieties range in height from around 20- 60cm.

Growing Info – Full sun/partial shade. Protect from the summer sun as it can bolt. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter. Keep well-watered to reduce the risk of it bolting.

 

Dianthus & Carnations

 

{ dianthus } (c) choking sun (.flickr.com/photos/chokingsun/5567827274) CC BY 2.0

 

Unbeknown to many, Dianthus aren't just a pretty face. The flowers have a delightfully spicy, clove-like floral flavour and they both look and taste great when used on cupcakes or various other cakes and desserts. They can also be used in a savoury setting and fo well with salads, seafood and stirfries. 

Growing Info – Full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter. Feed, deadhead and water regularly to keep them looking nice. 

 

Fennel

 

starr-170304-7221-Foeniculum_vulgare-flowers-Polipoli-Maui (c)Forest and Kim Starr (flickr.com/photos/starr-environmental/33383061145) CC BY 2.0

 

The entire plant is edible! From the shoots, stem, leaves, bulbs to the flowers and seeds. The flowers have a subtle, delicate liquorice flavour is great with fish dishes or in a summer salad. Or they can be left to go to seed and use in a wide array of delicious dishes.

Growing Info – Does best in spring or autumn (it can struggle in the summer heat). Grow in full sun in free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Scented Geranium

 

Rose geranium, Rose-scent geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) (c)Swallowtail Garden Seeds (flickr.com/photos/swallowtailgardenseeds/15757927389) Public Domain Mark 1.0  

 

Aside from looking and smelling nice many scented geraniums are also edible. The flavour varies depending on the scent of the flower, with some varieties tasting like roses, lemons or nutmeg. They taste particularly good in sorbets, ice creams but can also be used in various other desserts.

Note: Not all geraniums are edible, so to make sure you select the right ones get them from our herb stand or buy seeds of plants that you know are edible. If in doubt check and we will find out for you.

Growing info – Full sun to partial shade. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

  

Hyssop

 

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) (c) Melanie Shaw (flickr.com/photos/melanieshawmedicalherbalist/9391870532) CC BY-ND 2.0

 

This member of the mint family flowers throughout summer produce spikes of blue, white or pink flowers that are great for bees. The leaves and flowers taste like mint, but with floral overtones and a pleasant bitterness. Works great as a garnish, in salads, soups, pasta dishes and in an array of deserts and puddings.

Grows around 60cm.

Growing info – Full sun to partial shade. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Lavender

 

 

The flowers of this well-known herb are edible! Though English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and the cultivar Munstead are more widely used. The flowers add a subtle sweet citrus flavour that can add a little something when you are baking.

Growing info  - Full Sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter. Prune back by about a third after it’s finished flowering. Water regularly but only needs feeding infrequently.

 

Nasturtium 

 

Nasturtium flowers (c) allispossible.org.uk (flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/2670725765) CC BY 2.0

 

Easy to grow, nasturtiums make a great companion plant and can act as a useful sacrificial plant. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and have a peppery flavour that is a delicious way to add the hint of a kick to your salads. Compact and spreading varieties are available and the flowers come in various colours depending on what variety you grow.

Growing info – Full sun to part shade. Grows in most soil conditions. They can be fairly tough but new plants will need watered in summer. If it’s really dry established plants may also need watering occasionally. Some varieties can spread but can be easily and quickly hacked back.

 

Pineapple Sage

 

Ananas-Salbei (Salvia elegans 'Pinapple') (c) Maja Dumat (flickr.com/photos/blumenbiene/29655236980) CC BY 2.0

 

This delightful member of the shade family produces a mass of sweet red flowers and the leaves smell like pineapple lumps. The flowers are great as a garnish, can be added to drinks and used in fruit salads.

Grows 1-1.5m high.

Growing info – Full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Rose

 

 

Regardless of their name they are incredible well-known. Yet oddly they are underutilised in the kitchen. Only the petal is edible, and the intensity of their flavour varies between varieties, but most have a sweet slightly spicy flavour. They can be used in baking, to make jams, candied or even to make a rose petal custard.

Growing info – Full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter. For more info on growing roses click here

 

Shungiku  

 

 

Also known as Edible Chrysanthemum, they are native to the Mediterranean region, naturalised and regularly cultivated in East Asia. The leaves are often used in stir fries or can be added to soups and eaten in soups, stews or buy themselves. The flowers are fairly aromatic and taste nice is salads, with fish or in soups and pickles.

Growing info – Full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter. They generally prefer the cooler temperatures of spring and autumn to the heat of summer.

 

Sage

 

 Sage Flowers (c)Jay & Melissa Malouin (flickr.com/photos/leeksandbounds/571080489) CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Gardener’s often pinch back the flowers to encourage the growth of leaves. But if already bush enough or you do ever have flowers, you’ll find that they produce a delightful deep blue flower (though a few varieties have a white flower). The flowers are great for bees and has a delicate, mild sage flavour that can be used to garnish a wide array of sweet and savoury meals.

Growing info – Full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Sunflower

 

Sunflowers (c) foooomio (flickr.com/photos/foooomio/14884202314) CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Known more for their appearance or their delicious seeds, the flower itself is also edible. When picked in the bud stage they taste like artichokes and taste best when boiled and served with butter. The petals themselves can also be eaten in salads but have a bittersweet flavour that can be overwhelming if you use too much.

Growing info – Full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter.

 

Viola, Heartsease and Pansies

 

Viola (c) Till Westermayer (flickr.com/photos/tillwe/28168043) CC BY-SA 2.0

 

These gorgeous flowers are regularly grown just for their looks, but they are also a great addition to salads. Though in truth, demand for these delicious, slightly peppery edible flowers is probably down to their glorious looks.

Growing info – Full sun/part shade. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter. In Auckland it grows best in the cooler months, though they can be grown year-round. When planted in summer, they are best in a slightly shaded spot, protected from the harsh afternoon sun. For flowers you can eat, grow from seed or buy from our herb section.

 

Zucchini, Squash and Pumpkin Blossom

 

zucchini flower (c) Yutaka Seki (flickr.com/photos/yutakaseki/34379050134) CC BY 2.0

 

If you get to the pot that you are in danger of inundation from these prolific plants it may be time to change things up a bit and eat the flower instead of the tasty fruit. These flowers can be stuffed, battered, fried, baked or eaten in soups and often prized for their looks and delicate zucchini-like flavour/

Growing info – Full sun. Prefers free-draining soil rich in organic matter. These are heavy feeders so add lots of compost and sheep pellets when planting and feed regularly. Water deeply on a regular basis (at least 2-3 times a week through drier periods) and where possible, avoid wetting the foliage as this reduces the risk of fungal diseases.