You Ask, We Answer: Which Flowers in My Garden Are Edible?
Ah, summertime! The flowers are in bloom, fresh fruits and veggies are available in abundance, and cookouts and picnics are a regular and welcome occurrence. If you love to entertain friends and family but find you’re in a rut when it comes to wowing them with your table, take heart: You can create a stunning summer spread by accenting your food with edible flowers! Here are some common edible flowers you may already be growing in your Connecticut garden–and how you can make any summertime dish feel like a celebration of the season.
Calendula calls to mind a combination of daisies and marigolds, with long, delicate petals and brilliant yellow and orange hues. Used for centuries for its medicinal qualities and as a healing skincare ingredient, calendula has a sweet, honey-like flavor that pairs well with green salads and rice dishes alike.
Calendula is relatively easy to grow; it does well in pots as well as garden beds, tolerating both full sun or more shady areas. As long as the soil drains well and temps aren’t too cold, you will find that calendula is quite hearty as well as being pretty to look at. And, calendula helps to draw aphids away from your other plants, making it a bonus in any garden.
To use calendula in your summertime dishes, snip off the entire flower head from the stem. Gently pull out the petals and scatter them over your food to add instant color and a hint of sweet flavor. The more flowers you pick, the more will grow, so don’t be afraid to use calendula liberally and often.
Violas and pansies
With their brightly colored petals and contrasting centers, violas and pansies are the perfect addition to your summertime dishes! Pansies have been used in natural medicine for their antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and have been said to possess powerful antioxidants to boost health.
You may already have pansies and violas growing in your garden, flower boxes, or pots; they are tolerant of full sun or partial shade, but won’t withstand very hot weather. Be sure your soil drains well; this is especially true if you have them planted in pots or flower boxes.
To enjoy pansies and violas on your summer fare, scatter larger petals across the tops of salads or cakes. Smaller flowers can be enjoyed whole; in fact, painting smaller pansies or violas with a mix of sugar and water and allowing them to dry before using creates a beautiful crystallized flower that looks stunning on frosted cakes and cupcakes. Scattering whole flowers atop a green salad is also an unexpected and festive way to enjoy the bounty of the season!
While carnations have ebbed and flowed in popularity when it comes to flower arrangements, their petals are edible and add a spicy, almost clove-like flavor–and they look beautiful when combined with other flower petals and colors scattered across food dishes.
Best grown in morning sun, carnations are deer resistant (a definite plus in your Connecticut garden!) and need regular watering in soil or containers that drain very well. They’ll tolerate warm weather, but will begin to wilt and suffer in extended heat.
Carnations are best eaten by the petals only; the rest of the flower will taste bitter. To use, gently pull the petals from the rest of the flower and scatter into salads or onto desserts, much like you would pansies. You can also candy your carnations by brushing them with egg whites, sprinkling generously with superfine sugar, and letting them dry on a piece of wax paper. Then, arrange them on your cakes, cupcakes, or even on a scoop of ice cream for a dessert that wows!
Eating from your Connecticut garden is one of the great joys of summer. Just be sure you are eating plants, flowers, and veggies that haven’t been treated with pesticides or fertilizers for the safest experience.
Here’s to enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer this summer!