Many of us love flowers for their beauty and scent, but did you know there are blooms that you can grow and eat too? While you won’t be making an entire dish from edible flowers, they’re ideal for adding colour and a variety of flavours to your salads or baked goods. Edible flowers don’t need any special treatment either – they will happily grow alongside your herbs and vegies and will also help encourage beneficial insects, like bees and butterflies to your garden.
Here’s how to grow edible flowers in pots or gardens.
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
One of the easiest flowers to grow, you will love nasturtiums for their brilliant red, orange, yellow and white blooms. Plus, all parts are edible. Both the leaves and flowers are peppery, with the flowers being lighter in flavour than the leaves. They are both likened to the light bitterness of watercress or rocket. Sprinkle the petals or roughly tear leaves and use them as a garnish or add to salads. Plant in a pot with well-drained potting mix and position in full sun. Nasturtiums will spread and flow over the sides of the pot, but if you prefer a neater habit, place a trellis at the back of the pot to allow them to climb.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
This gorgeous shrub fills the air with a beautiful heady perfume. It’s no wonder both the leaves and flowers are used in aromatherapy. For culinary purposes, you can sprinkle fresh or dried flowers through cake or biscuit mixes or use the blooms to brew tea. The flavour can be potent, so try a little at first and adjust accordingly. Leaves can also be sparingly used in salads. Grow lavender in pots and position in a spot with full sun with protection from strong winds. Water when the soil is near-dry, although once established it can tolerate longer periods without water.
Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)
The sweet flowers of chamomile are traditionally used in herbal teas because of their wonderful ability to calm and soothe. But you should really give the fresh daisy-like flowers a go. They have a very mild apple flavour that can be used to flavour cakes, biscuits, jams, or tarts. You can also combine the flowers with olive oil, lime, and honey for a lightly sweet but refreshing salad dressing. Position the pot in full sun or part shade and feed regularly during the flowering season with a high-potassium fertiliser.
Viola (Viola sp.)
The delicately sweet flavours of violas are a beautiful addition to desserts and salads. The cheery purple, yellow or white faces instantly add life and colour to a dish, taking your ordinary salad from blah to beautiful. Plant violas in pots with a premium potting mix and position in part-shade. Water regularly, especially on hot days, otherwise the heat and moisture stress can cause the flowers to wilt.
With all edible flowers, I recommend you grow them from seed. Most flowers or plants grow in the nursery have often been treated with pesticides, as flowers are not typically sold for consumption. For most plants, seeds can generally be sown from spring to autumn, but always check the label for specific growing conditions. If insect treatments are necessary, ensure they are organic and suitable for use. If in doubt, check with the manufacturer.