Do you want to "spice" up your meals? Sometimes I'll add flowers to a dull looking salad to add color. Or, sometimes I just eat flowers right out in the garden.
But one very important thing that you need to remember is that not every flower is edible. In fact, sampling some flowers can make you very, very sick. Make sure you know for sure the identity of the flower before eating it. You also should NEVER use pesticides or other chemicals on any part of any plant that produces blossoms you plan to eat.
Here are a few common, edible flowers to try.
NASTURTIUMS (Tropaeolum majus)—This is one of my favorite edible flowers. They add a mild pepper taste to salads. These low-growing annuals have several edible varieties to choose from, most of which grow best in full sun or light shade.
BORAGE (Borago officinalis)--This annual ornamental plant produces clusters of one-half inch sky-blue flowers, which bees find particularly attractive. Borage blossoms have a light cucumber taste and can be added to salads, fruit cups, or frozen in ice cubes for cold drinks.
CHIVES (Allium schoenoprasum)--This herb has attractive lavender-pink blossoms that make a delicious addition to salads, egg dishes, and potatoes. Both blossoms and the slender dark green leaves (or "stems") have a subtle onion flavor. This sun perennial grows to one foot tall.
Finally, there are a few edible weed flowers to consider. Dandelion flowers are a pretty and mild addition to spring salads, thought they get bitter later in the summer. Edible weed greens included purslane, lambsquarters, and garlic mustard. I make pesto from garlic mustard. Somehow it felt satisfying to eat this prolific, nasty weed.
Try integrating edible plants into your landscape. Many fruits, vegetables, and herbs have ornamental traits comparative to flowers and ornamental shrubs. Bright lights chard and ornamental peppers are just two examples.
This is the topic of an upcoming University of Illinois Extension Four Seasons Garden webinar series. Edibles – Rainbow Vegetables explores the amazing world of common vegetables in uncommon colors! Leia Kedem, Nutrition and Wellness Extension Educator, discusses the chemicals that produce plant colors, how they may affect nutritional value, and what do to with these bizarre plants in the kitchen, while Diane Plewa, Plant Diagnostic Specialist, provides suggestions and examples of new and old varieties of oddly-colored fruits, veggies and herbs to grow in your home garden.
The live webinar is available for home viewing on Tuesday June 30 at 1:30 pm and again on Thursday, July 2 at 6:30 pm. The Tuesday session will also be shown in the Peoria Extension office. Or you can listen to a taped version beginning the following week. For more information visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/ or call 309-543-3308309-543-3308.