Dig In

Flowers you can eat

By Patricia Bailey
Posted 5/3/18

We have been patiently waiting for Spring to show her pretty little face. The forsythia, daffodil, and crocus are peeking around the corners reminding us that winter has said goodbye. Their lovely …

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Dig In

Flowers you can eat


We have been patiently waiting for Spring to show her pretty little face. The forsythia, daffodil, and crocus are peeking around the corners reminding us that winter has said goodbye. Their lovely colors amid the damp grey days have me dreaming about the colors I can add to my vegetable garden.

For the most part, vegetables are prized for their fruit, not their flowers. Their flowers’ place in the garden appears behind the scenes — as background singers provide harmony to a lead vocalist. This year I’d like flowers, specifically edible flowers, to perform an elaborate choreographed dance routine throughout the vegetable garden.

Edible flowers offer a feast for the eye and the palate. They have always had a place in the kitchen and as you begin to explore the world of edible flowers you will begin to enhance your kitchen and your vegetable garden. Bees have known all along how good flowers can be — now it’s our turn.

The first that comes to mind is Nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are easy to grow as trailers or bush type. Their flower, buds, leaves and seeds are all edible. There is nothing better than a vine-ripened tomato sandwich with nasturtium leaves. Their peppery taste adds a bit of punch without overpowering the tomato. The seeds can be pickled like a caper. When preparing to plant Nasturtiums, I soak the seeds overnight in a cup of water. This softens the seed and aids in germination. Simply press seeds into the soil an inch deep and a foot apart for a lush look. I plant as a border or trailing out of pots. You can also plant the trailing variety along a fence or trellis, as they are easy to train for climbing. Consider ‘Empress of India’, ‘Night & Day’ and ‘Alaska Mix’ for its variegated leaves.

Another favorite edible flower is Stock. Stock is a member of the brassica family with a taste that hints of broccoli or cabbage. It is available in a variety of colors, can grow up to 3 feet tall and offers a sweet and spicy fragrance to the garden. Try the ‘Katz’ variety.

Marigolds come in many shapes, sizes and colors and their petals are edible. In addition, they attract beneficial insects that pollinate neighboring crops and can deter rabbits when planted in mass. Try planting the variety ‘Lemon Gem’ in your garden. The smell alone is a treat. You can sprinkle in salads and dress up cupcakes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with marigolds, they provide color to the garden all season long and many varieties do not require deadheading. Consider ‘Durango’, ‘Mr. Majestic’ and ‘Queen Sophia’.

If you haven’t grown Borage, give it a try. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and resembles cucumber in taste. Blue flowers grow on long drooping stalks in an umbel-like fashion from May through September. They look beautiful floating atop a Borscht or cool cucumber soup.

I’ve listed some other tasty flowers that are easy to grow. They are perfectly edible, just be sure you have your ID correct and avoid flowers that may have been treated with pesticides, fungicides or other gardening chemicals. I find it is best to grow your own to be sure. Be creative and add some color to rice dishes, salads, soups and baked goods.

Fava Bean leaves and flowers
Chervil flowers
Bachelor’s button petals
Sweet violet leaves and flowers
Runner bean flowers
Forget-me-not flowers
Johnny jump-up flowers
Rose petals
Abutilon flowers
Calendula petals
Tulip petals
Sunflower petals
Daylily buds and petals
Carnation petals
Hollyhock petals
Dahlia petals

Patricia Bailey is a Community Outreach Horticulturist. Having a deep appreciation for the quality of life a good garden can bring to those in need, she spearheads school programs, mentors young people and provides local charities with fresh organic vegetables. 

Patricia Bailey

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