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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog

Edible Flowers


Do you want to "spice" up your meals? Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, says that she sometimes brighten a dull looking salad by adding edible flowers. Or, "sometimes I just eat flowers right out in the garden".

Ferree emphasizes one very important thing that you need to remember – "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.

SUNFLOWERS--Almost everyone knows what a sunflower looks like. Choose a mammoth or giant variety. You can harvest the seeds after the petals drop, cure them, and then eat them raw or oven-roasted.

JOHNNY JUMP-UPS (Viola tricolor)--This tender perennial has tiny, pansy-like flowers in deep purple, mauve, yellow and white. Blossoms have a mild wintergreen flavor and can be used in salads, to decorate cakes, or served with soft cheese. "They are particularly good candied." This plant will do well in sun or shade and grows to a height of six to eight inches.

NASTURTIUMS (Tropaeolum majus)–Rhonda says that this is one of her favorite edible flowers. "They add a mild pepper taste to salads." This low-growing annual has blossoms that taste like watercress with a slightly sweet flavor. There are 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. Plants grow two to three feet tall.

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 perennial plant likes full sun and grows to one foot.

Finally, Rhonda points out a few edible weed flowers to consider. Dandelion flowers are a pretty and mild addition to spring salads. Edible weed greens included purslane, lambsquarters, and garlic mustard. "I make pesto from garlic mustard." "Somehow it feels satisfying to eat this prolific, nasty weed."

For more information on this or other horticultural issues, contact your local Extension office by visiting www.extension.illinois.edu. You can also post questions on Rhonda's facebook page at www.facebook.com/ferree.horticulture.



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