Go on ... Eat the Flowers

NORTHFORD, Conn. - "Daylilies are so delicious. Like crazy delicious."

Natureworker Kassandra Moss shows off garlic scapes
during her edible flowers presentation.
Kassandra Moss of Natureworks said daylilies are sweet tasting. "The petals melt in your mouth," she said during a recent lecture on edible flowers in the garden. Her favorite variety is Stella de Oro, which remind her of the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where Wonka eats his tea cup after having tea (to view the clip, click here).

"I like daylilies for eating straight out of the garden. Just reach out - pluck one and eat it. I like to do it around kids for the shock factor," she said. "But then I have to follow up and remind the kids that you can't eat everything in the garden."

When it comes to edibles in the garden, flowers are often overlooked. Moss shared many flowers that brew well in teas, accent salads, or are just delicious to eat on their own.

Squash flowers are harvested for either battering up and serving on their own or eating plain. "Squash flowers are amazing," she said. "I just like eating them outright."

Garlic scapes - which are appearing now in Northeastern gardens, can be used in pesto or sautéed with butter and garlic in a pan, as Moss prefers. "Butter makes everything amazing," she said smiling. "I channel Julia Child. It has a lighter garlicky flavor that is mellow and really nice."

Beautiful Brews
The tiny, red flowers of pineapple sage are used in teas which contribute a light pineapple ending note to the brew.  Moss said to keep the succession of flavors in mind when brewing teas. For example, combining lavender, calendula and pineapple sage will let you experience those flavors in that order, with the most dominant flavor - the lavender - reaching the tastebuds first.

Moss' brew of choice is bergamot and lavender tied with lemongrass. "I like being a showoff. Tie the whole bouquet with lemon grass and put the whole bouquet in a glass [pitcher]."

Red clover acts as a natural sweetener for teas and can replace added sugar. Flowers such as honeysuckle and lavender can be used to infuse waters as well. "I'm really into infusing waters. It cuts down on sugar but gives the water the sweet taste," she said.

Elderberry, often grown for the berries, can also make a delicious elderflower syrup. Moss said it has a floral note with a cut of citrus. She uses the syrup to water in a 1:6 ration. "I love it - it's so good." (To learn more about making the syrup, click here.)

All parts of dandelions are edible, and many can be harvested in early spring when they emerge to be brewed into teas as a spring cleanse. The deep taproot of the dandelion "sucks in nutrients."

Decorative Flairs
The blue flowers of borage add a light cucumber taste to salads. "The flowers are fuzzy - some people sugar them," said Moss. "I like borage - in olden days, people gave bouquets to warriors to display valor and courage." Chrysanthemum are usually brewed into teas but can be candied as well.

Violas are usually sugared and put on cakes for a decorative finish, but they can also beautify iced drinks. By freezing violas into ice cubes, the petite flowers can be visual accents to lemonade, iced tea and more. For the best looking ice cubes, Moss said to make sure the flower faces down in the tray to avoid freezer burn.
Marigolds add a little spice to your salad.

Pretty Salads
Snap peas don't only make the cut for salads - the flowers can, too. "The flowers are a little sweet," said Moss.  "It's nice for when you haven't gotten to the full harvest yet; it reminds you what delicious peas taste like." (Please remember, the ornamental sweet pea is not edible.)

"Chive flowers are my favorite additions to salad," she said. "They are the tastiest things ever - they look so darn cute."

Broccoli flowers and arugula flowers also make the cut, each adding a nutty flavor to salads. "Arugula flowers are growing on me," she said. "They are really, really tasty. It's something to do when it bolts."

Calendula, or poor man's saffron, adds a spicy zing of color to salads with its yellow or orange petals. Nasturtium is another plant where the flower petals and leaves compliment salads. "They are chock full of Vitamin C," said Moss. The buds can be pickled and used like capers and the leaves have a peppery flavor.

Don't forget about marigolds - not only do they help repel unwanted insects in the vegetable garden, they taste spicy as well.

Guidelines to Follow

Natureworks advises to follow the following 10 rules for edible flowers:
  • Eat flowers only when you are positive they are edible.
  • Just because it is served with food does not mean a flower is edible.
  • Eat only flowers that have been grown organically.
  • Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers (See above).
  • If you have hay fever, asthma or allergies, do not eat flowers.
  • Do not eat flowers picked from the side of the road. They are contaminated from car emissions.
  • Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating. Eat only the petals.
  • Not all flowers are edible. Some are poisonous.
  • There are many varieties of any one flower. Flowers taste different when grown in different locations.
  • Introduce flowers into your diet the way you would new foods to a baby - one at a time in small quantities.
For more edibles for the garden, visit Natureworks' website here.

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