Edible Flowers: Beyond Decoration

Edible flowers
Foto © Utopia/M. Öhlenbach

It’s hard to imagine a summer balcony or a garden without a few blooms. Their benefits go far beyond their attractiveness, however.

One very important symbiotic relationship: flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other insects to pollenate their flowers, resulting in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains to enjoy.

Cultivate and Enjoy Edible Flowers

Yet many flowers can also be enjoyed as-is. Depending on the plant, you can use petals or even entire blossoms in food preparation – and not just as decoration! With every aroma from sugary-sweet to spicy pepper, edible flowers add a special note to any meal or beverage.

Homeopathic cures also depend heavily on a select number of botanicals: tea made from lavender blossoms, for example, can ease stomach and digestive issues as well as insomnia symptoms. Hollyhock tea can decrease coughing. And chamomile tea can be purchased in almost every supermarket.

Where to Find Edible Flowers

Purchase, collect, grow your own: there are lots of ways to find edible flowers. Not every option, however, is ideal.

If you collect edible flowers in the wild, always ensure that you have identified them correctly. Not everything that attracts bees is edible!

It also pays to be choosy about the place where you collect them: heavily-traveled roadsides, anywhere dogs may do their business, and fertilized fields should be avoided.

Naturally, you can also plant your own edible flowers. Most varieties need little space and can be planted not only in the garden, but also in planters, pots, or window boxes on your balcony or terrasse.

Most of these plants are easy to care for and demand little more than water and sunlight. Some plants even benefit from being planted alongside edible flowers. Good neighbors include lavender and roses, borage and strawberries, tomatoes and marigolds, and zucchini and nasturtiums.

Time is of the essence when harvesting edible flowers: anything past its prime or wilted won’t have much flavor. Ideally, you should collect your blooms on a sunny morning when the petals are fully open and use them as quickly as possible.

The blossoms will also stay fresh for a few hours in a jar or bowl filled with cold water. Since tender petals are easily damaged, it’s best to collect flowers in an open basket to preserve their full beauty. Before working with edible flowers, carefully rinse them, or at minimum shake them well – you don’t want to accidentally ingest any insects who may be hiding!

by Melanie Oehlenbach

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