The Edmond Sun

March 13, 2013

Add variety to your garden with edible flowers

By Trisha Gedon
Special to The Sun

STILLWATER — When it comes to tasty treats from the garden, it is hard to go wrong with a sun-ripened tomato, a yummy zucchini or a crunchy bell pepper. However, fruits and vegetables are not the only way to get great flavor from your garden.

David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist, said there are many types of edible flowers that can be grown in Oklahoma.

“Some of the common edible flowers that can be grown in Oklahoma include the chrysanthemum, rose, yucca, daylily and squash blossoms,” Hillock said. “Chrysanthemums are a favorite culinary flower of the Orient; however, most of the varieties grown in the United States have leaves that are too tough and bitter to eat. The flowers are generally used in soups.”

While roses make beautiful bouquets, for many years they also have been used in candies, cakes, spreads and jams. The old-fashioned or wild varieties are best for cooking. The petals are great in a salad mixed with chicory and served with an oil and rose-vinegar. Rose hip, the fruit of the rose plant, is a wonderful source of vitamin C.

In some parts of the world, yucca blooms are sold in the produce section of the grocery store. They can be boiled or fried and slightly resemble asparagus in flavor.

“Although they have very different tastes, daylily and squash blossoms can be used in the same way as the yucca blooms,” he said. “Pick the buds before they’re fully open, then boil, fry, pickle or even use them in omelets or fritters.”

Other flavorful plants gardening enthusiasts may want to consider include anise hyssop, lavender, marigold, scarlet runner bean, violets or pansies. Keep in mind flavorful herbs such as basil, mint, sage or thyme. Herbs grow well in pots on the patio. There is nothing quite like fresh herbs when cooking.

“If you’re new to consuming edible flowers, it’s a good idea to limit your initial consumption to help determine any possible allergic reaction,” Hillock said. “When cooking with flowers, it’s best to use flowers you’ve grown yourself. Flowers from a florist or garden center may have been sprayed with pesticides and therefore aren’t a good choice. And remember, if you’re unsure about the edibility of a flower, don’t eat it.”