Amanda Buffington is a homeschooling mother of three. She lives on Florida’s southeast coast with her husband, two daughters and a very rambunctious little boy. She began gardening eight years ago and has dreamed in seed catalogs and compost teas since. Living and Gardening all over the United States has offered more value than she could have imagined from listening and basking in the wisdom of others. From time to time Amanda writes on her budding venture: Tales of A Potting Table and dabbles with visual storytelling, designing and woodworking along with her husband.
The winds blow fiercely, hotter and hotter each day…the end of our South Florida Gardening season is upon me. I can hardly believe it’s here. With sadness I see our vegetables struggling, I know the time has come to put them to rest.
The beautiful side to this ending, however, is the beginning of budding new focus of mine. Edible Flowers had always been a bit of an enigma to me. Wrapping my head around how to actually use them took quite a few years. It seems silly, now…looking back, to think of a day that I didn’t actually KNOW you could, in fact, EAT flowers. It tickles me pink to know that for my children, this is a special yet very normal part of their day to day.
I once ran into a discussion with someone who made plants their life’s work. I came to them with questions regarding the actual species of Hibiscus used in very common types of teas. I sent several photos of different varieties growing around our home and they’d respond with something along the lines of: “well, you CAN eat them but they have no MEDICINAL value. ”
I started to chew on this for a bit… One of my favorite literary icon’s wrote these words over a century ago: “Earth laughs in Flowers”. Emerson goes on to write the Song the Earth sings… What strikes me is that our planet…comes to life, is personified with the idea that it’s purest delight, an outward expression of elation– is shown in flowers. We’re all familiar with the old adage, Laughter is the best Medicine, yes? In this I rest my case for the seeming frivolity of consuming flowers for nothing more than pleasure.
There are many flowers packed full of medicinal and nutritional value. Most of them we’re familiar with. Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is jam packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, Lavender is known for it’s soothing effects as is chamomile. Roses, although less conventionally used in the States, have also been said to have a sedating, stress reducing effect. Calendula is nature’s first aid in a flower, Echinacea is the cold sufferers friend… the list of beneficial blooms goes on and on.For those of us who garden to feed ourselves or our families it can seem a bit silly…to grow things that aren’t necessarily beneficial in a conventional garden to table sense. Sure, we all have an astute devotion to save and feed the bees, this alone makes flower planting an act of survival… in the most important sense. But, the more flowers I grew the more I wanted to know…”Can I eat this?” It was no longer a question of, what will this do for me or the planet (harsh I know) but a mere and simple (rather frolicsome) question. CAN. I. EAT. THIS? That question led me on a delightful journey of culinary exploration. For instance, did you know that a budding sunflower can be steamed and resembles an artichoke in taste? That’s right, they’re not just for seeds in the dugout! Lilacs and Violets can be made into jams and syrups, nasturtium seed pods can be pickled to mimic capers and are way less expensive. I began feeding my children squash blossoms and flower petals with only one thought: this is the purest and loveliest sensation.
If I were to list the reasons I garden, the reason I take the the dirt no matter what the season, no matter if I am destined to fail or succeed; I must say the list would look rather selfish. Gardening is my therapy. It repositions, readjusts and aligns me better than any chiropractor I have ever met. Gardening is where I found myself, my purpose and passion. If I were to evaluate the purpose of my growing something just to consume it for benefit…why, I may be inclined to stop in my tracks. The pressure, you know? The year the tomatoes just wouldn’t bloom, the year the aphids destroyed it all before I had a chance to bring it to the table. There are so many different aspects and benefits of gardening that I couldn’t really justify not growing or consuming something that simply made me smile, even if it wasn’t going to heal me, per say. The very act of putting something in the ground…is medicine. The hope that something will grow…is medicine. The sweat, the effort of working alongside nature…is medicine.
The Earth’s purest delight, it laughs…in flowers. The best known medicine…laughter. Whether it heals your spirit or your body – it is medicine. Now, I think less of logistics and survival and more about tickling the Earth when I throw dozens of handfuls of seeds out to meet it’s belly. I think of the fact that it’s delight and mine are shared. Today I ripped out a few squash plants, they didn’t take kindly to weeks without rain and relentless sun yet, underneath them nasturtiums grew happily. They danced in the breeze and turned their faces towards the sun. I smirk at the abuse many of these edible flowers can endure. Zinnias are troopers, aren’t they? Floridian Augusts are the mightiest opponent for anything with roots and they – forge on. (Yes! You can Eat Zinnias!!) Letting veggies and herbs go to seed is also another huge favorite of mine. Basil flowers in pasta, Sage flowers on scones, lettuce flowers sprinkled atop pudding… The possibilities are endless.
It is a great idea to do a bit of research and find what suits you best. Obtaining field and gardening guides to help you identify and research plants, researching the effects in relation to your personal constitution. The safest way for a beginner to know they’re not mistaken is to grow your own from seed, many flowers mimic other less edible (and quite frankly toxic) flowers, be sure to know exactly what you’re about to do before you take a bite! Life Lesson number 5,675, right? For the most part though consuming edible flowers in moderation say: in a salad, on a slice of cake, in syrups or in a cocktail is sure to bring you complete joy. Ending a hot day in the garden with a pitcher of floral infused water is simple but mighty fine. Garden party for one (or five, in my case…)! Lastly, I make it a point to only cut what I need for a cake or for a pitcher of fun in the evenings… the bees appreciate my discretion. A great way to save your plucked blooms for a special occasion is to preserve them in ice cubes. They’re such a brilliant addition to any special beverage or when surprise guests come to call and you’re looking for an extra way to say: I am totally Martha enough to handle this impromptu invasion. Cool. Calm. Florals on the Rocks.
Here is a list of commonly grown Edible Flowers that YOU can try in your own Home Garden:
- Tulips (Petals)
Before tasting any petal be sure you’re aware of allergies and always always always grow and eat your own organically raised blooms (no roadside wildflower salad tonight). Cheers to many prolific seasons of Laughing with the Earth!