by Charleen Barr
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
Please do eat the daisies and also feel free to chow down on rose petals, pansies and violets. Like the herbs and spices you’re probably more used to, edible flowers add flavor to food. Their range of flavors includes sweet, bitter, floral, herbal, spicy, minty, perfumed, citrus, anise, and onion.
A few common flowers that can be devoured include: Calendula, pot marigold (calendula officinalis) – tangy and peppery; chives flower (allium schoenprasum) parsley like, onion, strong; mint flower (mentha) – spicy, pungent like leaves; nasturtium (tropaeoleum majus) – pepper, mustardy; pansy, violet, Johnny-jump-up (v.x. wittrockiana, viola adorata, v. tricolor) mild like a leafy green, sweet; squash blossoms (cucurbita sp.) – mildly of raw squash; chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum x morifolium) – some strong, can be bitter; dianthus (dianthus sp.) spicy, cloves; honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.) sweet honey; apple blossoms (Malus sp.) slightly floral, sour; lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – very perfumy, slightly bitter; tulip (Tulipa sp.) slightly sweet; tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida) citrus.
Culinary uses of flowers date back thousands of years to the Bible, Chinese, Greeks and Romans. Many edible flowers are high in vitamin C and/or vitamin A plus other nutrients. However, not all good-smelling flowers are good munching. Eat flowers only when positive that they are edible. A great source of edible varieties will be found in the Colorado State University Fact Sheet Edible Flowers No. 7.237. A trusted food source or edible flower cookbook will help the gourmet with recipes.
Start sparingly with a few exciting - colored garnishes of nasturtiums, pansies or bright dianthus on top of a salad after adding the salad dressing. Float flowers on top of a bowl of soup or in ice cubes for a festive punch. Try stir-frying daylilies or squash blossoms. Spicy mint, calendula and nasturtiums add flavor to casseroles. Petals may be removed and sprinkled individually or entire blossoms may be used. Edible flowers may be preserved in vinegars and oils. Remove the pistils and stamens (the insides of the flower) from larger flowers to prevent bitterness.
A few precautions to remember: Flowers eaten should be grown organically and not chemically treated. Be aware of peoples’ allergies and use in small amounts. Select flowers that are fresh, perky and bug-free. Wash thoroughly in salt water then revive in ice water, drain on paper towel, refrigerate for freshness and use within 24 hours. Do not use flowers purchased from florists, nurseries, garden centers, public gardens or picked along side the road, as these may have been treated with herbicides and/or pesticides. Different flavors occur in plants when grown in different locations or from one year to the next.
Edible flowers are a lovely visual addition to the dinner table. Each possesses unique characteristics. Summer menus offer opportunities for creative culinary treats. Keep on munching!
For more information, see fact sheet #7.237 - Edible flowers. Find additional information by calling Planttalk Colorado toll free at 1-888-666-3063 and request recording #2012 Edible Flowers.
Q. June is when my garden looks best. Will deadheading keep my flowers blooming?
A. Deadheading will extend the blooming season for many plants. It keeps flowers looking attractive and it stops seed production. If a plant produces seeds, flowering declines. Remove the spent blossoms, making sure to remove the developing seedpod, often located at the center or just behind the flower. Don’t just pull off the petals. Zinnias, marigolds, and cosmos will flower all summer if you continually remove spent flowers. Snapdragons produce flowering side shoots if the main flowering stalk is removed. Impatiens naturally drop their flowers and do not need deadheading. Some plants, such as Sweet William, can be cut back to half their height and will produce a second bloom.
Q. The bindweed in my garden is a nightmare in my garden. What can I do to get rid of it?
A. Bindweed or creeping jenny becomes established in dry areas with little or no topsoil, lack of organic matter or low fertility. Bindweed can put out 30 square yards of underground stems (stolons) in one season. It chokes everything it can wrap itself around. One method of attack is to repeatedly chop it off at ground level to starve the root. It is useless to pull it as it responds with new vigor. Sponging or painting the bindweed with an herbicide (rather than spraying) is best when bindweed and desirable plants are in close proximity. Persistence, persistence, persistence is required as it may take several years to rid the garden of bindweed.
Q. I want to control the growth of my fall mums. When do I begin pinching the plants back?
A. Pinching is an artificial way of forcing plants to branch or become bushy. The timing of the first pinch on garden mums coincides with 1-to 1 1/2-inches of new growth. Simply use your thumb and forefinger to literally pinch off tips of stems. When the plant has developed a substantial amount of new growth, the tips of each new branch is pinched closer to the top of the stems. Pinching back produces more flowers and will work for most perennials, annuals, herbs and foliage plants. Pinching should stop in midsummer to allow the plants to produce buds for late summer and fall flowers.
Late evening to early morning is the most efficient time of day to water your lawn. It is usually cooler, more humid and less windy and the water pressure is often better. Watering at this time of day does not encourage disease development.
Irregular watering of tomatoes can cause blossom end rot. Mulch the plants to keep the soil moisture more even and to keep the weeds under control. It is best not to remove the suckers because the foliage protects the fruit from sunburn.
Cover cherry trees with netting to protect the fruit from the robins and magpies. You may have to stake down the netting or close it off around the trunk of the tree to keep the birds from getting underneath it.
Do you miss your lilacs that bloomed earlier this spring? A great tree for our area that isn’t used very much is the Japanese tree lilac. It grows 20 to 30 feet tall and is covered with fragrant white flowers from early to mid June. Check it out at the W.D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) – there’s one growing right along Lake St.
You will find spittle bugs hidden in the frothy, white mass of spittle
commonly seen on junipers and pine trees. It looks terrible but the
bugs do little damage to mature plants. The best “control” is to
ignore them. You can also use a forceful stream of water to wash
them off the plants.
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Gardening and Insect Fact Sheets are available on-line by clicking HERE.
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