Edible flowers are just the thing to grow at the moment. They’re easy, your food will look amazing & many flowers are surprisingly full of punchy flavour. Let’s take every joyful experience we can right now, however small.
Most edible flower plants are small, so a balcony or window-box will do just as well as a garden.
EASY EDIBLE FLOWERS TO GROW
Calendula / English Marigolds:
A favourite of mine as an ornamental as well as for eating, I love the mellow, yellow & burnt orange shades. The open arrangement of petals makes access easy for bees collect pollen & nectar.
These are hardy annuals, very easy to grow. Sow them from April through the summer, in sun or part shade, directly into the soil where they are to grow. You can make repeated small sowings about every 5-6 weeks through summer into July, for a plentiful supply of flowers.
Sow a thin line of seeds in a *drill, remove smallest seedlings as they grow, eventually leaving the strongest ones spaced 30cm/12in apart.
They self-seed happily, so you probably wont need to sow them next year, unless you’re growing them in a window-box or a pot.
Beautiful pale blue flowers, traditionally used as garnish for Pimms, also nice to decorate cakes & desserts.
A hardy annual, to sow outside in full sun or part shade in well drained soil.
Sow just a few seeds directly into the ground, in a shallow *drill.
I had loads of it at my allotment, where it seeded itself around very freely. It’s probably easier to keep under control in a garden where you can keep an eye on it. Just don’t plant too many seeds & pull up excess plants or cut the flowers before they set seed.
Attractive, easy little plants. Gently pick the flower apart to scatter over savoury dishes.
Grow these deciduous plants in a sunny spot. They look wonderful as an edging to a path & are equally happy in a plant pot.
I’ve always bought these as small plants because they’re such good value. They can be divided each year in spring, so you soon and up with a good supply for yourself or to give away as gifts.
They don’t grow as vigorously after flowering, so it’s good to have a few plants if you have room for them.
Here’s one with big, peppery flavours, you can also eat the young leaves in salads. They’re very versatile plants. They look great tumbling down a bank, or as a single plat in a pot on a balcony. Thompson & Morgan have a lovely climbing nasturtium with frilly, orange & yellow flowers.
Sow outside where you want them to flower
A light sunny spot, in well drained soil. They’re happy in poor soil, but need decent soil at first to get going. I usually add compost to the spot I plant them in, to help them along. Once fully grown they need little attention
Sow in *drills where they are to flower, gradually thin them to 30cm/1ft apart.
The perfect edible summer petals to garnish cakes & desserts. A reliable plant that’ll supply flowers every summer, making it a sustainable addition to the edible flower palette.
They do need a good, rich soil. A sunny site in clay soil enriched with compost is ideal, light, sandy ones are very limiting. Though Rosa rugosa types are tough & manage well in poor soils. Make sure to add a regular mulch of well rotted manure or home-made compost.
Prepare the ground well with compost & plant roses in early autumn.
Foraged from the wild, the subtle scent & flavour of the petals scattered over salads & risotto is wonderful.
They grow at the edge of woodlands in shaded dampish conditions. They appear in March/April, last 3-4 weeks, then the plants die back & you wouldn’t know they’d been there.
Pick the flower apart & scatter over your chosen dish.
PICKING EDIBLE FLOWERS
Most edible flowers are too delicate to wash before use. I give the petals a gentle shake & leave them for 10-20 minutes in my warm kitchen to let any insects escape.
They’ll keep for a couple of days in a plastic bag in the fridge, if they cant be used straightaway.
A Note Of Caution:
Take care & make sure that the flowers you use are safe to eat. It’s best to pick them from your own garden, the exception being wild garlic, to be confident that they haven’t been sprayed with pesticide & you’re sure of the provenance.
The R.H.S. has a list of poisonous plants here.
It’s useful to have a look at this, many are commonly found in gardens. Though any kind of poisoning from plants is extremely rare, so don’t freak out.
EDIBLE FLOWER SUPPLIER
There may be times when you want a good, varied supply of edible flowers. I bought the edible flowers for Katie & Robs cake from Maddocks Farm Organics. They arrived in perfect condition by overnight courier, & there was a wonderful mixture of flowers.
FLOWER SEED SUPPLIERS
There are plenty of seed companies out there, this is just a starting point for you.
Higgledy Garden, although at the time of writing it’s closed for 10 days, this is a top place to but seeds. Good value & fabulous seed packets. Ben is a one-man band dedicated to making the world a more floriferous place.
One of the big boys, who have huge range of flower seeds & lots of information.
If you prefer to buy organic, this company has a good variety of edible flower seeds.
- A Drill is a little furrow, made by dragging a small stick in a straight line through the soil. The straight line helps distinguish them from weed seeds as they grow. Water the Drill before you drop the seeds in. Add a label to the end of the row.
There are times when it’s nice to loose yourself in a familiar, small task, when everything around you is unpredictable. Sowing a few seeds fits the bill very nicely.
Take care of yourself.
All photos Jill Anderson.