It’s garden planting season in Central Florida.
Add some flowers to your fall garden, and then eat them. Edible flowers are topping the food trend charts this year. Home gardeners, professional chefs and mixologists are exploring ancient recipes and new creations featuring flowers in food and beverages.
Edible flowers are very diverse in shape, color, and flavor. They can be sweet or savory. Flowers are commonly used in salad, soup, pasta, desserts and drinks. They are used as main ingredients, garnishes, flavorants and colorants.
Grow your own
Here are a few easy-to-grow, annual, edible flowers for Central Florida and their flavors: Borage (cucumber), calendula (peppery), nasturium (peppery, spicy), marigold (peppery, citrusy).
Herbs like cilantro, dill, fennel and garlic chives, are often grown for their edible leaves, and flower buds are removed to be able to harvest more flavorful and lush leaves for a longer period. If you let these plants flower, you can also eat the flowers. The flowers taste like milder versions of their leaves.
If you don’t harvest vegetables like mustard, broccoli, kale, and radish at the stage that they are commonly harvested for vegetables, you can let them keep growing and eat their flowers when they bloom. Squash and okra flowers are a more substantial addition to a food dish (but you won’t be harvesting any squash or okra that would have formed from those flowers).
Only plant untreated seeds or pesticide-free plants. Many flowers are grown as ornamentals and the pesticides and application methods used on ornamental plants may not be safe for use on food plants.
It’s best to harvest edible flowers immediately before use. If you need to harvest them in advance, cut them when dry, ideally in the morning. To keep them from drying out or being crushed, place them on a moist paper towel in a closed plastic container and refrigerate them.
Wash flowers right before using them by gently dipping them in cool water and place on a paper towel to dry if needed. Washing is important to remove any small insects that may be hiding in flowers. On larger flowers, the sepals (green part at the base of the flower), stamens (that contain pollen) and pistils can be removed before using.
It can be dangerous to snack on flowers that you didn’t grow. Identifying plants can be confusing; some edible flowers look similar to poisonous ones. Plants may have been treated with pesticides at the nursery or in the landscape. If you introduce edible flowers to your kids, remind them that it’s not okay to pick and eat flowers without asking you first.
Hand stir together: room temperature butter, ground pepper or red pepper flakes, finely chopped fresh herbs like dill, thyme, parsley, and chives, and edible flower petals. Enjoy it on bread, crackers, or mashed potatoes.
For information on farming and gardening, contact UF IFAS Extension-Osceola County: 321-697-3000.
Jessica Sullivan is a sustainable agriculture and food systems agent with UF/IFAS Extension – Osceola County.