Edible Flower: Varieties to Expand Both Food & Flower Operations
Eating flowers rather than just admiring them in a garden or vase sounds like a modern fad, but there’s evidence that humans have been munching on colorful blossoms since the Stone Age. The trend of using flowers as food has come and gone over the ages and it’s returning right now in full force. There are thousands of edible flowers, yet not all of them taste good enough to entice farmer’s market shoppers to want to spend hard-earned money on them. These six varieties are tasty, can be eaten whole without deconstruction to remove bitter sepals or stamens, relatively easy to grow, and tough enough to handle a minimum of a day on display before wilting.
The Original Daylily
While selective breeding has brought us hundreds of different colors and shapes of the Hemerocallis family, only the original bright orange daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, is reliably safe to eat. The flowers have a delicious asparagus-like flavor, especially when you pick and cook the flower buds right before they open. They spread rapidly and are considered a weed in most areas, so you can plant a set of tubers the first year and enjoy larger successive harvests with each year that passes. The tubers are also edible and flavorful, but they’re not as showy and customers may be less excited to try them out.
Everyday mums, the same flowers that are in high demand as both bedding and cut blooms, are one of the most popular flowers to eat in the world. The spicy, tongue tingling flavor perks up salads, scrambled eggs, and other dishes while the petals add a pop of color. As annuals, they’ll take a little more work than some of the perennials listed here, but they’re quick growers. Consider culling mums you can’t sell for other purposes to offer as edible garnishes.
The lavender varieties prized for fragrance uses are finicky and susceptible to many pests, but hardy English lavender is easy to grow and has a more delicate flavor that doesn’t overwhelm roast meats or homemade lemonade. As long as you have well-drained soil and a relatively cool spring and early summer, you can produce edible lavender buds. These are in high demand because most lavender buds are not labeled as being safe to eat.
Borage, with its cooling cucumber flavor, is one of the most well-known edible flowers. It’s commonly used as a salad topping or frozen into ice cubes for decorating drinks. The plant spreads easily and is very self-seeding, allowing you to grow a patch in an empty area with minimal attention. If you’re interested in maximizing your harvest by re-seeding every year, consider growing them in containers or raised beds for a faster start in the spring.
You’ll need a climate with relatively mild winters or greenhouses that can handle perennials shrubs, but if you’ve got the warmth, hibiscus flowers are showy and easy to sell. They’re some of the best tasting edible flowers because they offer a sweet, cranberry-like flavor with a hint of tartness. Unlike other types of flowers, all true hibiscus shrubs and trees product edible blossoms. It’ll take four to five years for transplants to produce enough flowers for a sizeable harvest, but the wait is worth it because you can also dry the flowers that don’t sell fresh and market them as a healthy herbal tea.
Finally, don’t overlook plants that are usually treated as weeds, or at best, as ground covers. Red clover is a nitrogen-producing, fast-spreading ground cover that acts as a living mulch in orchards and intensively planted fields. On top of all of this, the large pink flowers offer a sweet honey-like flavor. Like hibiscus, dried red clover is also in high demand as an herbal tea ingredient. It’s usually grown an annual or biennial and re-seeded every year, but in some areas it will self-seed if allowed to do so.
Bonus: 10 Vegetable Flowers That Taste Good Enough To Eat
Already growing a wide variety of vegetables? Try harvesting these flowers if you have a surplus to expand your market selection without any extra planting or field maintenance.
3. Onions, garlic, and other alliums
8. All brassicas
About: Jessica grew up eating homegrown tomatoes and showing rabbits at livestock shows, so it’s no wonder she has her own 3 acre organic hobby farm today that will soon be home to a small licensed nursery for valuable trees and native shrubs. When she’s not busy with her own gardens and chickens, she enjoys helping build greenhouses and weed the blueberry fields at her friend’s 30 acre organic fruit and vegetable plant farm.