Vegetable gardens produce amazing flowers in their own right. Little pea and bean flowers budding off spindly vines, huge (and edibly delicious) squash blossoms and lettuces, cabbages, radishes, garlic—there are so many beautiful flowers we can enjoy just growing vegetables.
That said, there are also wonderful flowers we can grow for food. While many grow flowers for the beautiful colors and aromas they provide, there are many stunning flowers that provide healthy, often medicinal food as well.
These edible flowers can make great additions to ornamental gardens and vegetable gardens alike. There is absolutely nothing wrong with admiring their beauty and flavor, and usually, harvesting the flowers just means they’ll produce that many more.
With that in mind, why not start thinking flowery thoughts.
Sweet violets are considered a weed by many, and they are early spring producers, putting out little purple flowers that spruce up salads and other dishes. They can also be used to make tea, infuse vinegar, and flavor jellies. But, other flowers from the viola family, like pansies and violas, are also edible. These are a great addition to flower gardens, work as ground cover plants under hedges, or can border vegetable gardens. They come in a wide variety of colors.
The flowers and leaves of the nasturtium are reminiscent of arugula, with a pleasing spiciness and bright flavor. The seeds are also edible and are commonly used as a substitute for capers. In general, growers move towards trailing (Tropaeolum majus) or bush (Tropaeolum minus), with either option having a range of colors in the yellow-orange-red spectrum. These are stunning additions to salads.
Though they are often the go-to for bouquets on Valentine’s Day, roses are actually a highly prized edible flower with a mountain of medicinal benefits and notable flavor. Rosehips, petals, leaves, and even stems can be used as food. While all roses are edible, they are not all created equally in terms of taste. The other thing about eating roses is that the ones from the florist are likely no good for dinners as they’ll be doused in chemicals. Grow them in the garden instead!
Highly regarded for its medicinal values, both internally and topically, calendula—sometimes called “pot marigold”—is a stunning flower that plays in the hues of the sunset. The whole flower is dried and used in medicinal teas and salves, and the petals are delicious additions to salads or tofu scrambles. The whole, dried flowers can be stored away and added to soups and stews later on.
Though not wild, daylilies are often seen—and they are beauties—growing along roadsides and stream banks. They were once planted in abundance for erosion control. They grow in the hottest spots in the US, as well as the coldest: USDA Zone 2-11. It’s important to realize that daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) are not actual lilies (Lilium sp.), which are toxic. So, be very careful to plant the right thing when growing this one.
Chives for flowers? Most of us know them as a tasty green garnish on baked potatoes or grits, but chives actually have amazing flowers. In late spring, they burst forth as purple pompoms on the tips of chives. They really add wonderful color and shape to the flower garden, and they have all the flavorful charm of an actual chive (the green part). These are great in flower gardens or for a perennial addition to the veggie plot.
A member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family, which tends to be adaptable, resilient, fragrant, and voracious, bee balm is a great puzzle piece for wildflower gardens. As a wildflower, it is also called “wild bergamot”. The leaves and flowers are edible, and they can be cooked or eaten raw. They can also be dried and used to make aromatic, herbal tea. These can be over two feet tall, so they make a great backdrop for other edible flower plants.
There are other classic varieties of edible flowering plants to grow. Echinacea, chamomile, and hostas (aka plantain lilies) all have favorable edibility, and they are great additions to flower gardens or the corners of vegetable patches, where they can entice pollinators. Yellow jasmine is a great vining variety, but it is important to get Jasminum sambac as other varieties are toxic. Elephant garlic (actually more like a leek) puts out a stunning purple pompom that stands three feet high, and it can be sprinkled over a salad for a spicy tinge of garlicky pizzazz. There are so many!
- A Quick Guide to Edible Flowers
- Make Your Food Look Super Pretty With This Edible Flower Guide
- 10 Edible Flower Recipes
- 8 Early Flowering Spring Trees
- A Guide to Growing Edible Seeds
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