You may already have eaten flowers without knowing it. Dried daylily petals are an ingredient in Chinese hot-and-sour soup, and lavender flavors some jams and sweets. A number of herbal teas get their aroma from rose, chamomile or hibiscus.

But before you try to grow these edible beauties yourself, there are a couple of things to consider. First, go organic by using natural or organic pesticides labeled for food crops. Organic amendments, such as compost, coir and peat moss, improve drainage in clay soils and moisture-holding ability in rocky or sandy soil. Follow soil test recommendations when adding nutrients to the soil.

If you plan on starting these flowers from seed, consider going to an organic seed supplier. If you buy plants from a nursery or garden center, remove existing flowers and rinse them well to remove any pesticide residue. Then mulch with organic matter to keep weeds at bay and the soil moist.

Harvest the "crop" when it's at the peak of ripeness. Pick blooms that are completely open, and avoid wilted or faded blossoms. The best time to pick them is early morning, after the dew has dried from the petals.

Also, keep in mind that environmental factors—such as soil, temperature, moisture and location—determine flavor, so sample a petal before picking the entire bunch.

Plunge long-stemmed flowers into water and keep them cool. Pick short-stemmed blooms only hours before using; refrigerate them in a perforated plastic bag. Also, before you use the flowers, remove the stems, stamens and pistils, which are bitter, and check carefully for any insects or disease.


Six Common Edible Flowers


Bee Balm

Monarda didyma
Care: Moist, moderately fertile soil; partial shade to full sun.
Flavor: Citrusy, sweet and tangy, like oregano or mint.
Uses: Spicy garnish for salads, or steep flowers in boiling water for a soothing tea. Substitute blossoms in recipes that call for oregano.


Daylily

Hemerocallis
Care: Rich, moist soil; full to partial sun.
Flavor: Mild, sweet flavor that resembles lettuce, asparagus and zucchini.
Uses: Crowning a cake or decorating a platter of hors d'oeuvres. Stuff blossoms or add color to a salad. In spring, substitute 2- to 3-inch-tall shoots for asparagus.


Lavender

Lavandula
Care: Moderately fertile, well-draining soil; full sun.
Flavor: Sweet and lemony.
Uses: Add flavor to or garnish desserts. Be sure to use it sparingly, however, as the flavor can be extremely intense.


Nasturtium

Tropaeolum majus
Care: Moderately fertile, well-draining soil; full sun.
Flavor: Sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress.
Uses: Stuff with a savory mousse or spread. Also adds a peppery punch when sprinkled on salads, sandwiches and appetizers.


Rose

Rosa
Care: Moderately fertile, well-draining soil; full sun.
Flavor: Often on the sweet side, with undertones that range from cinnamon to mint to apple; darker varieties are more intense.
Uses: Petals can garnish ice cream or desserts, or boil them down for use in syrups, jellies and perfumed butters.


Pansy

Viola x wittrockiana
Care: Moist, rich soil; partial shade to full sun.
Flavor: A mild, fresh wintergreen taste that varies depending on how much of the flower is eaten.
Uses: An attractive garnish for cocktails, salads, soups and desserts.




Source: Birds & Blooms "Grow Veggies for Less"