Edible flowers

With the picnic and outdoor cooking season here, it might be time to try something different in your culinary endeavors! I thought the following article might be of interest to the Northfield community. I ran across this Yard and Garden brief about edible flowers written by Ginny Coyle of the University of Minnesota Extension Service. She gives some good tips and provides a lists of flowers along with comments on each flower variety. I hope you find it helpful. Happy gardening (and cooking)!

Current interest in herb growing and adventurous cooking has led to increased use of edible flowers. Floral ingredients add flavor, texture, color and excitement to many recipes. The addition of vibrant nasturtiums or pansies can transform an ordinary salad.

There are several things to keep in mind however when cooking or garnishing with flowers:

  • Be sure the flowers are not toxic and are safe to eat.
  • Remember that “edible” does not always mean “palatable.”
  • Take care that the plants were not previously treated with pesticides.

To ensure that your plants are pesticide-free, grow them yourself from seed or buy organically grown plants. Edible flowers may also be found in the produce department at some grocery stores.

It will be easier to care for culinary flowers if they are grown in containers. If you are vigilant, you can eliminate the need for chemical applications. Common insect problems such as slugs or spittlebugs can be controlled by handpicking. Aphids and mites may be washed off with water from your hose.

Precautions: Many plants create toxins to discourage animal or insect damage. The same toxic chemicals can also injure humans. Never experiment by eating plant parts unless you are sure they are harmless. Often only a particular part of the plant is edible. For example, rhubarb stems may be eaten, but not its leaves, roots or flowers.

If you know one part of a plant is safe to eat, do not assume that all parts will be. Check a reliable reference such as those listed at the end of this Brief or the AMA Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, published by the American Medical Association.

The source of flowers to be eaten is also very important. Garden center plants may have been treated with systemic pesticides to prevent insect damage or diseases. Older gardening books may not address previous chemical applications or may just suggest washing the flowers. Current recommendations are that flowers never be eaten unless the plant was grown “organically.”

Serving suggestions: The word “edible” means you may safely consume the flower. Unfortunately it does not always mean the flavor is appealing. Some flowers (eg. lavender) have a bitter or astringent taste and are best used as a garnish.

When seasoning with edible flowers, taste test and try to match the flavor to the recipe. Sweet or floral scented blossoms can be used to decorate desserts or garnish cold drinks. Peppery nasturiums, cucumber- flavored burnet and chive blossoms add interest to salads.

Blossoms should be harvested the day they’ll be used; try to pick no more than one day early. Wash the fresh flowers gently and set them aside to dry. Refrigerate them in plastic sandwich bags until you use them.

Remove interior flower parts such as stamens and styles of larger flowers (i.e. squash or tulips). These are tart tasting in some flowers. The white part at the base of hollyhocks (the calyx) is bitter and should also be removed. When serving flowers fresh, add them to your dish just before serving.

Flower

 

The flowers are edible on all of these plants.

Scientific name Additional comments
Alpine Strawberry Fragaria alpina Leaves often used in tea
Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum
Apple or Plum Malus species
Beebalm Monarda didyma Taste may differ by cultivar; avoid ‘Panorama’ as the taste is too astringent
Begonia Begonia x tuberhybrida
Borage Borage officinalis Leaves also
Calendula Calendula officinalis
Chamomile Matricaria recutita Flowers have an apple scent and flavor
Chives Allium schoenoprasum Blossoms and stems
Daylilies Hemerocallis species Buds are good stir-fried
Dill Anethum graveolens Flowers, seeds and foliage
English Daisy Bellis perennis
Gladiolus Gladiolus species
Hollyhocks Alcea rosea
Honeysuckle Lonicera species
Lavender Lavandula angustifoliaor officinalis Bitter taste to flowers, but wonderfully scented. Neither is fully hardy in Minnesota, but either may be grown as an annual.
Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis Leaves and flowers are scented.
Lilac Syringa species
Marjoram Origanum majorana Leaves are often dried, but can also be served fresh.
Mint Mentha species Leaves can be used fresh or dried.
Mustard Brassica juncea Leaves and young seed pods can be eaten.
Nasturtium Tropaeloum majus Both flowers and leaves have a peppery taste, so use sparingly.
Pansy Viola species
Petunia Petunia x hybrida or species
Pinks Dianthus species
Rose Rosa species Use petals.
Scarlet Runner Beans Phaseolus coccineus Bean pods toughen as they age, so make use of young pods as well as flowers. Please note: Sweet Pea flowers are not edible.
Sage Salvia elegans Leaves fresh or dried.
Squash Curcurbita species Flowers can be stuffed or fried. If female blossoms are picked, however, the fruit will not develop.
Tulip Tulipa species Use petals.

Winter burn on evergreens


Minnesota’s winters can be really tough on landscape plants. The combination of cold temperatures, winter sun, and drying winds can damage or even kill buds, bark, roots. Hungry mice and rabbits can nibble away at bark and branches, causing severe damage or even death. In addition, evergreens, can suffer from winter burn, the most susceptible being juniper, pine, hemlock, arborvitae, and yew. New plantings can get hit especially hard.

Evergreens are usually one of the earlier plants to show visible signs of winter injury in the spring, known as winter burn. This happens when the ground is frozen, and the winter sun and wind causes the leaves to lose moisture. Because the plant can’t replace the lost moisture from frozen soil, they literally dry out and turn brown. This normally occurs on the south or southwest side of the plant, or if it is in an exposed location, on the windward side. A very important contributing factor is lack of snow cover, especially when the soil freezes early before the needles get a chance to acclimate to the cold weather ahead, causing even more moisture loss. A late cold snap in the spring after the branches have leafed out can also cause browning.pp789-01[1].jpg

This doesn’t necessarily mean the death of the plant, however, so don’t get impatient and cut out the brown branches. In many cases, the branch itself will still be alive and will send out new shoots. (See photo at right) However if you can’t stand looking at the brown needles, try getting out your old kitchen broom and brush them off of the plant. Just be sure you don’t break any branches. Photo at right is from R. W. Stack, North Dakota State University. Click to enlarge.

Prevention

The best way to prevent winter burn on your evergreens is to plant them in the right location. Avoid locations that are both exposed to the northwest winter wind and the winter sun . Also keep them away from your furnace or clothes dryer vent! Some evergreens are more tolerant of winter burn than others. Tauton yew and Techny arborvitae are two that can be safely exposed to the winter sun.

Also, make sure your evergreens don’t go in to the winter with the soil dry. The plants need moisture in the soil to replace the moisture loss from the leaves. Make sure you water them well watered, especiallyNewU418[1].jpg if they have gone through a dry spell in the late summer or fall. October and November (and sometimes December) is not too late, as long as the soil is not frozen and will take the water.
If you have already planted them the situation described, or that plant “just has” to to be in that location, then some winter protection may need to Be provided,in the way of protection from the wind or sun. The most common way is to use a sheet of burlap (available at most large garden centers) wrapped around the plant and held together by twine. Just make sure you don’t wrap it too tight, and leave it open at the top for air to get in and out.

Anti desiccants have also been used. They are mixed with water and sprayed on the plant, leaving a “waxy” coating to prevent moisture loss. However, recent research has shown the results to be generally disappointing.

Farmer’s Almanac: Weather predictions for 2011

Farmer's Almanac, 1883

Farmer’s Almanac, has always been known for its long range forecasts. But it also contains a lot of other information, such as gardening tips, tide tables, moon phases, astronomy and articles on farming. It has been around for over 225 years, making it the longest running periodical ever.

You can also check out the weather history for any given day all the way back to1946.

According to the Almanac, winter was supposed to be a bit drier than normal.  March is (or was) predicted to be a snowy month. Looks like they may have got their months turned around. April and May will be cooler and a bit drier than normal, with a chance for significant snowfall in mid-April


.April and May will be much cooler and a bit drier than normal, with a chance for significant snowfall in mid-April.

 

APRIL 2011: temperature 37 ° (4 ° below avg.); precipitation 1″ (1″ below avg.);

Apr 1-8: Sunny, cool;

Apr 9-10: Sunny, warm;

Apr 11-14:  Rain to snow, then sunny, cold;

Apr 15-17: Showers, mild;

Apr 18-30: Rain to snow, then sunny, cool.

 

MAY 2011: temperature 51 ° (4 ° below avg.); precipitation 2.5″ (0.5″ below avg.);

May 1-8: Rainy periods, cool;

May 9-11: Showers, seasonable;

May 12-17: A few t-storms, turning warm;

May 18-23: T-storms, then sunny, chilly;

May 24-31: Scattered t-storms, seasonable

Summer will be hotter and drier than normal. The hottest periods will occur in mid- to late June, early July, and mid-August.

September and October will be much cooler and slightly drier than normal.

This web site is fun to “poke around” on. It has something of interest for everybody. If you like to throw a line in the water now and then, check out their “Best days to fish”.