Many vegetables and herbs, including chives, courgettes, mint and runner beans, also have edible flowers. You can use them in salads and to flavour and decorate drinks, while some are large enough to stuff with cheese and fry.
It’s worth noting that the flowers of some plants, such as narcissus and foxgloves, are toxic, so unless you know the flower is edible, don’t eat it.
Nutritional benefits of edible flowers
Many edible flowers are high in vitamins A and C, which promote a healthy immune system, and are rich in beneficial antioxidants.
How to sow plants with edible flowers
Most edible flowers, including chamomile, chives, cornflowers, courgettes and marigolds can be grown from seed. Sow them in the ground or in a pot, on their own or with other flowers or veg. You’ll get the most flowers in a sunny spot.
Chamomile, chives, cornflowers and marigolds are all hardy, so they can be sown directly outside now. Annual plants, cornflowers and marigolds will flower and set seed within a year, while perennial chamomile and chives may not flower until the following year. Courgettes are tender, so sow these in small pots indoors in April and plant out after the last frosts in May to early June.
How to grow edible flowers
Bergamot, lavender and pinks are easy to grow from plug plants or young plants. Pot them into small pots and grow under cover until they are bigger and the last frosts have passed. Roses and scented pelargoniums are best bought as plants. Pelargoniums will need to be brought indoors during the winter months.
Harvesting edible flowers
Pick flowers regularly to encourage more blooms, harvesting them on a dry morning for the best flavour. With courgettes, pick the male flowers only, to avoid reducing your vegetable harvest. These grow on a long, thin stalk, rather than an immature courgette. Eat only the petals and avoid eating any blooms that may have been sprayed with pesticides.
Storing edible flowers
Once they have been harvested, use edible flowers immediately or store them in the fridge for a couple of days in a plastic bag. Crystallised flowers will keep in an airtight container for several months.
Edible flowers to grow
Colourful bergamot flowers have a mild, sweet flavour. Use them to flavour teas and add as a garnish on salads.
Courgette flowers are considered a delicacy in some circles. Remove the stamens and dip them in a light batter and deep fry, or for a more decadent dish, fill them with cream cheese first, gently twisting the end of the flower over to hold the cheese in place.
Cornflowers have a sweet, spicy, almost clove-like flavour. Use them to make an attractive salad garnish.
Chamomile flowers have a warm, apple-like flavour. Use them fresh or dried, in teas.
Rose petals have a wonderful fresh flavour. Use them fresh or crystallised on cakes, or gently simmer the petals in water to make your own rosewater.
Chive flowers have a spicy, oniony flavour. Use them to add a kick to salads and soups.
Crystallise primula petals and use them as a pretty decoration on cakes.
Lavender can be overpowering, so use sparingly in cakes, biscuits and lemonade.
Violas have a sweet, mildly spicy flavour. Crystallise the flowers whole for cakes, or sprinkle the petals on salads.
Dianthus flowers have a spicy, clove-like taste. Use them to perk up salads.