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While you can find these bright little numbers at the farmers market and some grocery stores, growing them at home is all the more rewarding. Picking edible flowers from your own organic garden is often the safer move, too, as you’ll be confident that they were grown without chemical herbicides or pesticides. However, as always, you’ll want to be confident a flower is actually edible before you pop it on your plate. (If you aren’t sure, skip it!) You should also gently wash all your flowers before consuming them, and try a small bite of any new petal at first, just in case you’re allergic.
Harvest your flowers in the morning, right after they’ve bloomed but before they start wilting, for the freshest taste. Eat immediately or store in a refrigerated container, resting on a moist paper towel, until you’re ready to serve.
When choosing which pick-and-eat flowers to plant in your garden, Allison Vallin Kostovick, the organic gardener behind Finch & Folly farm in Maine, says the more the merrier. Planting multiple varieties ups your odds that at least one will produce an edible haul, even if wonky weather hits.
Here are a few starter options to look into—all of which taste as lush as they look.
A favorite of Kostovick, deep orange Calendula petals pack an earthy, slightly bitter flavor. Any that she doesn’t use in the kitchen go straight into her DIY skin care regimen, as the flower’s oil is hydrating and rich in antioxidants.
From stem to leaf to seed to petal, all parts of nasturtiums are edible and have a peppery bite. These multipurpose flowers are also wonderful companions: When stationed next to another edible plant, they can protect them from bugs like aphids. Pair them with your broccoli, cucumbers, and kale for a fresh, colorful salad—no added pesticides needed.
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Another Kostovick pick, violas are prized for their long growing season. They can stay blooming all through summer and into fall in most areas. Pick their small, delicate flowers all season long to add a slightly sweet finish to your cooking.
For Marie Viljoen, an urban gardener and chef who grows her own food on a New York City terrace, the best plants are the ones that serve multiple purposes. As such, she’ll often let her herbs go to flower and pick the haul to display in a vase or incorporate into her meals.
Though when some edible plants flower, or bolt, it can affect their flavor, she finds that Thai and purple basils are still tasty after they shoot out their colorful blossoms. “They make stunning little flowers that are very attractive and long-lasting if you cut a tall stem,” Viljoen tells mbg.
These flowers also tend to attract pollinators, so be sure to keep a few in the ground for a more wildlife-friendly garden. And save at least a stem or two to re-root for next year: “If you keep it in water for long enough, you’ll have a new basil plant to take outside,” Viljoen says.
Chives produce lots of blooms that come in a lovely faint purple hue and taste faintly of onion and garlic. They tend to be so prolific that Kostovick can usually pick more than enough to make a batch of tangy, bright pink chive blossom vinegar and still have a few bouquets left over to hang out to dry in her kitchen for a fragrant display.
You can usually find a pot of bronze fennel thriving on Viljoen’s terrace, and she says it checks a ton of boxes: It’s tall and adds height to small gardens, pollinators love it, and the foliage is light, fluffy, and appealing. “Later in the summer, it makes really beautiful yellow flowers,” she adds, which can be picked for their slight licorice taste or left to sit and produce aromatic fennel seeds.
After radishes start to flower, Kostovick stays patient and waits until the plant goes to seed before picking. “They’re delicious,” she says of the resulting radish seed pods, which have the texture of a sugar snap pea with a mild radish taste. “What’s so cool about all of this is that now you have a second crop of something you didn’t even know you could eat.”
While not every flower is edible (and you shouldn’t try ones you’re unsure about), a handful of blooms can be put to good use in the kitchen. And honestly, we can’t think of a better summer showstopper than a meal topped with a rainbow of any of these fresh-from-the-garden gems.
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