Tag Archives: edible flowers

12 Edible & Medicinal Flowers to Add to Your Garden

Early in my gardening career I made the decision that I wasn’t going to “waste space” in my meager garden on flowers. Foolishly I thought that all they were good for was looking pretty. Slightly older and wiser me knows that flowers are for so much more than looks. Flowers are key to a productive garden. Some varieties are loved by pollinators, others draw in beneficial insects, and some even help repel unwanted pests! 

However if you’re a super practical gardener with some serious space restrictions you can get even more benefits out of your flower plantings. These varieties of flowers provide all the typical advantages and are either edible or medicinal. 

Edible Flowers

Sunflowers

Short Stuff Sunflowers

While sunflower seeds are an obvious edible benefit to growing sunflowers few people know that most of the plant can be eaten at different stages. Sunflower sprouts and very young plants are wonderful tossed into salads. The petals are a bit bitter but can also be used sparingly in salads. Young stalks can be peeled and used like celery, the leaves can be cooked like greens, and the unopened buds can be used like artichokes.

Bachelor’s Buttons

Polka Dot Bachelor’s Buttons

Bachelor’s buttons are a great way to add a lot of beauty to any dish. They can be eaten fresh in salads or used as a garnish. They’ve even been used to adorn cakes. They also hold their color well when dried and make an excellent natural food dye.

Breadseed Poppys

Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppys

The only part of this flower that’s edible is the seeds. Breadseed poppy pods are filled with poppy seeds that are great for baking. If you love lemon poppy seed muffins this might be the right flower for you!

Johnny-Jump-Ups

Helen Mt. Johnny-Jump-Ups

Like bachelor’s buttons, johnny-jump-ups make a tasty addition to salads or add a touch of natural beauty as a garnish. They can have a mild wintergreen flavor.

Hollyhocks

Outhouse Hollyhocks

This one usually surprises people but hollyhocks are entirely edible! The roots, leaves, and flowers can all be eaten though it’s typically just the young leaves and flowers that are eaten fresh. They’re actually related to the mallow plant and the entire plant has a variety of medicinal uses.

Nasturtiums

Jewel Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums are hard not to love. Their bright orange flowers and lilly pad like leaves add a bit of charm to even the most organized vegetable garden. They’re also delicious and the flowers and leaves make wonderful salads.

Medicinal Flowers

Echinacea

Echinacea Purpurea

Echinacea is a beautiful perennial flower and a potent medicinal. It’s frequently used to strengthen the immune system.

Chamomile

German Chamomile

A lovely little flower that makes a wonderfully relaxing tea, chamomile really deserves a spot in every garden. It’s easy to grow and easy to use. It has an apple-like flavor and fragrance and is also anit-innflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-spasmodic.

Feverfew

Though it looks much like chamomile, feverfew is a seperate medicinal herb and as the name suggests has long been used to treat fevers. More recently a study published in the British medical journal Lancet reported that 2-3 fresh leaves of feverfew eaten daily over a period of time reduced the severity and frequency of migraines.

Calendula

Resina Calendula

Another powerful medicinal, calendula is frequently used in salves and lotion to help heal skin irritations. However it also makes a tasty tea and has anti-innflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

Bergamot

Wild Bergamot

Bergamot is often used to make tea and was used by several Native American tribes as a carminative. It’s also a favorite of hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies making it definitely worth adding to your garden.

Lavender

English Munstead Lavender

Generally thought of as a calming medicinal herb (try making some tea) lavender is also a tasty culinary herb. It can be used to flavor beverages, breads, cookies and more. 

If your space and time are limited it can be really important to get the most out of every square in of garden space. Thankfully there’s no reason to give up the beauty of flowers to do that. These varieties can help you grow a productive garden by providing you with food, medicine, and food for pollinators and beneficial insects as well.

Pin it for later.

Austrian Winter Peas

May2016 (176) flowering Austrian Winter Peas prcsd

Last fall I scattered Austrian Winter Pea seeds over several of the small beds in the herb garden next to our office, and lightly raked them in.  For the past couple of weeks, every other day or so I pinch off a few of their small shoots as I walk from the house to the office and back.  Like many children, I relish the ability to eat vegetables right in the garden, within a few moments of picking them.  At this time of year, I cherish the diversity Austrian Winter Peas add to the range of very fresh food I can eat.Feb2017 (18) Penny eats Austrian Winter Peas prcsd


Yesterday I brought some pea shoots to Penny and her mother Scarlet, and then I brought Penny and Scarlet to the Austrian Winter Peas.  Penny devoured them, and Scarlet said that one of her favorite memories of her own childhood was of eating peas and pea shoots in her neighbor’s garden in British Columbia.

In a few weeks I’ll be frequently snipping off a bowlful at a time of large, lush shoots, adding them to salads and stir-fries, as well as snacking on them.

May2016 (80) Austrian Winter Peas prcsd

Like other legumes, these peas form relationships with rhizobial bacteria in the soil that pull nitrogen out of the air and make it available both to the pea plants themselves, and to the next crop we plant in these beds.  Austrian Winter Peas are more frequently planted as a cover crop than for eating.  Our half-pound package is appropriate as a cover crop for small gardens, and as food crop for gardens, homesteads, and other small farms.  For maximum nitrogen fixation, we could decide to till these peas under shortly after they start to flower.  Or, we could leave them a little longer to enjoy the two-tone purple edible flowers.

May2016 (184) flowering Austrian Winter Peas prcsdwinter peas in rye prcsdI wish I was a better record-keeper and could tell you what day I planted this small crop of Austrian Peas.  The best time is 4-6 weeks before your first fall frost, but I planted well past that date.  Even planting them now would yield some benefit in our climate, and in colder parts of the country, Austrian Winter Peas are generally spring-planted as soon as the soil can be worked.  They can take lower temperatures than other peas, even a little below 0°F for short periods, but if you plant them in fall in zone 7 or colder, you might want to mix the seed with rye to shelter the pea plants through the winter.