This year, both my grandmothers have passed. The one who taught me to plant, and the other who taught me not to worry too much about the weeds. They both showed me that, even in a messy garden, edible flowers abound. Because as Francis Hodgson Burnett wrote in her classic novel, The Secret Garden, “If you look at it the right way, the whole world is a garden.”
I Can’t Seem Help Myself
I’m still getting acquainted with my new growing zone since moving to Missouri and, to be completely honest, my garden is a random mess this year because of how little time I’ve had to devote to it while finishing a book. I almost didn’t “do” a garden at all this year but discovered, I can’t seem to help myself.
Once February came, I pulled out my planting calendar and seed boxes and the kids and I went to work. Even when I was deep into the final stages of the book, along came April and May and there we were transplanting starts into the garden. I took notes on which bug was attacking which plant and what, amongst the vast richness of our new forest property, was edible and forage-able. We’re up to our eyeballs in peas and kale and Swiss chard in the garden boxes. Not to mention, black raspberries, yarrow and wild carrot in the forest.
I guess, if you start gardening when you’re young, you just can’t shake the call of the seasons as they come.
When I was little, my paternal grandmother lived in an old house built long ago by her mother. Their family needed a house, so my great grandma Meacham built one. Grandma had inherited the house from her mother and planted a magical flower garden all over the back. I used to call it the Secret Garden.
She let me help her in that garden a lot when I would visit. She taught me how to put a rock over the hole of a clay pot before you plant so the “good dirt doesn’t leak out”. She taught me how to transplant a Japanese Maple. She taught me to lay a brick path. She taught me to stake the show-off stalks of delphinium so they didn’t blow over.
In short, she taught me to love the garden. Perfectly fitting, her name was Phyllis Gardiner. Guess what our ancestors did for a living?
Another thing she taught me was that gardens should be full of color. With the colors comes a lot of variety and it’s fitting, given the generous nature of God, that so much of that color should be edible.
Edible flowers can be great fun to add to the most basic of dishes. The borage flower is one of my favorites to add to a salad because of its true-blue color. With borage, though, be sure to remove all the stem parts because they’re a little itchy.
Dandelions can certainly be added to a salad but, again, you’ll want to removed all stem parts (including the green on the bloom) because they taste very plant-y.
For the calendula flower (featured in the salad image below), simply popping off the petals and scattering them in your salad (or ice cube tray, or frosted cake) will produce lovely splashes of color.
Take a simple salad, or any meal, and turn it into something special with some edible flowers using these posts:
Salad with Wild Greens and Flowers from Learning and Yearning
Dandelion Egg Noodles from Homespun Seasonal Living
Asparagus with Saffron Sauce and Edible Flowers by Vegalicious
Wild Dandelion Quiche from They’re Not Our Goats
Chive Blossom Oil and Vinegar from Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment
Don’t think I forgot dessert! Here are some special treats that use edible flowers:
Dandelion Forsythia Jelly from Homestead Lady
Anise Whoopie Pies from Homespuns Seasonal Living
Strawberry Dandelion Cake with Berry Cream Frosting from Schneider Peeps
Calendula and Thyme Shortbread Cookies from Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment
Homemade Sodas from Homestead Honey
Don’t forget to check out The Nerdy Farm Wife’s super awesome book dedicated to a very edible flower, the rose.
So, my other grandmother taught me that life is too short to worry about dumb stuff. She also taught me to choose to be happy and thankful, no matter what. She was the only truly jovial person I’ve ever known – she just didn’t have time for too much drama.
Once, at the end of a long day at an amusement park, we all sat in the cage of some family ferris wheel, half asleep and drooping all over ourselves. Grandma suddenly sat up, aghast at realizing the amusement had gone out of the day and observed, “We’re not having fun on our ride!”
Her persistent joy was infectious. We were frequently to be heard, years after that day, asking each other when cheer was needed, “Are we having fun on our ride?”
Grandma Webb suffered for more than a decade at the end of her life with debilitating spinal issues but you’d rarely, if ever, hear her complain. From her I learned that pain can be beautiful, the bitter can be sweet.
For the Garden Challenged
If you look at your garden and have to put air parenthesis around the word garden, don’t despair. Sometimes weeds happen for a reason. Sometimes they can even be a blessing.
Because you can feed them to your goats.
Because you might could make something useful out of them.
Because they may not even be weeds at all, but something useful like an herb.
The best part about edible flowers and weeds is that you don’t have to have a green thumb to grow them. Half the time you can simply forage for them in wild areas, even if that wild area is your backyard. To learn to make something useful out of them.
The Legacy of the Garden
I come from a long line of inspiring, amazing women and I feel close to them as I study my family history. But with the passing of my grandmothers, my Grandma Gardiner just this past week, I feel sort of adrift. I was lucky at the advanced age of forty to still be able to claim two living grandmothers. Now, I’m all empty of grandmas.
I’ve spent a little extra time in my garden this week, thinking about those ladies and missing them in a happy way. I made a salad from garden “junk” and brought it into the kids to tell them stories.
I told them all about the time that Grandma Webb jumped into the pool of her own accord, in her fancy dress at a summer garden party, after assuring the prankster husbands that they would never be able to throw her in like they’d been threatening.
I was sure to include story about the time when Grandma Gardiner waltzed down the vegetable isle with a cucumber like Fred Astaire thinking she was alone when, in fact, as she said, she “was observed”. I also told them how Grandma Webb survived cancer and Grandma Gardiner the loss of her handmade house (a victim of urban progress).
We ate the salad and we laughed about my grandmas and I felt renewed. I do love the garden.
Take a Virtual Garden Tour
To share that love with you, I have something I’d like to share – a virtual garden tour of eleven other gardens! I always love seeing what other people are growing, and how they are cultivating food, herbs and flowers.
On this tour you will visit gardens in USDA gardening zones 3 through 9a. That means that some of the gardens are just beginning their season, while others (zone 9a!) are wrapping up their harvests.
Join the virtual tour by clicking through to the other sites on the list below. Have fun!
Homestead Garden Tour
Joybilee Farm (British Columbia, Zone 3)
Homespun Seasonal Living (Montana, Zone 4b)
Homestead Honey (NE Missouri, Zone 5b)
Family Food Garden (British Columbia, Zone 5b)
Learning and Yearning (Pennsylvania, Zone 5b)
Reformation Acres (Ohio, Zone 5b)
Timber Creek Farm (Maryland, Zone 7b)
Grow Forage Cook Ferment (Oregon, Zone 8a)
A Farm Girl in the Making (Washington, Zone 8a)
Preparedness Mama (Texas, Zone 8b)
Schneiderpeeps (Texas, Zone 9a)