Foraged foods, or those wildcrafted and harvested from nature have become very popular. Learning to harvest these free food and medicinal plants is a smart thing to do. For me, the beauty of edible flowers, wild herbs and nourishing plants was taught to me by my grandmothers. Join me for a collection of resources on foraged foods, including edible flowers!
I Can’t Seem Help Myself
Note: if you’re only interested in the list of edible flower and foraged food resources, just scroll down past my musing here and look for the section “Edible Flowers”. I won’t be offended; in fact, I’ll never know.
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.”
My Garden is a Mess
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, among 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.
By the way, here’s that book that nearly derailed the garden, in case you’d like to check it out:
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.
Edible Flower Recipes
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
Chive Blossom Oil and Vinegar from Grow, Forage, Cook, Ferment
Edible Flower Dessert Recipes
Don’t think I forgot dessert! Here are some special treats that use edible flowers:
Dandelion Forsythia Jelly from Homestead Lady
Dandelion Candy also from us here at Homestead Lady
Dandelion Paleo Cookies from our kids here at HL
Strawberry Dandelion Cake with Berry Cream Frosting from Schneider Peeps
Violet Gelatin Recipe (with a list of even more flower foods!) from Homestead Lady
Homemade Sodas from Homestead Honey
Don’t forget to check out The Nerdy Farm Wife’s super awesome book dedicated to natural soap making which includes the rose (an edible bloom).
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.
Do you have a garden legacy in your family? Care to share the story with us?