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Guide to Growing and Knowing Edible Flowers and Herbs

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

One of my favorite memories growing up was having a garden in our backyard. I have very fond memories of watching my parents turn the soil, helping my mom plant the seeds- taking careful note of how far apart to plant each type of seed, taking responsibility to water our garden daily, and the sweet, sweet payoff of harvesting our fruits and veggies to be shared over a meal. I'm now blessed to be able to pass this pastime onto my children.

This past summer, we expanded our horizons from a typical veggie garden and began exploring the world of edible flowers. There are few things more satisfying than garnishing a meat and cheese board with a beautiful, hand picked edible flowers and herbs sourced directly from your garden.

  • Is it safe to eat this? When growing and using flowers intended to be eaten, you want to ensure that they are clearly marked as edible. You will want to do the same when outsourcing flowers to be used as an edible garnish to ensure that the flowers are free of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Growing them yourself or sourcing flowers from a reputable, local grower is truly the only way to know that your flowers are free of chemicals. You should never eat anything that you don't know is 100% edible.

  • Indoors or Outdoors? This past growing season, I started my seedlings indoors under a grow lamp and a seedling heat mat. As with most plants that are started indoors from seed, you will want to plant your seeds into your peat pots about 6-8 weeks prior to the last frost and then transplant into garden boxes, larger pots, or into your garden after the threat of frost has passed. Although there are plenty of types of edible flowers that can be planted directly into the soil during growing season, there are some varieties such as Violas and Pansies that typically require being started indoors to better control for the amount of water they are receiving and the depth at which the seeds are started. Varieties such as these typically require watering via a spray bottle to prevent the seed from drowning and they should only be planted 1/8" to 1/16" of an inch deep. As you can imagine, these variables are difficult to control for outdoors- especially during your typical rainy midwest spring.

  • Common edible flowers used as charcuterie garnish: Roses, chamomile, borage, marigolds, hibiscus, nasturtium, and dandelions.

  • Common edible herbs used as charcuterie garnish: Sage, rosemary, dill, mint, and thyme. Herbs such as basil, when in their flowering stage, are especially appealing when added to your board.

An important note prior to consuming: When first beginning to eat edible flowers, you will want to consume only small amounts of one type of flower at a time. This is especially important for people with allergies (seasonal, hay fever, pollen, etc.) as you may be at risk to have an allergic reaction.

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