By Madeleine Dodge, Community Fellow
This time of year, I am amazed by the range of colors that make it onto my plate at every meal. From our Berkeley Tie Dye tomatoes to our rainbow carrots, every dish we eat is brimming with color. In addition to our many-hued vegetables, the Allegheny Farm has also been growing many edible flowers this season that provide even more opportunities to add a splash of color to any dish. For those who are curious about doing more than simply admiring the edible flowers in your gardens, look no further! Here are some options that you may already have growing in your own backyard:
Nasturtium plants are sprawling annuals with green, lily pad leaves and flowers that can be yellow, orange, or red. They are relatively easy to grow and do well in containers or as ground cover. For those with vegetable gardens, nasturtiums are also a great companion plant to draw aphids and other pests away from your veggies. The leaves, pods, and flowers of nasturtium plants are all edible and are known for their distinct, peppery flavor. The bright, mustard-like taste of these beautiful flowers goes well with things like goat cheese, citrus, beets, and walnuts.
To use your nasturtiums in the kitchen, consider garnishing a salad, working them into a compound butter, or making nasturtium salt (see recipe below).
Borage, also known as starflower, is an annual herb with periwinkle, star-shaped flowers that attract beneficial pollinators to your garden and will self seed if left alone year to year. Both the leaves and flowers of the borage plant are edible and have a light, cucumber-like flavor. For a colorful flourish, consider using borage flowers as a garnish for any dish that needs a little pop or freeze them into ice cubes for a refreshing surprise.
Another flower that you may already have in your garden that can be used as an effortless garnish is the bachelor’s button. These plants are easy to grow from seed and can tolerate a range of soil conditions. They often come in shades of purple, pink, and magenta, and are known for their pincushion flower tops and bushy plant shape. Their subtly vegetal and sweet flavor makes them adaptable to many dishes. Try adding them on top of an unbaked focaccia along with other edible flowers and watch how they turn your bread into an embossed masterpiece!
With its subtle licorice flavor and bright sweetness, dill is a fantastic herb to grow among other culinary herbs. But before too long, those feathery, dark green leaves will bolt, leaving you with long stalks and clusters of yellow flowers, but fear not! Even dill flowers can be used to infuse dill flavor in whatever you’re cooking. You may be familiar with the use of dill flowers in making dill pickles, but you can also use them as a garnish, dry them for later, or add them to your kitchen table bouquet for a delicious aroma.
Those who plant zucchini and yellow summer squash in their home gardens know just how fruitful they can be, but these plants have another culinary surprise hiding in plain sight. Squash blossoms are also edible and can be harvested for all sorts of uses. My personal favorite is to stuff them with goat cheese and herbs, coat with bread crumbs, and fry them. But you can also dip these blossoms in a simple batter and shallow fry them for a crispy side dish for any meal. To ensure the continued success of your squash plant, harvest only a few blossoms at a time, and select for the male blossoms (the ones with longer stems).
Nasturtium Salt Recipe
(adapted from sustainableholly.com)
1 cup of nasturtium flowers
½ cup of sea salt
Gather and dry nasturtium flowers by either letting them sit in the sun or putting them through a dehydrator.
Mix dried flowers and salt and pulse in a spice grinder until to your desired consistency.
Pour into a clean, dry jar and add to any dish for a peppery pop!
Stuffed Squash Blossoms Recipe
(adapted from bonappetit.com)
Makes 4 servings
6 ounces ricotta
2 ounces grated mozzarella or fresh goat cheese
2 ounces parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp chopped chives
8 squash blossoms
1 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
2 cup eggs
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix cheese and chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pipe or spoon filling into blossoms.
Place breadcrumbs in an open dish. Lightly beat eggs in another dish.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Dip blossoms in egg, then breadcrumbs.
Cook, turning once, until golden, about 4 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and season with salt.