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Have Your Flowers and Eat Them, Too

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It often seems like avid gardeners fall into one of two camps: those who grow decorative flowers, and those who grow food. Or at least, those who grow flowers here and food over there, but — some of you might already know this — planting flowers and vegetables together can actually create a healthier and more balanced organic garden, and many blooms are, in fact, edible! Here are six flowers that double as decoration and food:

Marigolds

These sunset-colored flowers can be spicy, peppery, or tangy in flavor, and they’re sometimes reminiscent of ritzy saffron. Marigold petals can be eaten fresh or dried in a variety of foods, from breads and soups to salads and omelettes. The plants themselves are hardy and easy-to-grow, requiring the most primitive of soil, and they’re capable of withstanding a wide range of temperatures. Bonus: They’ll vanquish mosquitoes from your midst.

Plant: Late May and June

Harvest: July through early October

Dandelions

Okay, so, most of us consider these butter-colored daisy cousins to be weeds. But if you’ve got ‘em, you may as well make the most of them, because they’ve got a lot to offer. Dandelions are remarkably edible from top to bottom. Young dandelion buds have a sweet flavor, while mature flowers taste bitter. Leaves may be eaten steamed or raw, and the roots can be roasted and used to brew a caffeine-free coffee alternative that helps eliminate toxins from the body and strengthens your immune system.

Plant: N/A (No need to plant them; they will appear.)

Harvest: Roots in winter or early spring; leaves when young and tender

Tulips

Did you know that the Ottoman Empire went through a phase called the Tulip Period? The tulip is a positively regal flower – and it also happens to be tasty. While tulip bulbs can be hazardous to consume, the petals are totally safe to eat. Tulip petals vary in taste, but generally, they’ll remind you of sweet lettuce, peas, or cucumbers. The flavor is said to unfold like that of wine. Pink and white flowers taste sweeter, while red and yellow-hued blooms have a more intense flavor. They make a great garnish, so we suggest you make the prettiest tacos anyone’s ever seen. Tulips are also pretty resilient, so as long as you don’t drown them, they should come back year after year.

Plant: September through November

Harvest: March through May

Geraniums

Scented geraniums are the entertainers of the floral world. They mimic the scents (and flavors) of other sprouts such as roses, lemons, and even spices like nutmeg. Often sweet in flavor or scent, they make a delicious addition to desserts. Try sprinkling some lemon-scented geraniums over vanilla bean ice cream – yummm. Of course, they are equally as capable of playing a savory role in soups and sauces.

Plant: May through July

Harvest: July through October

Sunflowers

It’s a little-known fact that you can eat just about every part of a sunflower, in any stage of its life. Here’s how: Harvest young sprouts and eat them whole; throw mature leaves into your salad; swap artichokes out for steamed sunflower buds — serve with butter; use petals to add a complex, bitter flavor to vegetable dishes; or, of course, eat the dried seeds. You can even press the seeds for oil and use it for cooking. Who knew that these boisterous beauties were so versatile?

Plant: Late May and early June

Harvest: July through October

Roses

Roses are the quintessential garden bloom, and they are so highly respected in the herb community (yes, you know it’s a real thing) that the International Herb Association named them Herb of the Year in 2012. Rose petals contain small amounts of Vitamin C – though not nearly as much as antioxidant-packed rose hips, which can be used to make teas, spreads, syrups, and straight-up medicines for treating stuff like the flu. Rose petals can be steeped in tea that’s said to reduce stress and anxiety, boost your immune system, and deliver antioxidants, which keep your skin and hair healthy – among other things. Rose petals can taste quite sweet and fruity, and make a great ice cream topping or cake ingredient. Bon appétit!

Plant: May and June

Harvest: Late June through early November


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