When talking about the plants that we grow in our polytunnels, we tend to group them into various categories – vegetables, fruit, flowers… we tend to think as the first two categories as the edible crops, and flowers as, essentially, aesthetic additions. But if you are keen on growing and eating food from your polytunnel all year round, it can be helpful to begin to see that flowers can also be edible – more than that, flowers can become a useful food yield from your growing space, as well as providing other benefits like making us feel good, and attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Fruit & Vegetable Crops With Edible Flowers
First of all, thinking about the vegetable crops we grow, it is important to remember that some provide not only their main food source but also have edible flowers.
While in some cases (where we are waiting for fruits to form and removing flowers would reduce the main yield) we may wish to leave the flowers alone, in other cases we may wish to consider eating the flowers as well as harvesting the main food source of the plant.
While we usually harvest the bulbs of onions, for example, some varieties can produce flower heads that should be removed – but not thrown away. Flower heads of various alliums can be delicious additions to a salad. Flower heads beginning to form on brassica like kale/ collard greens or Asian greens like pak choi can be nice in a stir fry. Squash flowers are also a secondary crop that is often overlooked.
Common Ornamental Flowers That Are Also Edible
You may be surprised to learn that many of the common, ornamental plants grown in polytunnels or elsewhere in your garden are also edible. Examples of common edible flowers usually grown for their looks alone are:
- Pot Marigold
There are many more examples, each of which will be treated in a different way, yet all of which can be used in food. Each of the above has its own specific uses in either sweet or savoury recipes. For beginners, it is essential always to be absolutely sure that you are identifying a plant correctly before you eat any, and in case of allergies, to eat only a small amount of anything new the first time you try it.
You may also be surprised to learn that you can eat the flowers of some common weeds. Dandelions, for example, are common and prolific across the UK. You can batter the flowers and fry to make dandelion fritters – just one example of an edible flower recipe that could enliven your diet and help you make the most of everything that grows in your polytunnel and around your garden. If you have any favourite ways to eat edible flowers from your garden, let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.