I know it might be a bit too early in the year for most to start thinking about summer gardening, but I've been doing lots of planning for our kitchen beds lately. I'm very happy to report that Worthy's new(ish) chef has taken a special interest in our garden beds and has lots of great ideas to contribute. He himself owned and managed a quaint restaurant on the Oregon coast and grew much of his own produce before moving out to Central Oregon. It's very exciting to have some one in tune to what we can and can't grow in our climate while balancing that with the restaurant's needs. And we're always looking for ways to maximize efficiency. So we have decided to cut back on the amount of greens we grow and amp up our edible flower production. While we already have a few growing in the garden (chives, lavender, thyme), we're going to pack many more varieties into the front bed so visitors can be greeted with a riot of color on their way in. And edible flowers are much more expensive and hard-to-find than salad greens, so we'll be cutting food costs along with making our dishes more unique and beautiful.
Wondering what you can and can't eat? Always be careful when eating wild plants - or even plants in your own garden. Poisonous varieties can look very similar to non-poisonous varieties, and not all parts of an edible plant are necessarily edible. For example, while elderberry blossoms and berries are okay to eat, the rest of the plant is not. So make sure you identify correctly! And never eat a plant that has been sprayed with pesticides (unless labeled safe for edible crops). That means flowers from garden centers, nurseries, and florists are usually unsafe - as well as flowers picked along a roadside. Lastly, introduce edible flowers slowly into your diet. Eating too much too soon will upset your digestive system, and no one wants that.
Below you'll find a list of the most common edible flowers that grow either as annuals or perennials in our climate. You might already have some of these in your yard. Most are very easy to find at local garden centers, and if you are renting or don't have a yard, they can easily be planted into containers for easy transport. Get the printable version here.
* Day lilies may act as a diuretic or laxative, so enjoy in moderation
** Don't confuse Pisum species with ornamental sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), which are poisonous
Lisa Kronwall, WGC Horticulturist