The Food Reality Blog

Trust in the Power of Nature

Self Sufficiency, Survival Foods, and Edible Flowers in your garden!

Below is a listing of some common edible, annual flowers that are easy to grow as well as tasty. Included are a number of herbs and vegetables that have edible flowers in addition to other edible parts.

Flowers are natural plant foods, and like many plant foods in nature often contain valuable nutrients for your health. For instance, dandelions contain numerous antioxidant properties and flavonoids, including FOUR times the beta carotene of broccoli, as well as lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin. They’re also a rich source of vitamins, including folic acid, riboflavin, pyroxidine, niacin, and vitamins E and C.

Plant a profusion of pollen and nectar-rich edible flowers next to your normal garden plants to naturally control pests, boost pollination, and provide pretty pops of color. Here are some of the best flowers to plant with vegetables….  and tips for planting them in the most convenient locations.

It turns out that flowers are an essential ingredient in establishing a healthy garden because they attract beneficial insects and birds, which control pests and pollinate crops. With bees and other pollinators under a chemical siege these days and their populations in drastic decline, offering chemical-free food sources and safe havens is crucial.

Because you’re reading this, may I suggest getting our monthly newsletter filled with health and beauty remedies made from beautiful garden flowers and plants.  Click this link and sign up.. and as a bonus, receive our FREE 40 page Guide to Edible Flowers packed with over 70 flower identifications and recipes to make beautiful and useful edible flower cakes and goodies!

Envision an Integrated Edible Landscape

Why put money and time into something that’s no good except to make your house “pretty”.  I say.. .if you’re going to take the money and time to plant something “pretty” … Make it USEFUL!

Let your plant choices make a statement. Plant something that is going to give back to you as much (if not hundreds of dollars more) than you put into it.  To me, that makes complete and utter sense.

Let’s say you have a shady backyard, so you decide to create a mini-garden in the sunny front yard highlighting a few Kale and Broccoli plants. Integrating some edible flowers among the vegetables  would impart visual grace while also helping beneficial insects that thrive on pollinating (and eating garden pests).

In addition to bringing in flowers to act as decoy for garden pests, having a few flowers around will give you more control because they can act as a useful barrier. For instance… marigolds “stink” to a hornworm. Hornworms love tomato plants… so the hornworm won’t readily migrate to a tomato plant if there’s a tall, “stinky” marigold blocking the way.

Create Cool Combos of Flowers and Vegetables

To begin establishing your edible landscape, you should plant flowers with a variety of colors and textures, different sizes and shapes, and an overall appealing aesthetic. After you’ve shed the notion that flowers and vegetables must be separated, a surprising number of crop-and-flower combinations will naturally emerge, especially if you keep in mind the following six guidelines.

1. Stagger sizes. Pay attention to the eventual height and width of each flower and food plant (check seed packets and nursery tags), and place them accordingly. Tall plants, for the most part, belong in back. They’ll still be visible, but they won’t block the smaller plants from view or from sunshine. A good rule is to put the taller plants on the north and east sides of your garden, and the shorter ones on the south and west sides.

Because you’re reading this, may I suggest getting our monthly newsletter filled with health and beauty remedies made from beautiful garden flowers and plants.  Click this link and sign up.. and as a bonus, receive our FREE 40 page Guide to Edible Flowers packed with over 70 flower identifications and recipes to make beautiful and useful edible flower cakes and goodies!

2. Consider proportions. A 6-foot-tall sunflower planted next to an 18-inch-tall cabbage would look lopsided. Instead, place plants of graduated heights from tallest to shortest so your eye will travel naturally from one location to the next.

3. Experiment with complementary colors. Use the hues of your edibles — red tomatoes and peppers, yellow squash flowers, purple cabbage and basil — as a starting point. Look for flowers that will highlight those shades, such as bright yellows or soft purples, or choose a hue on the opposite side of the color wheel to provide an unexpected pop. For foliage, experiment with different shades of green to give your landscape more depth.

4. Play with textures and shapes. Pair a sprawling squash with more upright basils. Partner thick-leaved plants with those that don delicate leaves. Surround a straight-edged tipi of runner beans with a bed of rounded dwarf marigolds.

5. Plant for all seasons. Grow plants with a range of different blooming times so something will always be in flower from early spring to late fall. Not only will this mean a feast of colors to enjoy all year, but, more importantly, it will yield a steady source of pollen and nectar for beneficial insects.

6. View your garden holistically. An ideal landscape draws you in with its diversity, and also with repeating elements, whether those elements are plants, shapes, types of containers or beds, colors, or textures. Browse gardening magazines, books and websites for landscapes you like, and substitute some of your favorite edibles for some of the ornamentals. An article on foliage plants might show a container of ornamental coleus, and that same composition may work just as well if you swap in some crimson chard or curly, chartreuse kale. A feature on flowering vines might inspire you to add scarlet runner beans to the mix.

Pick the Best Blooms

Choosing the right flowers for your space is at once simple and complex. It’s simple because there’s a lot of research out there about flowers that attract birds, bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. It’s complex because dozens of flowers appear on those lists, and pinpointing the ones that will work best in your climate and with your vegetables and your overall garden design may take some time.

Keep in mind that different insects are attracted to different flower characteristics, such as color, scent and blossom shape. The more diverse range of flowers you offer them, the more diverse the insect population in your garden will be. Try some plants in the daisy (Asteraceae) family, such as black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Also consider the parsley (Apiaceae) family, especially carrots, cilantro, dill and parsley; the mustard (Brassicaceae) family, including nasturtiums and sweet alyssum; and the mint (Lamiaceae) family, with basil, sage, Victoria salvia and, of course, mint. For a much more comprehensive list of insect-coaxing flowers.

Plants native to your area will naturally attract the insects and birds vital to your ecosystem, so seek out native plants. Try heirloom flowers, too, as they’re often packed with nectar and pollen, and some are wonderfully fragrant. If choosing modern hybrids, look for varieties with those same characteristics. For more flower choices.

Because you’re reading this, may I suggest getting our monthly newsletter filled with health and beauty remedies made from beautiful garden flowers and plants.  Click this link and sign up.. and as a bonus, receive our FREE 40 page Guide to Edible Flowers packed with over 70 flower identifications and recipes to make beautiful and useful edible flower cakes and goodies!

After you’ve enticed plenty of beneficial insects and birds to your garden, you’ll want to keep them there. To do so, first place shallow water sources, such as small birdbaths, around your garden. Second, allow flowers to grow and spread to provide shelter. Third, don’t be too quick to clean things up. Let a few of your herbs, such as basil and parsley, and vegetables, such as broccoli and lettuce, mature to their flowering stage to attract insects. Finally, trust nature to keep things in balance rather than jumping in with controls and chemicals. Be patient, allowing the interactions among flowers, insects and crops time to play out.

I’d like to say that I had an “Aha!” moment when I realized how effectively and elegantly all of this worked. Actually, though, it took a while before I finally understood that, when it comes to flora, what we compartmentalize as “edible” and “ornamental” are in fact an interconnected system, and if you take out the flowers, you’ve removed a critical part. Growing flowers and vegetables together isn’t just a pleasing way to garden — it’s an essential way to garden.

10 of the Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables

I usually choose heirloom annuals because they’re versatile and add substance and height to my plantings. Many popular modern flower varieties are short, so they only work well in front of a border. Plus, some modern varieties — sunflowers, for example — have actually been bred for decreased pollen production so they won’t shed on your tablecloth. (What a terrible breeding project, from the bees’ perspective!) While heirloom flowers tend to work wonderfully in edible landscapes, they’re not always conveniently available at the nearest big-box store. Thankfully, several mail-order sources offer heirloom varieties (see Flower Seed Sources at the bottom of this article), and these plants are usually easy to grow from seed.

So where should you start? After 40-plus years of creating and evaluating edible landscaping combos, I recommend these common flowering plants that provide pollen and nectar for beneficials, plus a few suggested edible companions for each.

Alyssum  Allyssum lobularia

These plants spread along the ground and produce hundreds of tiny flowers that bloom all season. Combine the purple and pink varieties with eggplants and purple varieties of basil, bush beans, lettuce and sprouting broccoli. The white varieties will give a frilly setting for stiff, dark kales, chards, bok choys and red-leafed beets, and fill in nicely between chives, leeks, onions and shallots.

Alyssum is edible! Leaves, young stems, and flowers are used for flavoring in salads or any dish where pungency is desired. The flowers candy well.  The blossom are honey-scented.

Calendulas. Orange, yellow and apricot calendula flowers brighten cool-season vegetable beds filled with beets, broccoli, bush peas, cabbage, carrots, collards, lettuce, kale and parsnips. The tall heirloom varieties grow to 18 inches and are less prone to mildew than the 6-inch dwarf varieties. Bonus: You can save calendula petals for use in teas and natural body care products.

Calendula is edible!  Often confused with marigolds by look, Calendula is the poor man’s saffron. The Calendua’s flavor is similar to saffron, bitter to tangy.

Because you’re reading this, may I suggest getting our monthly newsletter filled with health and beauty remedies made from beautiful garden flowers and plants.  Click this link and sign up.. and as a bonus, receive our FREE 40 page Guide to Edible Flowers packed with over 70 flower identifications and recipes to make beautiful and useful edible flower cakes and goodies!

Coreopsis. This endearing plant is a perennial native to the North American prairie that furnishes a seasonful of sunny yellow flowers held well above its foliage. I give these flowering plants a permanent home near the edge of trellises built for beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Again, I gravitate toward the tall, native variety sold as Coreopsis tinctoria, which I typically stake. The shorter varieties work well in small areas near basil, endive, eggplants, kale, peppers and other short edibles.

Coreopsis tinctoria is edible! A tea can be made from the dried plant. It can be used as a coffee substitute.

Cosmos. I combine the 4-foot-tall ‘Sensation’ cosmos with artichokes and cardoons, and plant the 2- to 3-foot-tall caudatus varieties in front of tomatoes and okra, and next to trellises of cucumbers and beans.

Cosmos caudatus is edible! It has pale pink flowers – but it is mostly grown for its leaves. The young shoots taste refreshing. A friend likened its taste to that of a mango, and he’s right.

Echinacea. A native plant prized for its healing properties and a favorite with bees, this perennial forms clumps of upright leaves and pink-purple, daisy-like blooms off and on all summer. The plant can grow to 4 feet tall and comes in numerous varieties. I plant echinacea at the end of mixed vegetable-and-herb beds, and combine the plants with tall herbs, such as dill, fennel, lovage and sage.

Echinacea is edible! Leaves and flower petals are edible. All parts of the plant have been used in tinctures or other medicinal methods.

Marigolds. My favorite dwarf marigolds are the ‘Gem’ series, which have fine, citrus-smelling foliage and small edible flowers. I use these in front of a trellis full of tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and other climbers…also great to border a bed of bush beans or peppers, for interspersing among kale and other greens, and for surrounding a squash plant or two.

Marigolds are edible! There’s a lot of Internet misinformation about marigolds. All of them are edible from a non-toxic point of view. The more important question is which ones have an agreeable flavor? All of these get the culinary nod: Tagetes lucida, Tagetes patula, andTagetes tenuifolia. Their flavor is citrusy. Usually only the petals are eaten. No green parts.  I also use them for yellow coloring in various dishes. Our three marigolds are called the “poor man’s saffron” along with the Calendula.

Pinapple Sage.  Varieties range from 18 inches to 3 feet tall. While some are perennial, some native sages common to home gardens are often treated as annuals. Interplant them with okra, tall pepper varieties and shorter tomato varieties.

Pinapple Sage is edible! The one you want smells of pineapple, which is why it is called the Pineapple Sage, Salvia elegans. Sometimes it is also called the Tangerine sage. The point is crush a leaf and you will smell pineapple or tangerine. The one you don’t want is Salvia coccinea, also called the Scarlet Sage, the Texas Sage and the Hummingbird Sage. Crush its leaf and it smells grassy or slightly sage-like.  Flowers of the Pineapple Sage, which taste like a hint of pineapple, are quite edible. However, even a quarter-inch square portion of a Salvia coccinea blossom will give you a big stomach ache and make you more than mildly ill.

Image result for Helianthus annuusSunflowers. These cheerful, towering plants attract many beneficials and several varieties offer edible seeds for you, too. Some varieties reach 8 feet and pair well with a patch of corn or behind a planting of large winter squash. The dwarf varieties can be used behind large zucchini plants or a bed of bush beans or soybeans. When choosing varieties, skip any that have been bred to produce little or no pollen.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) are edible! They feature white, yellow, orange, or burgundy flowers. Unopened buds taste like a mild artichoke. Flower petals are bittersweet.

Violas. You can really paint your garden with this family of edible, cool-season annual flowers. Violas come in a pleasing palette of purples, blues and yellows, and their whiskered, up-facing, flat blooms make perfect fillers among members of the cabbage family. They can also accent a geometric bed of lettuces and shine in colorful containers.

Violas are edible! These have violet, white, pink, yellow, or multi-colored flowers with a sweet flavor.

Zinnias. Butterflies adore the blooms of this family of annual flowers, which come in an array of sizes and colors, making them suitable for almost any vegetable combination. Try the dwarf ‘Mexican’ varieties in a bed of chiles, and pair the tall, pastel varieties with artichokes, Brussels sprouts or fennel. Edge a planting of edamame with a mix of dwarf zinnias, and combine these petite varieties in a large container with a mix of basil plants.

Zinnias are edible! On top of that, zinnias are a cut-and-come-again variety of flower, which means the more blossoms you cut, the more it grows and re-blooms. That means blossoms all season long – if that’s not sustainable harvesting, I don’t know what is!

Flower Seed Sources

MOTHER’s Seed and Plant Finder
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Renee’s Garden Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange
Select Seeds

via Wise Pairings: Condensed from: Best Flowers to Plant with Vegetables – Organic Gardening – MOTHER EARTH NEWS.



This entry was posted on May 7, 2015 by in MEDICINAL PLANTS AND HERBS, recipes and tagged , , .
C Katt Krespach, NTP

C Katt Krespach, NTP

C Katt Krespach, NTP is a nutritional therapist and long time activist with a passion for healing arts and social entrepreneurship, …working in both areas for over a quarter of a century. Her site has a worldwide following. is her newest project and coaches brick-and-morter business owners into global social entrepreneurship. She is an author, public speaker, and entrepreneur. You can get Katt’s free edible flowers e-book here and also watch a short documentary on how she overcame neuropathy, significant weight gain, and more with easy, natural and healing mindsets. Follow Katt on Facebook, Wordpress, Twitter, and Instagram.

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