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Edible Flowers for Salad Colour

Edible Flowers for Salad Colour

Edible flowers will make your salad sing

Tired of the same old salads with the usual veggies in their usual colours? Add some colour straight from your garden and make your salad sing! 

Some garden ornamentals are poisonous, but others are edible and downright tasty. Telling which ones are edible takes a wee bit of knowledge and some caution, but if you know what you are doing, the rewards can be memorable.

GENERAL WARNING: Do not eat anything from a nursery or commercial greenhouse. There is a high likelihood of such plants having been sprayed with unsavory pesticides. But if you buy these plants as seedlings or seeds, once they sprout and flower, you will have your own ready supply and we have many excellent plant, seedling and heirloom seed providers in the Garden Shop and under Gardens in the Eco Directory.

A few edible flowers that are safe and easy to recognize:

Violets (Viola), including pansies (Viola tricolor), but not including African violets (Saintpaulia). The leaves and flowers of violets are edible raw. They don't have much taste, but useful as filler to put between the other items. The flowers come in several colours: white, yellow, blue, red, and violet.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum) is a wonderful addition to a salad. Nasturtiums are a trailing herb with horizontal stems. Their leaves are round and peltate, meaning that the petiole (leaf stalk) is attached to the centre of the blade instead of off to one side.  Flowers are bright yellow, orange, red or blue depending on which species you have. All parts of Nasturtium plants are edible, juicy and delectable. They have a flavor similar to that of black pepper, though not as strong. Thus you can add some pizzazz as the same time you add color. 

Ornamental onions (Allium). Botanists recognise over 900 species of Allium in the world, including onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots. Dozens of species are cultivated as ornamentals because of their pretty flowers, arranged in a display called an umbel, in which all the flowers reach out in different directions from one central location . Most wild species have pink or purple flowers, but some have white, yellow, or blue. These are all edible and can be used in salads, stir-fries, or other dishes.

Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) are my absolute favourite plant. They grow anywhere, are virtually impossible to kill and have the most divine purple flowers. You can eat both the leaves and the flowers.

Imagine growing one of the blue-flowered species in your garden, then serving your guests a salad with tiny blue flowers scattered around in it. Check with your local nursery to find out which species are available in your area; seeds for others might be obtained by post.

Probably the most spectacular is the giant onion, Allium giganteum. It is native to Iran, with flowering stalks up to 150 cm tall.  At the top is a huge spherical umbel 20-30 cm in diameter containing hundreds of blue or purple flowers.

Almost all of the 900 species have the distinctive onion/garlic aroma, although it does vary slightly from species to species. One species from Japan and China has the official scientific name Allium inutile (literally, “useless onion”) because it has no scent at all. But most of the rest of the 900 do. Indeed, that is the best way to make sure you are not picking something poisonous by mistake. No other onion plant besides Allium has this smell.

You can find Aussie grown & sourced traditional and heirloom seeds, at Green Seed Tasmania, Boondie Seeds - Armidale or in  Victoria, The Seed Collection

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