Edible Flowers & How To Grow Them
July 12, 2019 Virginie Maenhout By Virginie Maenhout Follow

Edible Flowers & How To Grow Them

Have you ever thought about growing edible flowers? It’s pretty easy. We asked some experts, and here’s how treating edible florals like vegetables and loving them as herbs makes growing them pretty and easy.

How are edible flowers grown?

For farmers, it all starts on a flower field, where the soil is tested for optimal pH levels and fertility. The land used by farmers to grow edible flowers is often a remaining strip of other agricultural crops, usually vegetables or fruits.1 Through edible flower cultivation, the grower optimises land use, both in a greenery and out in the field.2

Often seeds are pre-sowed and cultivated indoors. Once the last frost is over, the seeds are transplanted outside. During the sowing period, the same fertilisers used for vegetable production are also used on edible flowers. Once the sowing is over, the seeds are regularly watered.1

Stay away from non-organic pesticides

The golden rule in edible flower farming is never use non-organic pesticides. Instead, edible flowers should be grown organically with just four ingredients: the sun, soil, organic fertilizers and water.

Only legally authorised fertilizers for organic agriculture (like biopesticides) can be used on edible flowers. For example, rapeseed oil extract can be used to limit damages caused by insects. Naturally, the maximal limit of use needs to be respected at all times.3,4 You can find the list for Belgium here

Some helpful insects (like ladybugs) can also be used as natural fertilizers to get rid of pests.1,3 And any wilted flowers should be removed by hand to allow fresh ones to grow. This way, the plant can maximise its energy use for the growth of new flower buds, otherwise lost in seed production of wilted flowers. 

When to harvest edible flowers

The window to pick edible flowers is very narrow. Just like fruit, you should only pick the flowers that are not under- or overripe.4 The best time to harvest them is early in the morning, right after the dew has dried and the flowers are fully opened.1

You will find the flowers in optimal shape: full of water, but not sticky and not warmed up by the sun yet. They are moist enough and have not yet been pollinated, which improves their shelf life.

Ready-to-eat flowers should also have remaining dirt and insects brushed off. You don’t even need to wash them, as washing will not benefit the quality— unless they are completely covered by mud after a heavy rainfall.4

Storing edible flowers

In an ideal world, edible flowers should be used right after harvesting. If this isn’t possible, some measures should help to keep them in optimal shape as long as possible.1

Here are 3 effective edible flower storage tips:1,5,4

  • Keep in form, store in a plastic container away from sunlight
  • Keep fresh, store in a refrigerator just like any other food
  • Keep humid, store on top of moist paper

Tip: Plastic actually gives just the right amount of thickness and respiration to store your edible flowers and let them breathe. But of course, try to limit your plastic waste as much as possible and reuse when you can.

Growing your own edible flowers

Sounds easy right? Edible flowers are extremely resilient as you’ll discover with calendulas or violas. Even if you have poor skills to keep plants alive, nature’s got you covered.2 So there’s no need to worry if you don’t have an open field in your disposition. You can also grow them inside before a window, or on your balcony in a flowerpot or hanging basket.

If you try this at home, leave us a progress picture in the comments below!

July 12, 2019 Virginie Maenhout By Virginie Maenhout Follow
July 12, 2019 Virginie Maenhout By Virginie Maenhout Follow

References

  1. Kelley, K. (2007). A Consumer's Guide to Edible Flowers. Penn State Extension. Accessed 15th April 2019.
  2. Blindeman, L. (2017). Algemene teelttips voor eetbare bloemen [General Tips For Edible Flowers Cultivation]. Proefcentrum voor sierteelt. Accessed on 12th April 2019.
  3. Blindeman, L. (2017). Gewasbescherming eetbare bloemen [Crop Protection Edible Flowers]. Proefcentrum voor sierteelt. Accessed on 12th April 2019.
  4. Blindeman, L. & Van Beule, Y. Personal communication. 3th May 2019.
  5. Macdonald, M. (2019). List of Edible Flowers. WestCoastSeeds. Accessed on 15th April 2019.