The flower power of Nasturtiums – More than just a pretty face! Edible flower gardening

Nasturtium – A real power flower!

Did you know? Edible flowers contain many vitamins and minerals. They’re rich in nectar and pollen, too.

When I was a little girl, I remember quite clearly a time when my Mom grabbed a daffodil away from my hand (that I’d just picked from her garden), and was about to shove in my mouth to eat.  I have two points to make about this little flashback.

1) NEVER eat anything from the garden unless you know it’s okay! (Daffodils are NOT okay, and your Mom will agree).

2) For some reason, I’ve always looked at flowers in a way that some people look at a big juicy steak!

Years later, now with a garden of my own, (and a bit of knowledge thankfully), I grow flowers that not only attract pollinators, but some I can eat, and so can you!

Rose hips & Lavender

For the rose connoisseur, rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C and may contain up to 50 times more of this vitamin than you’d find in an orange. In this post however, I’d like to talk about Nasturtiums.

I’ve grown these pretty, eye-catching flowers for many years so they’ll trail along the front of my garden border. But the best part is that this plant is edible.

It’s fairly well known that the flower can be used in salads and stir fry’s. With a slight peppery flavour, it reminds me of watercress. More than just tasty, nasturtium flowers are high in vitamin C., (about the same amount you’d find in parsley), and in addition, they contain the highest amount of lutein found in any edible plant.

Lutein is a natural carotenoid found in orange-yellow fruits/flowers, leafy vegetables like kale, (carrots of course), and egg yolk. (A flamingo’s diet is rich in carotenoids which gives them the pink plumage that makes them so beautiful!)

In our eyes, carotenoids are present in macular pigments, where their importance in aiding against ocular disease is currently under clinical research. So eat your plants. 🙂

Saving Nasturtium seeds

I save nasturtium seeds to plant more next year, but I also harvest some unripe pods to create condiments, especially spiced herbal vinegars.

For this recipe, simply steep them in a jar of vinegar for a week or two, along with any other herbs you like for additional flavour, (shake daily), then strain and bottle. It’s really that easy!

The leaves are also rich in vitamin C, and in addition, they contain a sulphur compound that apparently offers an excellent anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antibiotic source when eaten.

Nasturtiums, Hollyhocks, Scarlet Runner beans

Edible flowers should be picked in late morning after the dew has gone, but before the sun is high in the sky. Pick the fully open flowers.

Never eat any flower that’s been in contact with chemicals or other poisons such as pesticides or herbicides. Organic is always the way to go! If you grow it yourself, you know it’s safe for your family. Otherwise, the local farmers’ market is another great source to find healthy food.

Much like growing grapes for making wine, flowers of the same variety, but grown in different locations, will have a slightly different taste.

This ‘terroir‘ as it’s called, (and I just love this word!) 🙂 is pronounced tĕr-wär′. It offers the complete set of local conditions where a particular fruit, vegetable, or herb, (cheese & other hand crafted food), is produced, including the soil-type, weather conditions, topography, obtains its individual character.

Flowers and foliage may taste a little different at the end of the growing season too, and can vary from year to year. Think of dandelion leaves which for me, always taste best in spring.

And, the best part you ask? Flowers are mostly free of calories!

Once more

Do NOT eat ANYTHING from the garden if you aren’t absolutely sure you know what it is first! – Thank you!

More edible flowers

Bee balm
Borage
Calendula
Chamomile
Chive flowers
Dandelion
Daylily
Lavender
Lilac
Marigold
Mint
Nasturtium
Pansy
Rose hips
Sage
Squash blossom
Violet

Have fun experimenting, and happy gardening! ~ Karen

Milkweed and Monarchs #ThursdayThoughts

What more can I add to the already enormous amount of factual information & interesting literature in cyberspace, stating why we should plant milkweed in the garden to help Monarch butterflies?!

Not much, I admit…

(Sharing those links below).

In any case, I’ll try to promote the idea by sharing here how this past summer, I let the milkweed roam & grow where they liked.

Did I mention their scent is lovely? Well, it really is. -> Next year, take a snootful and see (smell) for yourself what I mean.

Rarely, but on occasion, the ‘o.c.d./weeding/tidy up the garden’ gardener in me, reached in towards the flower beds in order to pluck a few out.

But, I came to my senses and resisted… then scolded myself in the process.

Glad I restrained myself, because when it comes right down to it, what is a garden really for?

Our personal enjoyment yes, but also to encourage and help the other beings on this planet thrive, be they insects, birds, or mammals.

At the end of the season I was duly rewarded with plenty of seeds pods that burst forth in a spectacular fashion! Truly, they are nature’s understated fireworks.

So, I collected many seed pods and dried them in order to scatter those seeds all around our property next spring.

Here’s hoping it helps our winged friends, even a little bit, and that many of them will visit me next year.

Just some thoughts on a snowy winter day. 🙂

Further reading

Nature Watch Canada

National Wildlife Federation

PBS 

Monarch Watch

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The Musk Mallow, or Malva moschata for Flowering Friday

Widely grown as an ornamental plant for its attractive and slightly scented flowers, the musk mallow blooms throughout the summer.

Several cultivars have been selected for variation in flower colour, including the one shown here from my garden, ‘Rosea’, with its dark pink flowers.  The cultivar ‘Alba’ (white flowered) earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Though not native to North America, (more Eastern European/Central Asia), I consider it an heirloom plant because it’s been in cultivation for a long time, as you can see from the hand-coloured botanical engraving below from the 1700’s.

Pretty colour, lovely scent, drought tolerant, and the bees love them… The musk mallow ticks all the right boxes when I’m choosing flowers for my garden! 🙂

 

Anemones & Asters for #FridayFlowers

The Poppy – remembrance and symbolism of things past

As humans, we’ve been creating symbolism with flowers and plants since time immemorial.

Flowers can convey messages that we can’t always speak. They represent every sentiment one could think of, and as a floral designer, I’ve always been fascinated by this partnership between humans and the language of flowers.

With Remembrance Day upon us, I began to consider our link to the Poppy.

It ended up that I dug quite a bit further back in history than World War I & II.

I discovered an enormous amount of interesting information about the evolution of the poppy, and how it’s played a part in tandem with humanity over the centuries.

Probably the best known Poppy is the Papaver somniferum, which is the opium Poppy. It was domesticated by indigenous people from Western and Central Europe between 6000 and 3500 BC.  It’s believed that the use of opium may have originated with the ancient Sumerian people.

Papaver somniferum L. is one of the oldest cultivated plants with the hypothesis that this particular poppy is derived from the species Papaver setigerum, which grows wild along the Mediterranean region.

Western Asia is also considered the center of poppy’s origin. The oldest documented traces of poppies in Europe come from the Neolithic period, as evidenced by poppy seeds found in the Alps.

The ancient Egyptians of the eighteenth dynasty created containers made in the shape of poppies. These Juglets as they’re called, have been found with trace amounts of opium still inside.  The flower also appears on jewelry and other art objects from that era, and opium seemed to offer a ritual significance as its use was generally restricted to priests.

Poppies and opium then made their way around the known world via the Silk Road. In Turkey, the poppy has been a traditional plant since 3,000 BC, and the city Afyon in central Anatolia (Turkey) was named after them. “Afyon” in Turkish means “opium.”

The Wizard of Oz – Chapter 8

According to L. Frank Baum, (who we all know as the author of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz), Poppies were mentioned in Greco-Roman myths as offerings to the dead.

The origin of the Poppy (Papaver) was attributed by the ancient Greeks to Ceres, who, despairing of regaining her daughter Proserpine, carried off by Pluto, created the Poppy in order that by ingesting it she might obtain sleep, and thus forget her grief.

The ancients considered the Papaver Rhæa, or Corn-Rose, so necessary for the prosperity of their Corn, that the seeds of this Poppy were offered up in the sacred rites of Ceres, (aka Demeter) whose garland was formed with Barley or bearded Wheat interwoven with Poppies.

Demeter rejoiced, for her daughter was by her side. Illustration by Walter Crane – (1914) – Public Domain

Ceres/Demeter is sometimes depicted holding Poppies in her hand. The quieting effects of the Poppy, which were well known to the Greeks, probably led them to represent the deities Hypnos (Sleep), Thanatos (Death), and Nyx (Night), either as crowned with Poppies, or holding Poppies in their hands.

A Minoan goddess represented as a terracotta figurine was discovered by archaeologists. With raised hands and seeds of opium poppies on her head, this female figure, known popularly as the poppy goddess, is thought to be a representation as the bringer of sleep or death.

Greek youths and maidens proved sincerity to their lovers by placing a petal or flower-leaf of the Poppy in one hand, which, on being struck with the other hand, was broken with a sharp sound, which denoted true attachment. If it failed to snap, that meant unfaithfulness. This superstition passed to Rome, and is still practiced in modern Italy and Switzerland.

Currently, many poppy seeds come to market from the European Union, and plantations are also located in China and Australia. In Slavic countries, the poppy seed is a traditional culinary delicacy.

In any case, there seems to be a relationship between Poppies and conflict.

The field poppy, Papaver rhoeas, on which the remembrance poppy is based, has long been associated with armies fighting in Europe.

The flowers often overgrew the mass graves left by battles, and this has been documented, at least back to a 1693 battle in the Netherlands between the French and English, as well as the battle of Waterloo, and of course WWI, where the enormous artillery bombardments completely disrupted the landscape. This destruction infused chalk soils with lime, and the Poppy thrives in that environment where their vivid colour can’t be missed in contrast to the surrounding disfigured terrain.

In closing, the themes for the poppy across the centuries, are for the most part nods to the underworld, sleep, funeral rites, and death, which seems like an appropriate symbol for all of the people who’ve died fighting wars.



Grow note

Poppy seeds like the cool of early spring or autumn to be planted.
They don’t like to be transplanted due to their rather long taproot. If you must move a Poppy, make sure to get as much soil around them as possible. Otherwise, it dries out in no time and you’re left with a dead plant. I say this from personal experience. : (
They sure are showy once they’re established. A real treasure in the garden!

Field of red poppies – S. Shelton, Postcard, ca 1903 Public Domain