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

Nasturtium – A real power flower!

Did you know?ย 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.ย  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 fryโ€™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 flamingoโ€™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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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!) ๐Ÿ™‚ is pronounced tฤ•r-wรคrโ€ฒ. 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 thisย 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Further reading

Nature Watch Canada

National Wildlife Federation

PBSย 

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.ย  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! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Saving Seeds – Food and gardening biodiversity

Everyone can save seeds!

Beginners and experienced gardeners can easily learn how.

I’d like to offer a few reasons on why we should save our seeds.

1) Saving seeds appeals to my motto of “waste not want not”.

I hate to see anything good go unused, and the economical reasons alone, especially in today’s financial climate, makes a ton of sense.
Seed savers knows that by gathering up seeds and storing them carefully away for next year’s garden is preservation for next year’s crop, and less money to fork out.

2) Personal selection.

I like the thought of developing my own vigorous strains over several seasons of selective seed saving. By saving seeds from the plants with the qualities you most prize, you will soon have varieties that are ideally adapted to your garden and growing conditions.

3) Maintain biodiversity.

This is likely the most important reason.

Fewer and fewer old varieties of food crops are available, so seed saving keeps the vegetable world’s food choices diversified.
Today many of the world’s food plants are disappearing, including vegetables, grains and fruit varieties.

Approx. 70 % of the world’s major food plants have already been lost. This is because modern agriculture practices require high yield, uniform plants, so the genetic base of the world’s food plants has been greatly reduced. This has left the world dependent on a few, closely related varieties of each crop.

4) Historical value.
Many plant varieties we save or trade are living links to the past.
Seed saving is a way to link with our ancestors. As gardeners, this is a responsibility and opportunity to pass these wonderful heirlooms to future generations.

5) Sustainability.

Many big companies sell varieties that are tasteless, but travel well. That’s not a good enough reason for me. Self reliance is very satisfying. It is our right to save seeds and make sure that there is enough variety on the planet which makes for biodiversity. It’s the cycle of life.

The thing is, we don’t need gigantic corporate conglomerates holding all the cards, or whittling down our choice of food or flowers.

These big companies, (I don’t have to mention names here), make most of their money, (their sole goal), selling toxic chemicals to spray produce with, on food that we ingest.

I’ll never be convinced this aim of theirs benefits us or any other form of life on earth, including the smallest microbes in soil.

Consider shopping locally if you can! Farmers’ markets & local festivals are a great place to start. Many locally based businesses carry organically sourced goods from small producers in their region, and of course almost anything can be acquired online.


For more information visit:

Seeds Of Diversity

Canada’s Heritage Seed Program – A non-profit group of gardeners who save seeds from rare and unusual garden plants for the purpose of preserving varieties – Purchase the manual – “How to Save Seeds” from their website!

Navdanya

Vandana Shiva on Seed Saving – “The desire to save seeds comes from an ethical urge to defend life’s evolution” says Vandana Shiva, activist, author and scholar.

150,000 farmers in India have committed suicide in areas where seed has been destroyed…where they have to buy the seed every year from Monsanto at a very high cost.

Saving seeds is crucial now for our farmers, for the plant varieties and species that will otherwise be extinct, for the health of the land and ourselves.

Seed Savers (U.S.A.)

“Since 1975, we have grown, saved, and shared heirloom seeds and led a movement to protect biodiversity and preserve heirloom varieties. At the heart of our organization is a seed bank that houses a collection of 20,000+ rare, open-pollinated varieties.”


Sweet Peas are ‘Scentsational’ Flowers

This lovely climber is an old time favourite.

Sweet Peas have been cultivated, at least since the 17th century, were immensely popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and are native to the eastern Mediterranean region.

Every year I grow a few in my garden, if only for an occasional pick-me-up from a snootfull of their heavenly fragrance. ๐Ÿ™‚

If I could bottle the scent of Lathyrus odoratus to enjoy all winter, you can bet I would!

If like me, you like to get the jump on spring, I recommend preparing the ground this time of year for next year’s planting. Top dress the garden, and dig in some sheep manure, which helps to draw roots down deeper in the ground, resulting in less watering overall, happier seedlings, and healthier plants.

Sweet Pea flowers come in many shades. This includes purple, pink, blue, white, and bi-colours, too. Pollinators enjoy the flowers, and I am able to enjoy the Hummingbirds and bees when they visit and pollinate the sweet peas for me.

Sweet Peas are a great cut flower, and perfect for bridal bouquets.

I worked as a floral designer at a wonderful flower shop in Toronto, and a few days before I was married, one of our wholesale flower reps gave me a bunch of these lovelies as a wedding gift.ย  As my wedding bouquet was already created, I took them instead to my grandmother’s grave and left them there for her. A token of how much she would be missed… But I digress!

A couple of years ago, I broke down and bought a perennial sweet pea plant, Lathyrus latifolius.

A vigorous climber, it seemed very happy to attach itself to the obelisk my better half built for me. It’s very hardy in this zone 4 of Ontario, and a prolific bloomer, too. This year it grew taller and thicker than last, which as a gardener, was good to see!

I did note however, that annual sweet peas have a much stronger scent than the perennial version. Of course that might just be the variety I’m growing, but in any case, both are beautiful, and very welcome in my garden!

It is worth mentioning that ornamental sweet peas can be toxic if ingested, so don’t eat them!

They’re not edible like their Pea cousins, Pisum sativum, which by the way have similar flowers, but the bonus of edibles for dinner!

Or, if you’re like me, eaten directly from the plant while standing next to them in the garden. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Of interest, within the language of flowers, the Sweet Pea means “Everlasting, or delicate pleasures”, and, along with the daisy, they’re the birth month flower for April.

House and Garden – Mayflower, ca 1902