Roses are Sweet, Violets are Healthy!

Everyone knows the nursery rhyme, “roses are red, and violets are blue,” but many do not know about the nutritional value of edible flowers, in addition to their beauty and delightful fragrance Here, we will discuss four common edible flowers that grow easily in the cooler months of Houston and provide key nutrients to stay healthy and active.

The Calendula flower, a member of the marigold family, and its petals are high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and help with digestive pain relief. When sautéed in olive oil it has a similar taste to saffron. To grow them, plant Calendula seeds in late November to enjoy the flowers in late winter and spring. Collect dried flowers and its seeds and save them to grow again next fall.

The Onion Chive flower is violet, and tastes similar to onions. This flower provides nutrients such as calcium and potassium for your nervous system, beta-carotene for your vision, vitamin K to improve your blood circulation and folic acid which helps prevent anemia and decrease hypertension. Growing onion chives from seed is very easy. You can start the seed indoors in a dark, warm space (60 to 70 F). When plants are about 6 inches tall, transplant outdoors to a sunny area after the last frost. Leave a couple of dried flowers to save the seeds for next year.

Squash Blossoms are a favorite because of their sweet and delicate taste. They are a rich source of vitamin B9 which supports our bodies to transform what we eat into energy for our day-to-day activities. To grow squash and its blossoms, plant seeds in a sunny space outdoors in late February and keep the soil moistened and rich with organic matter. Harvest male blossoms which will grow on a long stem away from the center. Try coating them with panko and pan frying filled with ricotta cheese and mint. You will be surprised!

Violets and plant leaves are sweet and high in vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is important to protect your bones and reproductive system, and it also improves respiratory capacity. Vitamin C on the other hand, supports the production of collagen, iron absorption and wound healing. You can add flowers to salads, sautée with veggies or steep as a tea. To enjoy violet flowers in Houston, we recommend buying them at a nursery in November and planting them in a partly sunny, partly shady spot with good access to water and rich soil.  Violets will often produce seeds in spring and start growing again in the cooler days of fall.

Another favorite and easy-to-grow edible flower are nasturtiums which have a peppery-radish taste that will add a great flavor boost to your salads. Highly nutritious, nasturtiums have good levels of vitamin C to support your immune system, iron, and vitamins B1, B2 and B3 that help your body to assimilate proteins, increasing your body’s energy! Nasturtium plants thrive in Houston’s cool weather seasons so you may see them in the spring climbing, cascading or in bushes everywhere! To grow them, plant seeds in late November and maintain moist soil in a morning sun location. After they finish flowering and the weather gets too warm, the plants will form seed pods so be sure and collect these to plant in your fall garden.

These are just a few of the edible flowers that grow easily in the cool days of winter and spring.  As with any new food, we suggest that you taste a sample first to avoid any allergic or digestive issues.  To start your garden of herbs and flowers, take our FREE Webinar: Herbs for Small Spaces and Containers by Sherry Cruse.

Paula Balbontin grew up on a farm in Chile.  She is passionate about using our creative human capacity, affordable technologies, and new education models to build sustainable solutions for growing healthy food in Houston.