In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
March, 2006
Regional Report

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Nasturtium flowers are edible as well as beautiful.

Cool-Season Flowers

Cool-season herbs and vegetables, such as dill, broccoli, and mustard greens, have already started to send up flower stalks. Some folks rip the plants out immediately and replace them with something else, but I let nature take its course and watch them bloom.

The yellow, umbel-shaped flowers are magnets for beneficial pollinators. If you observe closely, the flowers resemble busy airports, with takeoffs and landings going on non-stop all day. Most herb and veggie blossoms are edible, though perhaps not as exciting to the human palate as to an insect's (Hmm, do insects have taste buds?). I admit some of them aren't that special, with a flavor best described as "alfalfa-esque." But some are very tasty, imparting the flavor of the parent plant. If nothing else, they are lovely to look at. Toss a few in a salad to wake up your dining companions.

Edible Annuals
After a slowdown for cold weather, winter-blooming annual flowers are perking up. Sweet alyssum, calendulas, geraniums, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, petunias, and nasturtiums are forming fat green mounds studded with color. The fragrance of sweet peas and stocks is recognizable from a distance. I always put a pot of stocks right next to my patio door, so when the screen door is open, the fragrance drifts in, encouraging me to leave the computer for a bit and step outside to enjoy my garden.

Many cool-season flowers are edible, too. Nasturtiums add a sharp, peppery punch to a salad, similar to arugula. Both flowers and the mini lilypad-shaped leaves are edible. And a little bit goes a long way. The best-tasting flower I ever had was a volunteer Johnny-jump-up. It had a distinct zippy flavor, like Beemans gum (if you're old enough to remember that). Calendulas are also edible, but, truthfully, kind of tasteless. Sprinkle a few petals across a plate for color but don't plan on filling up on them for dinner!


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