Garden Garden Sense

Of Cabbages and Marigolds Companion Planting #Garden Sense

companion planting cabbage floral

cabbage marigoldWe have all heard of growing herbs in our flowerbeds, but what about growing flowers in our vegetable beds?
Companion planting of roses with chives has been around for a long time.
Many flowers, herbs and vegetables can benefit from inter-planting. Each species brings something to the table, so to speak. Some attract beneficial insects. Others repel harmful insects or curb fungal disease. A side benefit is that many of these plants have edible flowers.
Choosing edible flowering plants, you can add sparkle to a drab vegetable garden. These dots of color mixed among the green shades of vegetable plants can also be an added nutritional bonus. Although most flowers are not a major source of vitamins, some such as rose hips, are high in vitamin C.
There are many ways to use edible flowers. Most soups, salads, cakes, and candies can benefit from tossing in a few well-chosen petals.
Nasturtiums are a mainstay in edible flower gardens. These plants blossom in many colors. Various shades of red, pink, peach, orange, white and yellow can jazz up any menu. Try using nasturtiums as a garnish, stuffed with tuna or egg salad, or sprinkled atop soups or salads for color and texture. The leaves are edible also.
Many herbs have edible flowers. Mints, oregano, basil and marjoram are some examples. The flowers and buds of these plants taste similar to the leaves.
Use the flowers as you would use the leaves to season entrees or desserts.
Marigolds are famous for repelling insect pests, but did you know that they are also edible? Marigolds have a peppery taste when eaten raw in salads or used as edible garnishes.
Sweet violets are another popular choice for eating. Sweet violets should not to be confused with African violets, which are poisonous houseplants.
Johnny-jump-ups when used whole have a wintergreen flavor. Sweet violets can be candied, or used the same as other edible flowers in a variety of dishes.
Lavender is a favorite in cookies and cakes. Lavender adds fragrance as well as flavor. Grow some extra of this multipurpose herb.
Scented geraniums and roses are used in everything from tea to ice cream.
These two edibles are often combined in dishes. Scented geraniums are chosen for their leaves. These plants produce few flowers. Not all varieties are edible. Fuzzy leaved scented geraniums should be avoided.
Check on the edibility of individual kinds before using them.
Rose petals and hips (the fleshy, seed pod of the rose) are among the first edible flowers to sneak into our diet. Rose hips and rose flavored water have been popular ingredients in many herbal teas and were even used in cough drops for many years.
You may already have some edible flowers growing in your vegetable garden.
Squash flowers are edible. Removing some of the flowers, you actually strengthen the plant to produce a better quality squash from the remaining flowers.
If you’re shy about consuming flowers, try a glint of color in your beverages. Daylilies look great floating in punch bowls. Pinks or Dianthus add a lovely touch to drinks. The term “pinks” refers to the species Dianthus since pinks come in many colors and variegation. Remove the leaves then place the flower with the stem attached into the drink. Some edible flowers can be frozen inside ice cubes. Position the flower in an ice cube tray, cover with water and freeze. Plunk some into your favorite iced tea or lemonade at your next party. Watch your guests’ reaction!
But you do need to take precautions. Never eat any flower until you have checked on a poison control list to make sure it is safe. You can call your local poison control center or check your choice with your County Cooperative Extension office.
The flowers should always be washed and absolutely free of pesticides or fertilizers. Never eat flowers without knowing their identity or the source. Flowers purchased from garden centers or florists could contain chemicals used as preservatives and should not be eaten.
Allowing children to experience edible flowers has its rewards and hazards.
Children need to be mature enough to understand that all flowers are not edible. Flowers for consumption should only be harvested under strict adult supervision.
Eating too many flowers can cause stomach upset. Remember to use them in moderation. Allergies can be triggered by pollen on the flower stamens and pistils. If you have allergies it may be best to avoid eating flowers.
Pollen also leaves behind a bitter taste. Always remove these reproductive parts before using any edible flowers.
Following these guidelines can help you develop a new fondness for flowers.
Experiment with varieties that will fit into the light and water needs of your vegetable garden. And who knows, you might find yourself the envy of your neighborhood.

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Cindy's Recipes and Writings

As a professional cook, I love creating exciting new recipes on the job as well as at home. Assisting in teaching low-income families how to buy, store and prepare healthy food through Penn State’s alliance with Pennsylvania’s Supercupboard Program was very rewarding. During my 11 years with the Master Gardener program, I taught horticultural therapy to assisted living patients using healthful, fr
esh grown food as a focal point. . My hands-on programs and instruction helped hundreds of children and adults learn about where their food comes from and how important fresh food is for your body.
Currently I’m a cook at a college in Pennsylvania. We prepare everything we can from scratch, including our potato chips that tout the seasoning of the day!
Of course I write about food; it's in my blood!

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