Learn how to use edible flowers to jazz up dinners

Now is your chance to try something different for your dinner plate — edible flowers and, of course, colorful vegetables. That’s right, turn your flower garden into an edible garden or better still, combine your flowers and vegetables for a unique and different type of meal. This is especially true if you plan on having guests over for a big feast this fall. Your guests will talk about it for years. I went to an edible flower conference and flowers were a major part of every meal.

Flowers bring lively flavors, colors and textures to salads, soups, casseroles, and other dishes. It sounds a little exotic, but there is evidence of these delicacies dating back to the Stone Age. Archaeologists have evidence of ancient people eating flowers, with roses used the most. In fact, many of the flowers we grow today were originally chosen for their attributes of aroma and flavor, not their beauty.

How about coming to an edible flowers and colorful vegetables seminar with Cyndi Dixon of the Springs Preserve and me? We will provide you with all the ins and outs of what to include in this new kind of fall garden. Dixon is putting together some very tasty edible flowers for you to enjoy. This memorable occasion takes place at the Springs Preserve, 333 Valley View Blvd., just east of the Meadows Mall, at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 22. Cost for the program will be $9 for nonmembers and $7 for members.

Now, don’t go rushing off to eat every flower you come across. Some might cause some negative reactions — headaches and stomach cramps. And even if some flowers are edible doesn’t necessarily mean they will taste good. Before you go munching through the flower garden, Dixon will have a list of edibles and nonedibles. To help you make your selection, there are a few criteria to keep in mind.

• Positively identify flowers before eating, as some have look-alikes that aren’t edible.

• Don’t eat flowers if you have asthma, allergies or hay fever.

• Only eat flowers that have been grown organically or pesticide free.

• Collect the edible flowers in the early morning or late afternoon.

• Choose flowers at their peak; avoid those that are starting to wilt.

So perk up your garden to make your dishes more colorful and interesting.

Here are some questions that came to me this past week.

Q: How do I control spurge in my lawn? It is taking over and I want to stop it.

A: Right now, all you can do is pull it out. Now, I know you didn’t like that idea. Your nursery sells a product that will kill the weed. Next spring, around President’s Day, apply a herbicide that prevents the spurge from germinating. It is very important that you follow directions or it will be a wasted exercise. It is a very hard weed to eradicate. If you let the weed spew its seeds, it will take years to get under control.

Q: Why did my myoporum plants die? I have been watering it everyday.

A: They most likely died from a soil-born fungus called root rot. There is no way to eliminate this fungus from the soil, but you can reduce the damage with careful irrigation. Myoporum can’t tolerate a lot of pampering, or in this case high soil moisture content, which favors the rot.

Q: How do we get rid of the stump from an old tree?

A: You can dig it out, but you’ll utter words not found in the dictionary before finishing the job, or rent a stump remover and grind it out. Really, the best way is to hire a professional to take it out.

Q: Why didn’t my lemon tree produce lemons this year? Do I need to do much pruning?

A: The late frost last spring most likely killed them, as citrus trees are marginal for our area. Citrus trees don’t require much pruning. Get rid of any dead, diseased wood and remove clutter throughout the tree. And remove those branches drooping down to the ground.

Q: Now that we are getting some relief from the heat, what do we feed our roses?

A: Lee Heenan of the Rose Society says to do the following for each bush:

• Give roses a deep drink of water.

• Apply a balanced rose fertilizer.

• Add a cup of soil sulfur to free up micronutrients.

• Add one-third of a cup of Epsom Salts or magnesium sulfate.

• Add a cup of bone meal.

• Add 1/2 cup of cottonseed meal.

• Lightly scratch nutrients into soil surface around each bush.

• Follow with a deep irrigation to move nutrients to roots.

• Make one more feeding around Halloween, and then no more until next spring.

Q: When do we stop watering pomegranates to prevent fruit from splitting?

A: Stop now and allow fruit to shrink. Late waterings causes skin to expand and split. And just an added note; if they can experience cooler weather while on the bush, the fruit will be sweeter.

Q: It looks like we are going to get our first persimmons. When do you harvest them?

A: We all want to eat persimmons too soon, and if so they are tart. Wait until fruit softens to enjoy and the cooler weather makes fruit sweeter. Persimmons are extremely attractive hanging on limbs after leaves turn yellow, orange or red and drop off. It is a very good ornamental shade tree

Q: I see landscape maintenance companies shearing off ornamental grasses around the valley. Should I also be doing this?

A: Absolutely not. This is a major mistake made by many professional gardeners. If you prune them now, you miss their prettiest stage of growth. Even after they turn a straw color, they still add to the landscape scene. Around Valentine’s Day, cut them back to six inches above ground to stimulate new growth that will quickly covers the stumps.

Q: There is a brown, ugly “thing” in my lawn. It looks like an animal upchucked!

A: It’s a fungus growing on dead and decaying plant material. It is best to assume that all mushrooms and fungal growth are poisonous until positively identified by qualified laboratory personnel. If children or pets are present, remove and discard it.

Q: Can beet seeds be separated?

A: No. Beets seeds are a fruit containing clusters of seeds within the capsule. To overcome this problem, plant the capsule and later thin beets out as they develop. Use the thinnings in salads.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Thursday. You can reach him at lmills@reviewjournal.com or at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve, 822-7754.

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