Edible Flowers Right Under Your Nose

While gardeners rave about the latest blueberry or raspberry, one group of edibles often gets overlooked. Your garden is probably full of them, but they haven’t made it to the kitchen – even though they have centuries of testing to back them up. Edible flowers, courtesy of classic garden plants, are not just pretty garnish on a plate. Though beautiful, they count as worthy recipe ingredients for their texture and taste. Expand your palate, and jazz up your cooking. Get edible flowers on board.

BASICS EDIBLE FLOWERS TO BUILD ON

Common garden classics offer some of the finest edibles. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), simple to grow and harvest, look gorgeous with their brilliant red, yellow and orange blossoms overflowing hanging baskets and containers. They look even better in a meal. With most edible flowers, you eat only the petals. But with nasturtiums, eat the whole flower, the petals, leaves and seeds. Let their peppery flavor kick up green salads a notch, or stir petal ribbons into pastas as you serve.

Lavender blossoms (Lavandula angustifolia) complement dishes from chicken to ice cream. Brilliant-blue, star-shaped borage flowers (Borago officinalis) add panache and a fresh, tangy taste to nearly any dish. Highly scented Old Garden Roses (Rosa spp.) sweeten up butters, soft cheeses, sorbets and frostings. The more intense the fragrance, the sweeter the taste. Flowers from garden classics such as hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), daisies (Bellis perennis), alpine pinks (Dianthus), sunflowers (Helianthus anuus), daylilies (Hemerocallis) and bergamot (Monarda didyma) all add distinctive flair and flavor to cooking. Their fragrances often hint at their taste.

FROM GARDEN TO KITCHEN

Edible flowers beg for experimentation, but start with what you know. Grow from there. Try petals fresh, sautéed or chopped like herbs, and develop your own edible flower style. For most edible flowers, only the petals are edible. Remove the flower whole from its calyx or remove the individual petals. Discard the green parts when you’re done. If the petal has a white portion at its base, it probably tastes bitter. Remove it before adding to food.

Most plants used for teas and culinary seasonings have edible flowers with a similar or complementary taste. Flowers from basil (Ocimum basilicum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and oregano (Origanum vulgare) can be used with their leaves or on their own. Like herbs, edible flowers should be harvested in the morning when flavors are at their peak. Watch out for small native bees that sleep in some blossoms. Shake them out gently before you reach your kitchen door.

EDIBLE FLOWERS | RULES OF THE ROAD

When you create with edible flowers, use wisdom. Not all flowers are edible – no different than inedible or poisonous berries on some plants. Be sure that children understand. Stick to flowers you know, and always identify them by botanical name. Common names refer to vastly different plants from one region to the next.

If you’re allergic to pollen, don’t eat flowers. Always use flowers from your own garden or one you know is pesticide-free. Exercise moderation, as with all good things. What’s tasty in small quantities can cause less-than-pleasant side effects when you overindulge. If you’re uncertain about a flower, don’t use it – no matter how great it looks. Never put a flower on a plate unless you know it is safe to eat.

Dandelion Tea Recipe

Dandelion tea is a delicious drink but lately has taken on a large following with people using it as a dietary aid. In my own experiences I have found just as it’s reported that the dandelion tea prevents hunger cravings. Honestly I’m not sure that it works more than just drinking a tall glass of water which is also a known dietary technique.

DANDELION TEA PREPARATION

 If you have trouble identifying dandelions make sure to wait until the flowers come up. Take a bag or basket with you and begin to harvest the dandelion greens. Young dandelion leafs that are soft and green are the best to make dandelion tea with. Before you prepare to store or cook your dandelion greens make sure to wash them thoroughly with cool water and let them dry off in a colander. If you’re not going to make your dandelion tea immediately store your dandelion greens in a plastic bag that enough holes for air to move through.

DANDELION TEA PROPORTIONS FOR ONE

Pour one cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried dandelion leaves. Now I would never steep a tea bag in to boiling water and that’s not what you’ll be doing here so don’t be scared. Also the dandelion greens are meant to be pat dry and not dried out in an oven.

DANDELION TEA PROPORTIONS FOR MANY

When you want to make a pot of dandelion tea you will want to pour 1 cup per person of boiling water over a teaspoon of dandelion greens for each cup of water you used. When making a pot of dandelion tea you can throw in an extra teaspoon of dandelion greens for the pot. Allow the dandelion greens to steep for 3 minutes then stir and let steep one final minute and serve. There are a couple good options if you would like to flavor your dandelion tea: orange, mint, honey, and lemon. If you’re trying to use the dandelion tea to put off hunger than lemon is probably you best option as lemon water and dandelion tea are both dietary aids.

If dandelions are out of season you can grab some dandelion tea from Amazon by clicking here.

Just like any time you are making tea I always suggest using  a non metallic tea pit,here’s mine which comes with a loose tea infuser which is really nice.

Peonies Plant of The Week

Traveling American back roads, abandoned farmsteads come into view. More times than not, a thriving peony (Paeonia spp.) bush stands guard. Time your visit right, and you’ll be greeted by intoxicating blooms. The sight and smell testify to the tough beauty and resilience of these gorgeous old-time plants. Under the right conditions, they’ll live a century. Deserted homesteads provide excellent clues for peony care.

PLANNING FOR GARDEN PEONIES

Most modern peony hybrids descend from Asian ancestors cultivated for thousands of years. Herbaceous plants, they die back to the ground every winter. Once established, like those farmstead stalwarts, peonies prefer to be left alone. For maximum blooms and health, give them permanent sites with direct, full sun at least six to eight hours daily. Hotter climates demand filtered sun for sunburn protection, but more shade means fewer flowers. Garden peonies need extended cold exposure to set their finest blooms. They flourish in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 9

Give peonies good air circulation and room to grow. Depending on variety, they reach 2 to 4 feet in height and spread. Humid climates or crowded situations leave peonies susceptible to fungal disease. Also, their shallow roots lose out on nutrients and moisture if they compete with other plants. For container peonies, select pots at least 18 to 24 inches in diameter and wider than they are deep. Remember, plants have less cold tolerance in containers than in the ground.

Peonies’ spring and early summer blooms are stunning. Ranging 2 to 10 inches wide and single to fully double, the flowers run pure white to deep chocolate-maroon. Colorful flares often splash their insides. By staggering varieties with different bloom times, peony season can stretch six to eight weeks. Deadheading keeps blooms coming, but the end is inevitable. Plan interesting companion plantings with later bloom times, complementary textures, fall color or interesting fruit.

PLANTING PEONY ROOTS

Garden peonies grow back each spring from thick tuberous roots with growing points known as “eyes.” You can buy container-grown peonies, but consider fall-planting bare root instead. Look for roots with at least three to five eyes, and plant them about six weeks before your garden normally freezes. This gives roots time to settle in their new home. Don’t expect blooms for the first year.

Good drainage is critical to peony health. Poorly drained, soggy soil is their number one killer. Prepare the site by incorporating plenty of organic matter, and plant the fleshy tubers – “eyes” up – about 2 inches deep. Never plant deeper; roots need plenty of oxygen. Plant too deep and you may not see blooms for years. Wait until the ground freezes, and then apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch.

CARING FOR GARDEN PEONIES

Throughout the growing season, water established peonies when the top several inches of soil feels dry. A finger’s length is a good measure. To reduce the risk of disease, avoid overhead watering. Use drip irrigation, or water the plant’s base instead. As soon as spring shoots emerge, get peony hoops in place for extra support. You’ll need them when heavy blooms fill with rain. Don’t worry; bushes fill in fast to camouflage the hoops.

To harvest cut flowers, always leave uncut stems with at least three to four leaves each. Limit your bouquets to less than one-third of the blooming stems. Garden peonies rely on their foliage to refuel underground tubers with food for next year. Like tulips, they need foliage in place as long as possible. Once frost turns your peonies black, cut them back to the ground. Disease can overwinter on peony debris, so dispose of all the cuttings. Never compost them. Then settle in yourself to await the next round of spectacular spring blooms.

How to Grow Sunflowers

The hardest thing about knowing how to grow sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) is deciding which ones to grow. Nearly fail-proof, they’re a great project for kids and new gardeners. Besides the classic golden yellow flowers, colors range from deep burgundy, russet and chocolate to lemony yellow, blazing bicolors and pale vanilla. There’s a sunflower for every garden, whether 15-foot giants or tiny dwarfs for balcony pots.

PREPPING YOUR SUNFLOWER PATCH

Sunflowers grow a long central taproot that doesn’t like to be disturbed. Rather than starting seeds indoors, sow directly to your garden. Sunflowers grow bigger and stronger in return. Any soil type is fine, as long as it has good drainage. Pick a site that gets at least six to eight hours of direct daily sun — the more, the better.

For best results, cover the area with 3 to 4 inches of compost, and work it into the soil to create a loose, fertile home for roots. For smaller varieties, no fertilizer is needed. Bigger varieties benefit from a boost. Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer — one with all three numbers the same. Work it into the top few inches of your sunflower bed to provide season-long nutrition.

PLANTING YOUR SUNFLOWERS

Sunflower seedlings resist some cold, but for most areas, wait until at least two weeks before your last expected spring frost before you sow. As you plan, think how tall your sunflowers may grow and where their shadows will fall. Plant the tallest varieties to the north side of shorter plants, so everyone ends up with sun.

For rows, make a shallow trench and plant seeds 1 to 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Cover the seeds with soil, and keep them well watered. You’ll see sprouts in seven to 10 days. For continuous blooms, sow a row every two to three weeks; you’ll have cheery blooms until frost. Most sunflowers mature in 80 to 120 days.

CULTIVATING YOUR SUNFLOWER CROP

Sunflowers don’t like competition from weeds — or other sunflowers. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch to keep weeds down. Once seedlings begin to grow, thin them to 2 feet apart for large varieties and 1 to 1 1/2 feet apart for dwarf and medium types. The more room they have, the larger and stronger they’ll grow. If growing smaller varieties for cutting or in pots, crowding is okay. Space seeds 2 to 6 inches apart for thinner stems and smaller, but beautiful, flowers.

Sunflowers tolerate drought once established, but moisture is critical between three weeks before and three weeks after flowering starts. Water plants deeply and thoroughly. Then let soil dry before watering again. This helps roots grow deep and strong. If growing multi-head types or giants, heads can get heavy. Stake large sunflowers, so heads don’t snap in winds or heavy rains.

HARVESTING YOUR SUNFLOWERS

If you want seeds, think ahead and protect seed heads from birds. Cover them with mesh bags or other protective netting. Seeds are ready once the back of the flower head turns from green to yellow and the tiny petals dry to expose brown seeds. Usually the head begins to droop, too. Cut the head off and hang it upside down in a cool spot with good air circulation, and let it dry fully. Then collect your seeds.

Sunflowers are packed with protein, iron, potassium and vitamins B and E. Toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or oven toast them on a cookie sheet or shallow pan for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. For rich, slow-roasted flavor, soak the seeds in strong salt water overnight and roast them at 200 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until crisp. Enjoy!

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT OUR “HOW TO GROW SUNFLOWERS” ARTICLE?

How to Care for Orchids

I’ve been so frustrated with orchids over the years I’ve stopped buying the as gifts it seems like the average person doesn’t know how to care for an orchid. I had decided to finally learn how to care for an orchid and I want to try to share some of that know ledge with you. I got this free eBook that helped me out and I’ll link to it later in the article. Sense there are in excess of 26,000 varieties of orchids I’m going to try to offer some basic help for people looking to care for an orchid indoors. Most people get orchids and from grocery stores or plant sales and generally the variety you see most often is phalaenopsis.

PHASE 1 OF CARING FOR AN ORCHID

However you may have gotten your orchid there are some first steps you will want to follow when you first get it home.

  • Wait To Re-pot Your Orchid – If you re-pot an orchid to soon you may cause it to stop flowering prematurely. Wait until the flowers have reached their peak before you re-pot an orchid.
  • How To Water An Orchid – As long as your orchid is still bloom and potted in the sphagnum moss you should water only when the moss is firm and dry to the touch. Generally watering is required once a week. You water temperature should not differ from the ambient temperature in the room by more than 15 degrees. You want to make sure that there isn’t any standing water on your pot as this can create and environment that breeds deadly disease and bacteria for the orchids.
  • Care After Orchid Blooms Fade – Once the flowers of your orchid have run their course you can decide if you want to re-pot the orchid or cut the flower stem off above the first node (inflorescence). Cutting of the stem is not advised as it cause your orchid undue stress and may prevent a bloom in the following year.

HOW TO RE-POT YOUR ORCHID (PHALEANOPSIS)

If re-potting is the route you have chosen then you need to begin by building a potting mix of 1 part #3 charcoal, #3 perlite, and clay pellets or wood bark. This mix is easily found at garden stores but if you’re an online shopper or if the garden centers are closed for the winter you canpick some up from Amazon here. You will also want to upgrade to a larger pot, you can find some pretty ones on amazon.

  1. Once you have your plant container and your potting soil on hand remove the root ball or your orchid from the pot.
  2. Holding your orchid in one hand and being careful to hurt any of the petals you can remove the sphagnum moss from the roots and throw it away. Now is the time to take a look a the root system and spot any dead roots. If you can see and dried out or moldy roots pinch off the outer parts, there may still be a core attached.
  3. Before you begin to re-pot your orchid place a few rocks in the bottom of your pot. This added weight from the rocks will help anchor the roots and prevent the orchid from tipping over from the weight of the flowers in the following year.
  4. With one hand you want to hold the orchid in the pot and keep the base of the leafs around half an inch from the top of your new pot. With your free hand begin to trowel in your new potting mix, tapping the pot or work surface occasionally to help settle the potting soil and stabilize the orchid. Water the soil in to help it settle and fill with more soil if necessary.
  5. Now it’s time to get a watering schedule. If you’re keeping it indoors you want to pic a shady place and water once a week. If you’re going to place your orchid outdoors you may need to bump up the watering occurrence to twice weekly depending on the heat conditions.

You can also grow orchids in grow tents. Find how to purchase on here.

 HOW TO CARE FOR AN ORCHID SO IT WILL BLOOM NEXT YEAR

To make sure your orchid will bloom next year you need to make sure the plant experiences some cooler temperatures at night in the 50′s (fall time). Although this is easy enough to provide for the plant by simply putting it outside over night most people forget this step. While cool temperatures are needed for an orchids cycle if you expose the plant to frost, so bring it in before the first frost of the fall. Orchids need total of ten nights with cooler temperatures, once that’s been accomplished you can bring the plant back in. When February and March roll around once again you should begin to see new flower stems emerge near the base of a couple leafs. If you are lucky (and it’s rare) you will have new roots sprout out and up and those will bring flowers that spring.