Many gardeners who love to cook grow an herb garden. Few things make more of a flavor impact than fresh herbs. But did you know that many classic herbs also have edible flowers?
Starting an herb garden is a beautiful and practical gift for someone who enjoys cooking. Often, common herbs that have been prized for centuries are best known for their leaves. Actually, many of them have attractive flowers that can be eaten and pressed for their oils.
An herb garden can be a considerate present for a gardener or cook who appreciates not only the flavors of the herbs, but also their beauty and versatility. Herb flowers are often overlooked in favor of the leaves of the plants. However, the flowers add a pop of color and flavor to many dishes and teas. Here are some examples of culinary herbs with edible flowers.
Chives are a member of the allium family, along with garlic and onion. The narrow stems of French chives have a subtle onion flavor. Garlic chives, with broad flat leaves, have a mild garlic flavor. The leaves and flowers can be used either fresh or dried to add flavor to savory dishes.
The leaves and flowers of the many types of basil are frequently used in Italian and Thai cooking to add a slightly anise-like flavor to dishes. Basil should be torn, not chopped, for the best flavor.
With their soothing scent, lavender flowers are used in herbal teas as well as in baked goods like scones and other pastries. Some creative chocolatiers even extract the essence from lavender flowers and infuse it into candies and caramels.
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Said to have energizing properties, mint flowers and leaves can be used fresh or dried. Mint is found in many herbal teas as well as in numerous savory Middle Eastern dishes.
Often found in Mediterranean cooking, pungent oregano tastes best when simmered in sauces or liquids for several hours. Oregano is also said to have some medicinal properties as well as repel mosquitoes.
A classic addition to French cooking, there are many popular types of thyme. The lemon variety of thyme is said to repel flying insects. Thyme makes a beautiful groundcover when left undisturbed outdoors in warmer climates.
Many herbs are hardy enough to be grown outdoors and survive cold winters. Others are treated as annuals and replanted each year as they do not grow over the winter in colder climates. Flowering herbs are low maintenance, and do not require much attention to thrive in a sunny spot.
For fresh herbs year-round, an indoor herb garden makes a thoughtful gift for someone who loves to cook. A sunny window or a small grow light can create ideal conditions for a thriving culinary garden.
Look beyond the leaves of some of your favorite herbs to explore the possibilities of edible herb flowers. Whether your gift recipient is just learning to cook or is a seasoned chef, a garden of edible flowering herbs can be used and appreciated for years to come with just a little care and sunlight.