Food gardens can be beautiful — a cherry tree in full bloom, the mesmerizing foliage of trout back lettuce — but purely ornamental gardens can also be edible. You might be surprised at how many of the plants in your flower border have distinct culinary properties.
Sauté the unopened flower buds in salt and oil and serve as hors d’oeuvres or pickle them. Enjoy the open flowers fresh in salads or dried and stirred into soups. The tubers can be prepared as you would potatoes and turnips. Even the leaves are tender and tasty, but only in spring, when they’re just emerging from the ground. Make sure you know how to identify the plant — some types of true lilies (which daylilies resemble but are not related to) are highly toxic.
All dogwoods bear brightly colored berries, and some are edible. Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) bears small red fruit that tastes like tart cherry and is commonly consumed in Turkey, among other countries, often as preserves or as a flavoring for drinks. Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) bears round red fruit that is sweet enough to be eaten fresh. Berries on other dogwoods aren’t toxic (at worst, they will give you a stomachache), but they aren’t tasty.
This distant relative of asparagus is considered a delicacy in some Asian countries. The leaf shoots are tender when they emerge from the ground in spring and can be served raw in salads or as a steamed vegetable. Later in the season, they can be a bit tough, but they are still edible when cooked thoroughly in a soup or stew. The elegant white flowers of hostas are also edible.
Viola flowers, which include both pansies and violets, have a slightly sweet flavor and make an attractive addition to salads and deserts. Their foliage is also edible, raw or cooked. They’re most tender in spring, and some species are tastier than others, so be sure to experiment.
These stunning pendulous flowers, often seen in hanging baskets, are totally edible, as is the fruit that follows them. Fuchsia produces an elongated berry that’s midway in size between a blueberry and a grape. The flavor varies depending on the variety, but some are quite tasty. Eat them fresh or blend them in smoothies and desserts.