Pretty as a Peony

If you’ve considered adding peonies to your garden, we have some tips for capitalizing  on them by incorporating varieties with different bloom times and using hosta as an aesthetically pleasing way to support them. The peony is edible, so it offers countless ways to dress up the table at your next party or gathering. Not only are they lovely to look at, but they’re good enough to eat!
peony

Paeonia officinalis

Many of us who love the boldness of peonies are deterred by their relatively short bloom time, but like daylillies and roses, each peony has a slightly different bloom time. Pick early, mid and late varieties to maximize bloom time. With the right combination of peonies you could have 7 full weeks of bloom. You can find peonies in shades of white, pink, red, and  yellow, in double and single form.

Peony (8)

A perennial with a maximum height of three feet, the peony comes in many varieties with different blooming times:
  • Early (Little Red Gem, Starlight & Roselette)
  • Mid (Moonrise & Miss America)
  • Late (Sarah Bernhardt & Marie Lemoine)

cake-peonies

The peony is named for the Greek god of healing, Paeon. Another legend states that the physician, Peon, used the roots to heel the wounds of Pluto. In addition to their healing properties, peony flowers are edible. The versatility of peonies is another draw. Their simple elegance adds the perfect accent to a wedding or other celebratory cake. Float a blossom in a punch bowl to dress up the beverage at your next party, or drop the petals in iced tea for an extra touch. You can even sprinkle them on salads as an eye-catching garnish!

peony2
Be sure to invest in a structure/cage, or for a more interesting support system, try interplanting hosta in front and among the peonies to hold them up. This also helps avoid bare spots in the gardens when the peony foliage dies back.
peony hosta 3

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Sweet, Edible Spring

When clusters of sweet violets recently popped up in the garden, food was not the first thing on my mind. I was thinking birds, blooms, and warmer weather must finally be on the way. But after spotting this flower recipe book at Eight Cousin’s Bookstore, cooking violets into sugary concoctions seems like the only logical thing to do. Cooking with Flowers: Sweet and Savory Recipes with Rose Petals, Lilacs, Lavender, and Other Edible Flowers by Miche Bacher and Miana Jun is full of beautiful photographs and recipes featuring edible blooms.

Cooking With Flowers  by MIche Bacher, Miana Jun

Cooking With Flowers by Miche Bacher, Miana Jun

Dandelion leaves are tender and tasty this time of year, but their yellow flowers can also be used. Toss them in bread crumbs and fry them up as fritters. Tulips? Not only are the petals edible, but so are the bulbs. They taste like onions. And right now is the perfect time to harvest violets, pansies, and dandelions from your garden.  With lovely sounding things like Calendula Orange Cake, Elderflower Marshmallows, and Blackberry Borage Fool, the only problem with this book is that you will want to eat everything in it.

A few edible* flowers to look for this spring:

Apple & Crabapple Blossoms (Malus)
Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea)
Calendula (Marigolds)
Clover (Trifolium)
Dianthus (Carnations, Pinks, & Sweet William)
Dandelions
Elderflowers (Sambucus)
Wild Geraniums or Cranesbill (Pelargonium)
Lilacs (Syringa)
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranth)
Pansies (Viola)
Tulips
Violets (Viola)

*The flowers on this list are all fairly common, but be sure confirm the identity before eating any plants. Also, never eat flowers that have been sprayed with harmful chemicals. 

Viola Odorata - Sweet Violets

Viola Odorata – Sweet Violets

Now what to do with those Sweet Violets from the garden? Candied flowers are an easy way to add elegance to your favorite cupcake recipe. To make candied violets, all you need are egg whites, very fine sugar, a handful of violets, and water. There is a great How-to at Taste of Home. Don’t use your houseplants for these. African Violets are not members of the Viola family and are not edible. Use Viola Odorata (Sweet Violet), Pansies, or other edible flowers.

Taste of Home Candied Violets Recipe

Taste of Home Candied Violets Recipe

Happy Spring, Happy Flower Cooking, and if you know of any other great flower recipes, we’d love to hear about them.