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Sustainable Life: Edible flowers in the veggie patch

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Spring blooms delight our senses with many colours, shapes and smells.

This marks the beginning of a productive summer veggie patch. Flowers are a sumptuous display of plants desperately seeking their true lover. It’s no coincidence that spring is the season known for establishing new lovers.

Make the most of spring’s celebration of love by planting edible flowers in your veggie patch. Here are some of the best.

Pansies

These gorgeous little flowers are typically grown in Canberra’s long, cold winters. The right variety will continue growing (and flowering) throughout spring and summer as well. Many pansies have an exquisite aroma. They add flair to almost any kitchen dish.

Pansies are a traditional English decoration on top of cakes. Just dip them in egg white and then in caster sugar. They’re also a very pretty addition to crepes. Place them on top of your crepe while the first side is cooking. Let them cook into the crepes while the second side cooks.

Giant sunflowers

These are a true summer crop and a spectacular addition to any veggie patch. Giant sunflowers add wow factor, as they grow to the height of a human adult. After the bees have enjoyed your sunflower, cockatoos will enjoy the sunflower seeds… unless you pick them first.

You can eat the seeds and the flower petals from on giant sunflowers. Plant the seeds of your giant sunflower in the springtime.

Marigolds

These brightly coloured blooms are all-round brilliant. Not only are they edible and known in some parts of the world as poor man’s saffron, they’re also great for repelling garden pests.

They’re best planted around the border of any veggie patch. Marigolds don’t tolerate frosts, so they need to be planted after the frost (or with frost protection). In the autumn time, if you let marigolds go to seed you’ll have a mass of seeds that you can store over the winter then plant again in the springtime.

You can use both marigold flower petals and the spicier leaves in a summer potato salad. Try the age-old tradition and use marigold leaves in a stew, to give it a lovely orange colour.

Nasturtiums

Delicate, bright and sweet. Nasturtium flowers have a long, thin tube that protrudes below the flower petals and contains nectar. Snapping off this thin tube and sucking out the nectar is a favourite activity for children.

Nasturtium flowers add colour to salads and can be frozen in the middle of fruit juice ice blocks—transforming a humble, homemade ice block into something truly special. Plant nasturtium seeds in the springtime and protect them from any late frosts.

Let your winter crops bloom

Most gardeners try to stop their winter crops from blooming so the plants focus their energy on their prized leaves. Instead, let some of your winter crops bloom. Kale and broccoli will produce a mass of gorgeous, yellow flowers. Rocket and coriander both have delicate white flowers. Bees just love these little flowers.

They’re also a fantastic addition to a leafy green salad. Just toss an equal amount of baby spinach and booms from your winter crops together, top with toasted seeds and dress with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar.

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