Garden, Plant, Cook!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chocolate Flower Question - Edible?

Dear Folks,

Anonymous sent a question about my blog of last February on the whether the Chocolate Scented Daisy (Berlandiera lyrata) flower is edible. Yes it is. And I want to thank anonymous for the question - it allows me to explain some things about not only the plant but also the way I evaluate ‘edible' foods. This plant is also called chocolate daisy, green eyes, lyre-leaf green eyes (sometimes one word = greeneyes), and brooch flower.

The Chocolate Scented Daisy flower is Edible - specifically the flower head - usual references to the dried flower head but also just the stamens, indicate the unsweetened cocoa powder flavor, like dark chocolate.

And it is also true that most chocolate scented flowers are NOT edible - some other exceptions are chocolate mint or chocolate mint scented geranium - however neither of those has the incredible fragrance of the Berlandiera.

I did just find a reference to an Echinacea purpurea 'Green Eyes' PPAF PVR "Conehead." You may know the Echinacea for its medicinal help for blood and bladder infections. The flower head is medicinal but not ‘edible.' Which means always check the Latin/botanical name references to plants when looking for edible whatevers.

ALSO understand that because a plant, leave or flower may be medicinal does not make it safe to eat - one of the best known examples is foxglove, the source of digitalis -- it is SERIOUSLY not edible even though heart medication was made from it - modern digitalis is highly refined in the laboratory. Only certified herbalists, naturopaths, and alternative and traditional medical practitioners are qualified to evaluate and use medicinal plant parts.

Folks, here is how I go about determining whether a new-to-me or not as well known edible flower is indeed edible. I look for 3 independent authoritative sources - preferable either a study by an ethnobotanist and/or a university. Because of anonymous' question I did some more checking on the Internet. One plant seller lists the Berlandiera as not edible - I forwarded the references to them for consideration to their listing.


Flowers mixed with sausage as seasoning. — Swank, George R. 1932 The Ethnobotany of the Acoma and Laguna Indians. University of New Mexico, M.A. Thesis (p. 33)
AND Castetter, Edward F. 1935 Ethnobiological Studies in the American Southwest I. Uncultivated Native Plants Used as Sources of Food. University of New Mexico Bulletin 4(1):1-44 (p. 19)
AND quoted by the

From Jean Groen, "Native American Ethnobotany" noted the flower heads being used as seasoning in sausage. (Jean is a friend and an expert on native food and useful plants of the Sonoran Desert). Visit Jean and co-author Don Well's site here.

Some additional uses of the plant by Native Peoples were: Dried roots burned, ground & tossed on hot coals or smoke inhaled to give courage, or for nervousness. —

If you can't find seeds or plants locally - try Mountain Valley Growers (that's a picture from their site I'm using) Great customer service and selection of organic plants

Here is the link for my original post on the Chocolate flower.


Some edible flowers have no taste or are even bitter. Some taste floral, fruity or herby. The simple question can be - why bother?

Although I have been fascinated by the very idea of edible flowers for a very long time, I was moved to do even more research and experimentation after seeing soooooo mmmanny food styling photos and displays using toxic flowers to garnish everything from vegetable trays to wedding cakes. At a minimum edible means non-toxic garnish.

Allergies - it is important to note that if you or your family have allergies to flowers the pollen and nectar can be a problem - it is your responsibility to understand what allergic issues you have. Many edible flower recipes call for the petals, which eliminates some but not all of the issue of allergies - also the base of some flower petals are bitter - like rose petals.

GARDENING with edible flowers.

If you want beautiful landscape in your home garden, not just in the desert southwest, but anywhere, why not get both beauty and minimize the toxicity potential for family, pets, and you. If should go without saying, but I always need to mention - no chemicals in an edible garden.

Put a little petal-power in your life - enjoy the edible flowers for their beauty and the knowledge that they can grace not only your table, but your food as well.

I DO appreciate questions and comments - keeps the information flowing well.

. . .
Edible flower planting and harvesting is part of my reminder service. Check out how it may help you here.

Have a great day in the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grab the meter to check soil moisture

Dear folks,

Worth repeating tip.

It is that time of year as we transition into cooler air and soil temperatures that the moisture content of the garden can fluctuate widely.

The same conditions occur in the reverse in Spring when we transition into hot times in the valley.

Today, for instance, we are having high "Albuquerque" style winds and this will desicate the most hardy plant surfaces and top soil. Interim watering may be needed if you are on a set schedule.

At other times you may find the cool nights and milder days have not caused as much evaporation, so you need to make sure you are not keeping the soil soggy, which contributes to root rot and mineral leach.

Moisture meter to the rescue! This really is one of THE most important tools in a gardener's kit - and instantly helpful as it gives you an immediate reading of the soil moisture, whether ground or container.

Generally, 2-3 on the dry side is time to water most edibles. Some exceptions are mint and new seedlings or transplants, which may need a bit more constant moisture (that does not mean soggy, folks).

Meters come in plain/simple - just the moisture content; and more bells - moisture, light and pH. Most edibles here in the valley are not that sensitive to pH levels, but the light component of these types of meters are helpful for those of you trying to find the best placement for container gardens. Remember all the edibles need 4-6 hours of direct sun a day.

Pictured here is the simple kind. This link takes you to a purchasing/detail page on Amazon. I'm happy to report, though, that most of the garden nurseries in the valley carry at least the simple version of this meter.

. . .

Reminder service to better gardening success in the Valley. Folks there is only about a week left to get the reminder service permanently at the reduced rate of $15/year. Click here for information and to sign up. That page also directs you to other locations which may benefit out of state family members with similar growing conditions. You can give the reminder service as a gift - just specify that in notes when payment is made.

Have a great time in the fall garden,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady