Camp Frémont

Gardening, Photography, and Homeschool.

- by Sarah Fremont

  • Sarah Fremont

Sitting on our porch one summer afternoon, my friend glanced at our garden and cried out, “Ooooh! That is one of my favorite things to eat. They are so good stuffed and fried, and now is the perfect time to pick them!” I was a bit confused. There was absolutely nothing in my garden ready to be harvested. “Goodness! What are you talking about?” I replied. “The squash blossoms!” she exclaimed. “It’s a little time-consuming to prepare, as you have to carefully remove the pistil from the center of the flower, but after dipping the flower in batter and frying, the petals turn deliciously crispy. I serve them with salt and pepper and eat as soon as possible.”

The first recorded mention of edible flowers was in 140 B.C. Calendula was used in salads dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, violets were crystallized by ancient Egyptians, the bitter herbs mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible included dandelions, and during the Renaissance they drank rose-petal water and ate stewed primroses.

Eating flowers was not a new notion for me. Roaming the wild fields of Indiana as a child, my best friend Elizabeth fluttered around like a magical fairy sampling various flowers and sharing with me all her enchanting knowledge about what was edible and what was most definitely poisonous. I was completely in awe of her herbal astuteness and was determined one day to know as much as she did. Now that we live on six acres in the Hill Country of Texas, my family has enjoyed studying native flowers and determining what we can consume in our own backyard. This past spring we grew nasturtium and viola tricolors in our greenhouse and added them (freshly picked!) to our cakes for edible decoration.

These are some of our favorite edible flowers, along with their accompanying flavors and how we have enjoyed eating them:

Calendula: bitter, tangy, and peppery; add to salads and cooked egg dishes.

Chamomile: earthy and floral; place fresh flowers in tea ball and steep for tea.

Dandelions: earthy, nutty, and bitter; use in salads or added to stir-fry.

Nasturtium: peppery and spicy; use in stir-fry or cooked with pasta.

Purslane: tangy, lemony, and peppery; use in place of lettuce.

Roses: sweet with a touch of spice; allow roses to dry out and sprinkle over oatmeal.

Squash blossoms: delicate and slightly sweet; fry and stuff with cheese.

Viola tricolor: sweet and floral; garnish desserts.

Yellow Wood Sorrel: sour; add to soups and salads.

There are a few things to know if you are interested in delving further into trying edible flowers:

  1. Do not eat random flowers. Many are poisonous. Always check with an adult first.

  2. Grow your own flowers. By growing your own flowers, you know exactly what you have grown, you can avoid treating them with pesticides, and you know what is edible.

  3. Eat only the petals. Often the inner floral parts are not edible.

  4. Determine what complimentary flavor you are seeking from the addition of the flower.

  5. When used as decoration, use only a small amount so that the flowers do not overpower the foods’ flavor.

Edible flowers are such a lovely way to add whimsy, flavor, and color to your plates.

Happy picking (and tasting)!

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  • Sarah Fremont

Updated: Sep 30

When we first moved into our fixer upper, the outside of the home looked like a haunted house—the limestone in front had blackened, the front door had rotting wood, and weeds had run amok in the yard. We had worked very hard to renovate the inside, but It was a great endeavor to get the house looking lovely, cheerful and welcoming on the outside. We began by replacing the front door, cleaning and repairing the limestone, weeding, and sowing native grass and wildflower seeds everywhere. But to add even more inviting curb appeal we decided to add window flower boxes. Is there anything more delightful than seeing a home with window boxes overflowing with well cared for flowers? I think not!

The origin of window boxes dates back to ancient Rome. Urban living in small homes, one on top of the other with no yards, a window box was an economical way to grow food with limited space. Eventually flowers were added to the growing of herbs and food, or replaced entirely. In the Victorian Age, terra cotta and metal planter boxes became very popular for displaying flowers and herbs, and eventually the boxes came to the United States. Many cities are still known for their colorful displays of window flower boxes attached to Victorian homes and older buildings—New Orleans’ French Quarter (Louisiana), Charleston (South Carolina), and Savannah (Georgia).

Would you like to add lovely, inviting flowers to the front of your house? Here are few things we learned when adding our own window flower boxes:

1. Purchase or build your own window box. There are many varieties of window boxes available for purchase online. We found ours on etsy. A window box hanging below the window with minimal house contact and ease of water draining is best and will prevent any damage to your home.

2. We lined our wood window boxes with plastic to prevent the boxes from rotting.

3. Fill with organic potting mix soil.

4. Choose your flowers! We have varied ours every year—all one type and color, a mix of only purples and pinks, cascading plants to hang over the edge, and taller plants in the back with shorter plants in the front. It’s so much fun to try new things every year and see what makes you happy!

5. *BIG TIP!* Pack your flowers in! (Throw away the spacing requirement tags!) Do not worry about leaving space for growing. Plant for it to look good now, not later.

6. Water often. Because the flowers are hanging outside they are more apt to dry out quickly. In Texas, our window boxes needed to be watered every morning!

7. We left our window boxes out year round. In the winter we replaced the withered flowers with cut evergreen boughs for a whimsical holiday look.

Well cared for flowers in your window boxes will create the cheeriest welcome for you and your guests! They are well worth their initial effort and the hanging flowers will make you feel happy every time you see them. Find the perfect boxes for your home and get planting! xo

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  • Sarah Fremont

I was eleven years old and it was a glorious early spring day in the southern, rolling hills of Indiana. I walked down the street to play with my friend, Elizabeth, and as we were playing outside, I smelled something deliciously sweet and flowery. The smell captivated me long before I could even see what was blooming!

“Elizabeth! What is that delightful smell?”

“The sweet pea vine. Haven’t you grown them before?”

We had never grown sweet peas, but I was definitely storing the remembrance of this blossom away in my brain for the future.

Elizabeth and I picked the delicate, butterfly looking flowers from the vine and made fairy crowns. The more we picked the flowers, the more they seemed to bloom. We had a splendid month of harvesting the fragrant beauties for our play and for bouquets in our homes.

The sweet pea is an annual flowering and climbing plant. It can grow to a height of three to almost seven feet tall and flowers in a variety of pastel shades of blue, pink, purple, and white, including bi-colors. When we lived in Minnesota (cold winter climate) we always sowed our sweet pea seeds in April, so I was surprised to find out that in Texas (mild winter climate) we sow them in the fall (October or November) for a spring bloom. Sweet peas can handle a light frost, but do not like the heat. They prefer cool days and nights and will start to fade when temperatures go above 65°F.

Tips for growing your own sweet pea vine:

1. Soak your seeds in water overnight before planting in the ground.

2. Be sure your soil is rich and lovely. We always mix in good compost and a bit of bone meal for our sweet peas.

3. Sweet peas will need a trellis to climb. As the vine grows, be sure to help it find its way up the trellis.

4. Plant your seeds an inch deep and about an inch or two apart. After the seedlings are three inches tall, thin to one every six inches.

5. Keep the soil moist.

6. Pick the flowers often for indoor bouquets, and the vine will produce more blooms!

Sweet peas add such an enchanting burst of color and aroma to your garden. Consider growing this captivating spring vine in your garden.

Happy blooming! xo

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