Certain flowers have considerable food value. Gardeners trying to avoid all waste will wish to make use of some of them.
Flowers of pumpkin and squash probably should head the list. Those who have grown them know that the flowers of these vines are of two sorts, pistillate flowers with tiny green squashes or pumpkins at the base and staminate flowers. Only the pistillate flowers will ever-mature fruit, though a few of the staminate flowers are needed to supply pollen. Usually, though, there is a surplus of staminate flowers, and these surplus flowers may be used for cooking or maybe dried to thicken broth’s next winter use the white man learned from the Indian.
Fresh pumpkin or squash flowers dipped in batter and fried are a delicacy to many. I saved my flowers for years for an English neighbor who preferred the flowers to the squashes. The pistillate flowers with tiny squash or pumpkin attached have higher food value and more flavor than the geminate flowers, but should not be picked unless the vines promise to set an overly large crop. Staminate flowers slightly cooked may be folded into omelets and used in that way if preferred.
The flower petals of the common Calendula of the flower border have for centuries been added to soups to contribute color, flavor, and wholesomeness, thus earning it the name Pot Marigold. The chances are that the flowers are high in vitamin content.
Sections of elderberry flower clusters are often dipped in batter and fried as fritters, or flowers are picked free from their tiny stems and a half cupful or more of the flowers added to the batter for griddle cakes, to muffin, or to omelets. Using the flowers is a wasteful practice, of course, unless the elder is very abundant. The fruits have a higher food value than the flowers. Unfolded flower buds of rhubarb are cooked in the same ways as elderberry flowers.
Dandelion and Nasturtium flower buds are both used for pickling. Dandelion and Marsh Marigold flower buds are often cooked as greens, being used along with the leaves.
The Potawatomi Indians are reported to have used both flowers and flower buds of the common milkweed to flavor and thicken their meat soups. This, of course, is not to be recommended in localities where milkweed floss has become a commercial crop; but it is worth trying where milkweed is still purely a. weed.
Various foreign peoples use the purplish flower heads of the common burdock in fritters. It is not uncommon in cities with large foreign populations to find people gathering the round flower heads from burdock plants on vacant lots to he cooked as in the homeland. Boiling water is first poured over the flower heads and allowed to stand a few minutes. The heads are then drained, dried, dipped in batter and fried.
M. R. JACOBS