Spring time is all about flowers - and not just on ornamental plants. It's the time of the year that vegetables, too, go to flower if left to their natural cycles. At the farm, we have left a variety of plant families go to flower: Allium, Brassica, Lamiaceae,
Apiaceae and so on.
When we stop harvesting greens, they continue to grow and produce flowers. If you desire to still eat the produce, you can prevent the plant from flowering by clipping the flowers. However, in our extreme heat, plants have a natural tendency this time of year to flower in order to spread their seed. When we let plants flower - besides creating a unique opportunity for people to see what produce looks like in this stage and enjoy the beauty of a variety of flowers - they produce their own seed to reproduce for the next season.
Many high end restaurants use these flowers to garnish plates because they come from edible plants and may garner the original taste. For example, cilantro flowers look like babies breath and are beautiful (and edible) on any dish. Chive flowers have an intense purple color and a sweet, onion flavor enjoyable for aesthetics and taste.
As a note, when edible plants go to flower the commonly eaten part usually, not always, no longer tastes so great since the plant is using all of its energy to shoot up flowers instead of produce tasty leaves. For example, basil flowers are gorgeous but the basil leaves on a flowering plant will become tart.
In addition to flowering, the Brassica family of plants - including cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and more - bolt. Bolting is a smiliar idea to flowering but instead of producing flowers, the plant "bolts" upward and produces seed. When lettuce is ready for harvest it produces a nice "head." When left to bolt, the lettuce can shoot up a few feet. At the very top, you can see the lettuce seeds.
Bolting and flowering are mechanisms of nature to re-seed and re-produce themselves without the help of humans. If you have a garden, let some of your produce flower or bolt to witness a unique stage of the plant. Test out eating the flowering parts!
See what's springing at the Howdy Farm...
By Jessica Newman