Bringing in fresh eyes to explore your backyard handiwork usually results in some pleasant surprises. A visitor to our vegetable garden area last week uncovered a few happy circumstances that we had overlooked.
First, she spotted some edible broccoli (in late spring!), hidden under a mass of flowering sweet peas and nicotiana. The florets were still green, tight and tasty, despite the late date.
Normally, this winter vegetable has bolted and turned bitter by mid-May here in the Central Valley of California.
Even bolted broccoli has important side benefits: the bees will have a heyday with the resulting flowers.
This visitor also spied the colorful flower heads on the Stockton Red and Stockton Yellow onion crops. Garden traditionalists are not happy when their onions bolt. According to Texas A&M University, bolting onions occur due to fluctuating temperatures...a very common occurrence here this spring. Once they have bolted, there isn't much you can do to send energy back to the bulb. As a result, the flowering onion's bulb is usually smaller than the bulb of an onion plant where the flowering stalk is snipped off as soon as it appears.
What to do about those flowering onions? Texas A&M advises: "Use these onions as soon as possible because the green flower stalk which emerges through the center of the bulb will make storage almost impossible."
The visitor to our garden noticed another use for those flowering onions. "Are these edible?", she asked. It should be mentioned that she said this as she was munching on a few of the florets of the onion flower.
Garden munchers please note: it's always a good idea to get some information BEFORE popping any flower in your mouth. A good list of tasty (and dangerous) garden flowers can be found at the Colorado State University web page, "Edible Flowers".
Following her lead, I grabbed a couple of the florets and popped them in my mouth (yeah, I know, I know...).
And what a pleasant surprise! onion flowers - in small quantities - are quite tasty, but pungent. And as we found out at dinner, sprinkling a few of the florets in a salad adds a nice, spicy touch. But go easy. Adding too many onion florets could overwhelm the taste of the other garden goodies in that salad.
So, don't go into a funk if suddenly you spot flowering onions in your garden now. Just use the bulbs soon after harvest. In the meantime, enjoy the flowers. The bees will!