As I mentioned in the previous post, I left some vegetables and herbs flowering for pollinators and for seeds. It also helps to draw beneficial insects into the vegetable patch. The downside is that these beneficial insects don’t discriminate, they eat anything they can grab, honeybees and bumblebees included. But we never have to spray our vegetables.
There are many more herbs and vegetables in our garden as both of us love eating fresh vegetables and drinking herbal tea. Rubbing fresh herbs in your hands for the scent is also very refreshing. I think the herb pollen that mixes in with the honey is also a good medicinal property.
Next will be flowers for bees from what we love to hate….weeds.
We are having a warm autumn this year. The daytime temperature is still hovering above 50° F on most days but drops back to slightly above 30° F at night. We had frost for a couple of days early on in the season which killed off most of the garden. So there is not much left for the bees.
Honeybees being honeybees, they still come out looking for food when the temperature is above 50° F and to relieve themselves as well. We had fed them in mid-October but now we still worry that their food storage may not be enough for a winter that has not yet come. Since they spend more energy flying around instead of semi-hybernating in the hive during this time of year, they probably have gone through more of their storage than usual. So we are putting sugar syrup out on warm days. They know exactly where the feeder is and zoom right to it. They still go for any flowers they find blooming at this time of year: Alyssum, Chinese broccoli, Broccoli raab and…Saffron.
I should have grown more saffron but I always start small with any newbies. If it fails I haven’t wasted much. My fellow blogger suggested that I may be able to leave them outside since they are hardy to zone 6. I will leave one pot out as an experiment. If they are like other crocuses that bloom in spring (which I grow in the ground) they should be fine. Then I can have plenty of saffron for tea and cooking, and plenty of food for honeybees in late autumn.
Summer is the time to let some vegetables flower. Not just for the seeds I can keep to plant next year but for the honeybees as well. Most of these flowers are edible. The only one I’m not sure of is the lettuce since I’ve never eaten it. I do know that lettuce becomes bitter when it gets hotter and it will ooze a milky liquid when the stem is broken. Even when I collect the seeds, it still oozes a milky liquid so I refrain from trying it.
These flowers also draw air traffic to our vegetable garden. It’s fun to see a variety of bees and other insects foraging from flower to flower.
There is a remarkable similarity between mustard green and pac choi blossoms. But note the tip of each petal.
I love eating vegetables especially a fresh salad just picked minutes ago from our garden. It’s not just tastier than store bought, but also makes me feel healthier physically and psychologically. The leafy vegetables hardly have a chance to flower, but when the weather gets really hot and we’re stuck at work, then they start to ‘bolt.’ I do let some of them flower just to get seeds for next season. That’s when the vegetables show their other beauty; not just the beautiful colors and textures of the leaves but delicate flowers in both color and design.
We love the the spicy and bitter taste of Arugula or Rocket (Eruca sativa). Salad would be pretty bland without it, but that’s just my opinion. Their beautiful pale yellowish/green flowers are edible.
Beautiful blue star of Borage (Borago officinalis) flowers are frequent by all type of bees. They’re not just beautiful but they’re also edible; look lovely in salad.
I let some of the Broccoli raab (Brassica rapa) flowers bloom to harvest the seeds. The bright canary yellow flowers add color to the vegetable garden and the bees love them too.
Chinese Broccoli or Chinese Kale (Brassica oleracea) is another leafy vegetable I grow. The leaf is sweeter than other kales and is great for stir-frying or to put in noodle soups.
The garlic flower, aka ‘Scape’, has a milder taste than the garlic head. I pick some of them when they’re small and tightly wrapped in tissue thin skin and use them in stir-fry vegetable dishes. The photo above is a much more mature scape. These little bulbs are good for pickling or planting. Although the garlic that grows from these little bulbs will not divide into cloves the first year.
Surprisingly the spicy Radish (Raphanus sativus) has these delicate pale pink flowers. The flowers and seed pods are edible but, for me, it would serve no purpose to eat the seed pods since I let some of them flower to harvest the seeds.
Green Onion or Scallions (Allium cepa), some may call it bunching onion, is the one we eat the greens, not the bulbs. The ones I grow have never set bulbs so I grow them from seeds that I collected the previous year.