Blackberry Farm

Friends of the Farm

Awesome Blossoms

In the old expression, we all know what April showers bring. This year, those showers have been in no short supply, and our gardens are redolent with those May flowers. But the plethora of blooms isn’t just for looks and for cutting table arrangements; their planting is carefully engineered to provide much more. In the organic and natural method of vegetable farming, we gardeners need to employ every trick to lessen the pressure of the smart bomb of damaging insects that explodes amongst the tasty, young plants each summer.

We rely on companion planting, also known as intercropping, to confuse and repel hungry bugs and allow the plants to produce their maximum yields. There is another old saying: “if it grows together it goes together.” It’s no wonder that tomatoes and basil are often paired on the plate. In the garden, aromatic basil (and other plants in its family, including mint) is planted alongside tomatoes; insects cannot bear the smell of basil and run screaming, leaving the tomato dinner for us. Cilantro, a polarizing herb for humans, gets a resounding veto from creepy crawlies, and is employed for the same use. As a bonus, the tiny white flowers of cilantro are tasty, floated on a summer gazpacho or sprinkled over corn on the cob. Potatoes and beans get a boost from being planted near each other. Here’s a near-palindrome: potato beetles hate beans and bean beetles hate potatoes. Marigolds are the most common and very effective bug barrier, but so are radishes, onions and most aromatic herbs like rosemary and oregano.

The blooms of most edible plants in the garden are edible themselves. With the exception of the nightshades – potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, most others often appear on the menu. The list of edible flowers is a long one, but some are: calendula, mint, sage, beans, carrots, radishes, peas…. Bees are drawn to flowers for an obvious reason, the pollen and nectar, and could care less about the fruit and leaves, which we normally eat. Here at the farm, we think like the bees and include the blossoms with all their great flavor and sweetness to our dishes. Stop by the garden to buzz around the flowers and sample some yourself.

Jeff Ross, Garden Manager