Gardening in shady areas can be tricky. Bedding begonias, available in seedling trays, fill that gap beautifully as each plant produces masses of waxy flowers to brighten the darkest of corners. It’s also planting time for gaudy tuberous begonias, which are perfect for patio pots and hanging baskets that receive dappled shade. Buy some tubers today and start planting! Some begonias, however, enjoy adding grace indoors, and among the many hybrids of Begonia elatior you will find the right colour to match your interior decor.
Not only are these beauties showstoppers in your garden and home but the flowers are edible too! While people have been eating flowers forever, they have never been trendier than they are right now. Some are used mainly for their appearance, but others taste as good as they look. Begonias are one of the more flavoursome flowers. These fleshy-stemmed plants have been cultivated for their colourful blooms for centuries, and numerous hybrids have been bred from the 900 or so species that are found in the wild.
Two particular hybrid cultivars have found their way into the hearts and diets of modern society. The flowers are eaten fresh for their slightly bitter citrus or lemon flavour, while texturally they are crisp and moist, which makes them a great addition to salads and sandwiches. They’re especially suited to fish dishes and other meals where lemon is an important accompaniment. These tasty morsels can also be added to soups and pastas, and also make for an attractive garnish on dinner plates. A creative option is to dip begonia petals in yoghurt to create an unusual dessert that is sure to get tongues wagging at a dinner party. The colourful flowers also add another dimension to creative cocktails served with or without alcohol.
The specific types used as edible flowers are the large tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) and the lesser wax begonias or bedding begonias (Begonia x semperflorens). The tuberous types are not common in local gardens, but the wax begonia is one of the most commonly planted summer bedding plants. Flowers are plentiful and easily accessible to most gardeners, but be aware of pesticide usage around plants that may be considered for eating and remember to wash the flowers thoroughly before eating. Go ahead and add some flare to your drab salads this summer!