Edible Flowers

Donaldson Greenhouses and Nursery

Profile and photos by Alison Hein

Three Donaldson brothers operate independent businesses on an expansive, well-tended acreage in Hackettstown. Brother Gary handles the wholesale aspect, Greg runs the farmers market, and David operates the Donaldson Greenhouse and Nursery.

Denise with lavendar

“We offer a product range from tomatoes to trees,” says Denise Stevenson, Retail Sales and Marketing Manager for Donaldson’s Greenhouses. Stevenson has seen Donaldson’s grow from a tiny establishment with one manual register to a modern, high-tech operation during her 16-year tenure.

The impeccably arranged greenhouses and lush outdoor garden area resemble a well-manicured park. “I’m crazy about plants,” adds Stevenson, who enjoys sharing her knowledge and assisting customers with their selections. “We grow our own vegetables, and plant our own annuals and baskets. We have a lot to offer in every season. During September, we plant 10,000 mums out in the field. It’s glorious.”

When asked about her experience with edible flowers, Stevenson says: “I have two passions – plants and cooking. My sister is a trained chef and we enjoy cooking together. We started with zucchini blossoms from our own garden – picking them, preparing them, cleaning them, stuffing them, and of course the best part, eating them. From there we moved on to candied flowers – using violas and roses as garnish in fruit salads and cupcakes.”

Stevenson cautions against eating unknown blooms, and recommends flowers grown without pesticides for culinary purposes. “That being said,” she adds, “the possibilities are grand. Some fruit blossoms are edible and tasty. Herb flowers, often overlooked, are also wonderful. I love using garlic flowers and garlic scapes (the long, green stems of fresh garlic) for a chive-like flavor.”

“Today I chose to share a recipe close to my heart,” says Stevenson. “I’m inspired by Maureen Gubelmann, chef and co-owner of Stella G’s in Hackettstown, who’s famous around these parts for her lavender lemonade. It’s refreshing and delicious - absolutely outstanding.”

Lavender Lemonade

Denise Stevenson is enamored of the Lavender Lemonade served at Stella G’s in Hackettstown, so she started making her own version, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. Stevenson recommends English Lavender for its intense flavor. For special garden parties or afternoon teas, Stevenson suggests freezing tiny sprigs of lavender in ice cube trays, then adding the decorative ice cubes to the Lavender Lemonade.

Ingredients

For the syrup:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup fresh (or ¼ cup dried) English lavender blossoms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • For the lemonade:
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 8 lemons)

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 lemons, sliced thin and pitted
  • Fresh English lavender sprigs, for garnish

Preparation

To make syrup, pour sugar into a small heavy saucepan. Stir in water and mix well. Place over medium-high to high heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn down heat, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat. Add lavender blossoms and lemon slices. Cover, and let steep overnight (at least 12 hours).

Strain syrup, and pour into a large glass pitcher filled with ice. Add fresh lemon juice, water and lemon slices. Garnish with fresh lavender sprigs. Makes about 2 quarts of lemonade.

Donaldson Greenhouse and Nursery
178 Airport Rd, Hackettstown • 908/852-7314


Educate yourself about edible plants before ingesting any flowers.

  • Consume only plants that are pesticide free – plants that are raised to be edible or that you have grown yourself.
  • Introduce flowers into your diet slowly, and do not eat flowers if you have plant allergies.
  • NEVER eat a plant that you are not sure of – some wild edible flowers closely resemble similar plants that can be toxic.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Allamuchy Mountain Park

    The 8,461 acre park includes the 2500-acre Deer Lake Park, Waterloo Village, mountain bike and horseback trails.

    Hackettstown

  • Rutherfurd Hall

    Consider Rutherfurd Hall as refuge and sanctuary in similar ways now, as it served a distinguished family a hundred years ago.

    1686 Route 517, Allamuchy

  • Millbrook Village

    Millbrook Village, part of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, is a re-created community of the 1800s where aspects of pioneer life are exhibited and occasionally demonstrated by skilled and dedicated docents throughout the village

  • Evergreen Valley Christmas Tree Farm

    Choose and Cut from 10,000 trees! Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, White Pine, Scotch Pine Fraser Fir, Canaan fir, Douglas Fir. Family run on preserved farmland. Open Nov 29 - Dec 23, Tues-Sunday, 9-4. Easy Access from Routes 78 or 80.

    77 Jackson Valley Road, Washington

  • Last Frontier Angler

    Guided fly fishing excursions, beginner to expert, instruction also available. Catch trout in spring, smallmouth bass in summer, ice fishing in winter. Explore the Paulinskill, Flatbrook and wild trout streams.

    Blairstown

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This story was first published: Summer, 2015