It never ceases to amaze me the kinds of edibles that can be grown in the home garden. Flax is a wonderful, and pretty, example.
Here’s a plant with a long growing history. In times gone by it was used not only for its edible seeds, but for its fibers for weaving as well.
The beautiful feathery leaves on stems about two to three feet tall will produce an abundance of lovely “true blue” flowers. Reason enough to plant flax, they are a lovely delicate addition to any ornamental garden bed.
When the flowers dry they produce seed pods. Each pod will hold about a half-dozen seeds—not a lot if you use flax seed a great deal. But since you can tuck these plants into your flower beds, it can add up. In the picture above you can see the pretty flowers, so small and delicate that when a bee lands on one, it bends the plant halfway over. Flax flowers are self-pollinating, but the bees can sure help. Also in the picture are the seed pods in both the green and dry stages.
You can easily collect the pods when they begin to turn brown. To remove the seeds you can thresh by shaking them in a paper bag, or simply lightly crush the pods. Note that you’re not going to get a lot of seed, but still it is fun, and freshly homegrown flax seeds make a wonderful addition in teas and add a lot of nutrition. We’re going to use ours to top some homemade rolls for our next family holiday gathering. In a pinch, you can substitute flax seeds for oil and even eggs in many recipes. We don’t know of any other pretty flower that can make that statement.
Of course, seeds will also be saved for next year’s planting. It’s always good to know you can grow some fabulous nutrition among the daisies.
Facts about flax
Botanical name: Linum usitatissimum
Germination time: 1 to 3 weeks, faster if kept moist.
Days to maturity: 90 to 100
Growing: Reaches 2 to 3 feet tall. Needs full sun. Likes good organic matter and frequent watering.
Hardiness: Considered an annual but may reseed.
Storage: Store dry in a cool place like other seeds.
Uses: In baking, as a substitute for eggs in some recipes, crushed as oil or in tea.
Gardening Jones is a Pennsylvania-based master gardener. Read her other Horticulture posts here and learn more at gardeningjones.com/.
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