June 27, 2010

Flowers in the Vegetable Garden

Peas, Early Frosty

We are all so excited by the spring flowers in the border that the small workhorses of our food supply are overlooked. Flowers didn't come about for our aesthetic delight, but to make seed for the next generation. In the vegetable garden, much of what we call vegetables are actually fruits, "a structure of a plant that contains its seeds", according to Wikipedia. The pea pod above has emerged from the flower and is beginning to form tiny peas. If you click on the image to enlarge, you'll be able to see a new pod curled up inside the flower.

Tomato, Roma

Eggplant, Diamond

Potato, Carola

The three plants above are members of the nightshade family; it wasn't till I took photographs of their flowers that I saw the strong family resemblance. They all have yellow male stamens that stand up inside the petals like fluted columns. The flowers don't need bees for pollination, just some movement, like the gardener walking by, or the wind. Of course potatoes are different from tomatoes and eggplant in that the vegetable grows underground, propagated by pieces of potato and not by the seeds that sometimes develop from the flowers, stored in little green balls.

Melon, Arava Cantaloupe

Winter Squash, Sunshine

The squashes do need pollinating insects to carry pollen from the male flowers, such as the glorious one above, to the female flowers. Some squashes have very showy flowers and they're often used in cooking. Melons have more discreet blooms; the one above is a female flower, which has a tiny fruit attached. If the flower is pollinated, the fruit will develop, if not, it will wither away. I've tried to pollinate the early fruit by hand with a soft brush, but I don't seem to have the knack, so now I just leave it to the bees and other insects. Happily, there are many more bees about the garden now than there were a few years ago when disease was a problem. So much inter-connection: we provide the pollen via our plantings and the bees thank us by pollinating our fruits and vegetables.


  1. Gorgeous photos of special flowers so often overlooked because the fruit is what is desired. Love your pea image! Makes me hungry for peas which I didn't plant this year--they don't do so well for me. I love my nasturtiums because they are bold and uplifting in color and so tasty, the leaf and flower both.

  2. I was quite startled to learn what a fruit is classified as. Really I'd had such a simplistic notion ... your nature study tour here is delightful Altoon. So much to learn!

  3. Thanks for the compliments on the photos, Maggie. I love growing peas, mostly because I freeze a gallon or two for winter eating. Nasturtiums are so lovely. We each have such different growing conditions; here my soil is quite wet so nasturtiums don't do so well.

    Sophie, yes, isn't the fruit definition interesting? Botanically, tomatoes are fruit, as are cucumbers and squash, but in common parlance, a fruit is something sweet that can be eaten raw.

  4. What a beautiful thing this is and will be - both for the eyes and for the spirit!