In the modest 48-square-feet-plus-whiskey-barrel allocated to edibles in my garden, form often trumps function in the things I grow to eat: lemon cucumbers, red okra, scarlet runner beans (two varieties), rainbow Swiss chard, Chinese long beans, Green Zebra tomatoes, purple-black Diamond eggplant, Jimmy Nardello's red sweet chili pepper, a collection of herbes de Provence + herbs of "Scarborough Fair", and the 6-foot endive that looks like a big weedy mistake for all but the first hours of the morning, when it blooms with the blue that I cannot live without.
I've purposely stocked my vegetable beds with ornamental edibles, but the balloon flowers in my perennial back border are a surprising edible ornamental, as it turns out. Platycodon (platy, the prefix, meaning "broad", and codon, the suffix, meaning "bells": thank you, Dictionary of Botanical Epithets!) grandiflorum's an invaluable garden citizen. It blooms tall and long, and the blue velvet texture of the specimen in the photo above (looks much better "in person", trust me) is a knockout against bright pink phlox or lemon yellow daylilies.
Platycodon is doraji in Korean, celebrated in folk song. What's edible is not above-ground, but below: the fleshy taproots (pictured here, if you scroll down some) are peeled, soaked, julienned and spiced, and eaten as banchan. It's crunchy and very yummy; I'd been eating it for years and years before finally cluing into its floral connection.
I'd never sacrifice the balloon flowers in my garden just to get to their roots, but they're prompting a summer day's fantasy: a platycodon farm, with acres planted to billowing fields of the broad bells, in blue, pink and white. Mmmm.