Spring has finally sprung, that typically English style of spring showers and lovely sunshine, and the flowers are in full bloom and can be enjoyed in situ, cut in vases or even on the dining room table!
As well as tasty leaves, salad crops and pea shoots and a variety of vegetables to add interest to salads through the summer months you can also add interest and flavour with edible flowers.
Many of us are aware that Nasturtium flowers are edible; the leaves give a pungent taste to salads and the flowers are the same. Cakes can be decorated with sugared violets and rose petals. Borage flowers added to summer drinks have a taste that is similar to cucumber. Dandelion leaves have a strong, peppery taste and are sometimes added to salads but did you know that the flower buds can be fried in butter and have a mushroom like taste? A good reason to leave some of these weeds in your lawn or just grow a patch with your vegetables!
Many herbs have edible flowers. Chives look pretty added to a salad and have a mild onion taste and unusual texture. The flat yellow flower heads of Fennel have a liquorice flavour and Rosemary flowers have a milder flavour of the leaves. Basil is a pungent herb, traditionally partnered with tomatoes and the flowers can also be eaten.
Violas also have edible flowers and although they do not taste of much, they add a dramatic twist to a salad bowl, along with the zingy orange and lemon petals of Calendula (Pot Marigold) and Day Lily petals. Day Lily petals taste of crunchy lettuce and are a good addition to a salad bowl. Gladiolus petals have a similar taste. Primrose flowers can also be eaten and give a colourful twist to a plate of winter salad leaves.
Don’t worry if your Radish goes to seed! It is often difficult to avoid a glut of this fast maturing crop but the flowers can also be eaten and have a mild, peppery taste – great in a salad with some oil and lemon juice!
Picking courgettes whilst they are young will mean that the flower is still attached and the whole thing can be fried in batter or the flowers can be stuffed with various fillings and fried or baked for something different. Pick the flowers early in the morning while they are still open. Other squash flowers from pumpkins and butternut squash can also be eaten.
To add a pretty touch to the next BBQ, try freezing flowers in ice cubes for drinks or if you forget to prepare these before hand, decorate fresh lemonade with lavender or pansies. You can also make delectable popsicles with floral syrups and flowers frozen in !
Here are a few rules to ‘plant foraging! to ensure you don’t poison loved ones or guests but remain the hostess with the mostess!
- Make sure that you know what you are eating! If in doubt leave well alone. Your local garden centre such as Notcutts, can give you a hand to know which are safe to eat.
- Use only the petals of composite flowers (daisies with a large centre such as Calendula and Sunflowers). Other parts of these flowers can be an irritant or indigestible.
- Don’t eat too much of a plant in one go – some such as Day Lily petals are a laxative in large amounts!
- Buy a book or go online to find more edible flowers and how to use them.
- Try growing your own so that you always have a gardener’s garnish to hand!