GOURMET GARDENER: Edible flowers
Wild plants and flowers have been recognised for their health benefits for centuries and are commonly seen as part of many regional cuisines including Asian and Middle Eastern, but recently due to the reach of Instagram and other social media channels, combining beautiful blossoms with cuisine is quickly becoming a widely adopted trend elsewhere.
Amazing flavours just don’t cut the mustard any more, and even at home our plates of food now need to be eye-catching as well as tasty!
Edible flowers are defined as flowers that can be consumed safely. This is important to note as some could be toxic and cause harm if ingested. Edible flowers may be eaten as a main part of a meal, for example, stuffed courgette flowers or used to garnish a starter or decorate a dessert.
Edible flowers can be sown in spring and early summer but all surplus can be dried and stored in jars for use throughout the winter. The petals can also be used fresh to add bright vibrant elements to your dish. There are some popular and easy to grow varieties, all with unique benefits and flavours.
Also known more commonly as pot marigold, Calendula is extremely easy to grow at home and is a great choice for containers or in summer borders. It flowers from summer through to autumn and provides an abundance of bright orange and yellow blooms that can be used for cutting, have edible petals and are also used by herbalists to make skincare products.
Plants often self-seed from year to year. They can be sprinkled through salads, or even on pizzas or used to decorate cakes.
Jewel coloured blossoms popping through the jungle-like green sprawling leaves, Nasturtiums are flowers which are easy to raise. Seeds are quite big and can be pickled and used in place of capers. They don’t need special care, only water and are happy to self-seed each year. They are aromatic and can be used in savoury and sweet dishes or jams.
The leaves have a peppery flavour and can also be used in salads. The colours can range from bright orange to ruby red and give great contrast to greens in a dish.
This is my favourite herb. It is loved by the bees and flowers all through the summer. It is an annual herb in the flowering plant family Boraginaceae. It comes in hues of blue through to pinks. The whole plant can be used as either a fresh vegetable (with a taste like cucumber) or as a dried herb.
The flower has a sweet honey-like flavour and is perfect for decorating desserts and cocktails. I also love to freeze them into ice cubes for fancy lemonade. Borage should be sown in spring, but once you sow it, you will find it self seeds year after year in different spots. You can also collect the seeds for next year to sow in specific areas.
When you are thinking of some annual colour in the garden, try to pick plants that you can use in the kitchen also. Edible flowers provide attractive displays and offer a unique way to brighten up any dull dish this summer.
Timely tips for the garden
● Dead head flowers regularly to encourage new blooms
● Check the weather before you water! If it is giving showers you can save on water. It is also a good chance to collect the rain water in a vessel for reusing.
● Prune bottom leaves of tomato plants to reduce chances of blight in this humid weather.
● Pick berries regularly to give the energy to newly forming fruits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
• Tara Kate Linnane is passionate about sustainability and growing all things edible.
Together with her husband Barry, she has embarked on a journey of designing edible spaces and getting others started on their gardening adventures.
Follow their journey on Instagram @twopeas_inapolytunnel or visit thefoodscapedesignco.com to make contact for information.
You can email your questions to email@example.com
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