An article in this months Country Living magazine really caught my eye, ‘Gourmet garden’ a beautiful three double page spread of salads, savouries and sweets all embellished with the most wonderful looking edible flowers and petals.
Although this is by no means a new concept (I’ve been putting petals though my lunch time favourite salads ever since I started the cutting garden) and it certainly is becoming more and more mainstream.
With warmer weather around the corner, social media will soon to be flooded with idealistic images of flower filled food.
Want to join in the trend and give it a try yourself? Fab … me too!
It’s so easy to have your own edible flowers growing right in your garden and if you start now, by June you'll be tucking into ‘Insta-gram’ worthy plates of home grown deliciousness.
The most versatile and (conveniently for us) the easiest to grow edibles are things like Calendula and Pot Marigold … easy to sow in situ and fast growing, their pretty petals have a peppery flavour, perfect in salads and mix with the vivid blue of Cornflower petals to give a real punch of colour! Plant your Cornflowers right in the spot you want them (from March to May) and you'll have a steady supply of flowers all the way to autumn.
Similarly Nasturtium can be sown straight in the soil and will flower from summer well into autumn. The edible Nasturtium available on the market are typically bright orange so mix it up a bit and choose seeds from the yellow, red and burgundy varieties.
Chives are another great starter edible, so easy to grow and to keep going year after year. I keep them in pots right by the kitchen door and they don't seem to mind a bit of neglect that often comes with the busy wedding season. As well as the leaves, chive flowers are perfect in salads or a colourful garnish on buttery new potatoes. Perch a few petals delicately on a poached egg for a stylish garnish at brunch.
Lastly Violas- the staple of the edible flower world. Definitely worth the little extra effort involved in getting them started. It’s still a bit chilly to sow them outside so get them going in the green house or on a kitchen window sill in pots. Then, when the weather is reliably warm (as best as it can be in England at least) you can move them outside. The best thing about Violas is the flowers can be used whole and they pretty much go on anything!
If you don’t have space in your boarders, pots are a fantastic alternative. I’ve found plants need a bit more attention grown this way; they easily dry out in the warm weather, so need watering and they’ll benefit from the occasional organic feed… make sure you use a suitable feed for edible plants!
As a pay off for the extra work, you get a bonus of edible table centres- you could even provide scissors for a “pick your own” garnish!
RHS Edible Flower Guide
Advice from the RHS
When collecting flowers for eating, keep the following in mind;
• Accurate identification of flowers is essential – if you are in doubt, don’t eat.
• Pick young flowers and buds on dry mornings, before the sun becomes too strong, so the colour and flavours will be intense.
• Use flowers immediately for best results or refrigerate in a plastic bag for a couple of days. Dried or frozen flowers are best used in infusions or cooked
• Generally, only the petals are used, so discard stamens, pistil and calyx of large flowers like hollyhocks, roses, lilies and hibiscus. The bitter ‘heel’ at the base of the petal should be removed
• Petals of daisies, borage and primroses can easily be separated from the calyx
• Smaller flowers in umbels like fennel and dill can be cut off and used whole.”
For further advice on whats safe and whats not safe to eat, please visit the RSH guide to edible flowers https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=764
Photos by Hannah Berry