Delicious A dish isn’t complete without a little petal power.
The very first flowers I remember sampling as a child were red clover. My brother and I didn't so much eat them as sip them. We would spend hours pulling each delicate little tube out of the flower head in order to suck out the delicious smidgeon of nectar hiding there. Maybe our parents showed us this and maybe it was the bumblebees that gave us the clue, sharing right along with us as we sat in the long grass having our treat.
It wasn't long before we had extended this method of extraction to honeysuckle, comfrey and pineapple sage. Every now and then, a whole flower would get sucked in and munched down, starting me off on a life-long journey of eating flowers.
I'm known for my salads out here in the Marlborough Sounds, which almost always include flowers. I love to grow masses of pick-a-leaf-as-you-go greens all year round like red coral mizuna, rocket, mibuna, miners lettuce, corn salad and land cress. But eventually, in the way of all things, the plants start to go to seed, and on the way they produce very tasty flowers which also end up in salads, in my trade-mark weed pesto, or as decoration on cakes. Flowers enhance any garden in my mind, and if you can also eat them, then all the better. They add such a beautiful, almost exotic flair to certain dishes, and despite their diminutive size have nutritional benefits to boot.
Many flowers are high in vitamins C and A. Recent studies have revealed that certain flowers have antioxidant properties due to the high levels of phenols present, with calendula and Jerusalem artichoke two of the highest.
Flowers have been used throughout history for healing purposes, such as treating open wounds and in aromatherapy. We're all familiar with the wonderful scents of roses and lavender, and I am always amazed at how the cares of the world just seem to vanish when I pop my nose into a fragrant rose bloom and inhale. But why just smell the roses? Why not eat them as well?
Borage (or 'porridge' flowers as one of my sons called them in his toddler stage) is great as a pick-me-up when I'm feeling low. Yep, I'm definitely a flower eater and seeing as there are over 50 different kinds of edible flowers, there's always something new to sample.
While I'm quite happy waxing lyrical about the sweet little faces of johnny jump ups (heartsease) or the spicy hit from a nasturtium blossom, I'd like to take the opportunity on the following pages to introduce you to two wild edible flowers growing here in New Zealand, along with two of my tried and true favourite recipes.
Go forth and eat flowers!