THE GOOD LIFE
Growing edible flowers
Flowers have made their way onto the kitchen table, and not just in a vase. Anyone who has watched television shows such as The Great British Bake Off or Masterchef will know that adding the right petals to a dish doesn’t just make it look beautiful – it enhances the flavours, too. Growing your own is a good way of trying your hand at this, as you can be confident of the species (some plants are poisonous, so it pays to be cautious), be certain that they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides (often the case with cut flowers in supermarkets) and you can pick them the morning before you serve them, ensuring the colours are at their brightest and the flavours at their freshest.
FROM THE BORDERS
Take a look around your garden and you might be surprised to find that you already have a supply of edible flowers. Make the most of the scented petals of roses and lavender from your borders in jellies, icing and cakes – the more fragrant varieties tend to have a stronger flavour. Bright red, orange and yellow nasturtiums add a peppery punch to salads and also work well as a garnish for steak. Pretty violas are popular as a decoration for cakes and puddings, especially when crystallised in sugar, but their lettuce-like taste works well in salads, too. For a bedding plant with a difference, try Electric Daisies (£2.49, suttons.co.uk) – the bright yellow flowers have a fizzy, almost electric taste on your tongue. Be warned – a few petals is enough!
FROM THE VEGETABLE PLOT
Don’t forget about the flowers in your vegetable patch. The big yellow blooms of courgettes and squash are delicious when stuffed
with ricotta and deep-fried in a tempura batter. Pick a few flowers from pea and runner bean plants (not all of them, or you won’t get any pods later in the year) and you’ll benefit from a delicate pea or bean flavour, which works well stirred through rice and couscous.
FROM THE HERB GARDEN
During warmer months, herbs can grow so voraciously that they start to flower. Although this diverts energy from the leaves, it does provide you with some lovely edible blooms. The flowers of annual herbs, including basil, coriander and dill, are a toned-down version of the plant’s leaves. Sprinkle them into salads, or try freezing them into ice cubes for a botanical boost to G&TS. Borage flowers have a surprising taste of cucumber, so are ideal in salads; the purple petals of chives have a mild onion flavour that goes perfectly with fish, and the white flowers of garlic chives provide a subtler flavour to dressings than cloves.
For more on how to use edible flowers, see Sweeter Than Roses in this issue.