Bringing a whole new meaning to the term ‘garden kitchen’, it has come to our attention just how delicious and nutritious edible flowers can be. We all share the belief that a bunch of flowers from the garden is one of life’s simplest pleasures, so why aren’t they used more in our kitchens?
From summer cordials, jellies and jams to savoury dishes, desserts and sauces, flowers provide a welcome boost of colour, flavour and texture to a variety of dishes. The list of ‘common’ edible flowers is certainly lengthy, and people are often surprised by how many are readily available in their own garden. Lavender and elderflower are amongst the most popular, used to flavour drinks, cakes and teas, but lilacs, day lilies, dandelions, sunflowers, roses and violets all make wonderful edible flowers too.
From Plot to Plate
It goes without saying that not all flowers are edible, or even appetising. It’s important to select flowers that have been grown organically and avoid any bouquets or supermarket flowers which will have been sprayed with chemicals. Foraging for flowers is surely one of the most exciting and rewarding ways to liven up your culinary repertoire, but avoid anything that grows at the side of a road or path, as the plants will have absorbed toxins from car exhausts and other harmful emissions.
Prepare your flowers in the same way as you would herbs, fruits and vegetables. Pick the flowers in the morning when the stems are at their freshest and full of water and avoid older, bruised blossoms. If you aren’t going to use your flowers straight away they need to be stored properly. Long stemmed flowers can be placed in water for a day or two before cooking, while others should be stored between paper towels or tissue in the fridge for no longer than a week. Short stemmed flowers such as borage cannot be stored and must be used once picked. Rinse the flowers gently in water and pat dry. A quick swill in salt water will kill any insects. Remove the stamens, styles, pistils and sepals (the stalks that hold the pollen and stem together).
Five Of Our Favourites
Calendula Also known as ‘Pot Marigold’, the dried petals of calendula are often added to soups and scrambled egg to add a yellow hue to dishes in place of the costly spice saffron. Calendula leaves can also be used in quiche and ravioli to add an earthy taste to the dish.
Geraniums Heavenly scented, the flower of a geranium is actually quite unremarkable in terms of taste, whereas the leaves are full of flavour. Geraniums bloom from late spring into early autumn, so are perfect additions to sorbets, ice creams and desserts. The leaves can also be added to soups and sauces.
Nasturtium The brilliant orange heads of nasturtiums are spicy and peppery, so why not try adding them to homemade pizza for an unexpected zing in an otherwise bland pizza crust. With the exception of the seed, all parts of the plant can be eaten.
Roses Whether swirled into marscapone and smothered onto cake, or tossed into trifles and baked into biscuits, the colour of the rose won’t affect its flavour. However, the stronger the scent, the stronger the taste will be. Cut off any white tips at the base of the petals as the taste will be bitter.
Orchids Readily available and delicious in a variety of dishes. Orchid flowers can be eaten once the stems have been removed and are best used in stir-fries and savoury dishes thanks to their cucumber-like taste.
Cooking With Flowers by Miche Bacher, photography by Miana Jun, £16.99 Quirk Publishing.