Make the most of your garden
Learn how to grow blooms you can eat!
Flowers are often the centrepiece of a garden, bringing fragrance and colour and providing a haven for insects and creepy-crawlies – but did you know you can also use them for eating? The flowers of many plants not only look beautiful, but taste great too and are a welcome addition to salads, sauces, casseroles, soups and more!
These flowers grow on plants that are already in most gardens, and you may be coming into contact with them every day already without knowing that they’re edible! This is by no means an exhaustive list (in fact, there are probably hundreds of different types of edible flower), but here are a few of the most common types, with some suggestions for how to enjoy them!
Rosehip is packed with vitamin C and is used widely in medicine and cosmetics, but you can eat the petals too. Generally speaking the more fragrant the rose, the stronger the taste will be. The petals can be crystallised and used in decorating cakes and cocktails, or reduced down to a sweet syrup – just remember to remove the bitter white base of the petal before eating.
Courgettes are a much-loved veggie, but the big, bold yellow flowers that sprout from the plant deserve their share of attention too. They’re commonly used in Mediterranean and Italian cooking – try stuffed with risotto, or a sharp cheese like feta and fry til they’re crunchy.
These garden favourites fill flowerbeds up and down the country, and the best bit? Those vibrant red and orange blooms are delicious on a salad! It tastes a bit like watercress with a punchy, peppery flavour and look great contrasting against fresh greens.
Another garden favourite, the pretty purple blooms of violas are perfect for crystallising or decorating cakes. The Viola Heartsease is tasty scattered over a salad too.
Lavender smells wonderful when brushed up against in the garden, and its relaxing fragrance adds a floral note to foods. Try using in honey, or a lavender sponge. Adventurous eaters might even want to pair it with cheese – a real taste sensation!
These big and bright blooms provide seeds that are lovely when toasted, but did you know the buds are also edible? Pick them before they bloom and steam for a few minutes, before serving up with vinaigrette or garlic butter – it’s just like artichoke.
This common leaf sprouts with delicate lilac/blue flowers, and they have a bitter and earthy taste. Use them in salads, or pickle the buds. The roots of chicory are also commonly used to ‘extend’ or bulk out coffee.
Pretty marigolds add lively yellow colour to soups and stews (think saffron), and they’ve got a great peppery flavour. The petals can also be crystallised or pickled.
As well as picking at all these delicious garden blooms for your table, remember not to overlook your trusty herb garden when sourcing edible flowers. Herbs like borage, mint, chives, dill and basil all produce tasty edible blossoms – if you’re new to herb planting, read my blog ‘Growing herbs in your garden’ here.
It’s important to remember a couple of golden rules when it comes to eating the fruits of your labour.
- A good rule of thumb is to avoid eating any plant you’re not totally sure on the identification of – some flowers have lookalikes that can make you really ill, so beware.
- Any products you use to treat your plants will still be present when you come to eating them, so avoid using any pesticides etc.
- If you’re asthmatic or have hayfever or pollen allergies, introduce flower eating very gradually to your diet.
- Worried about creepy-crawlies on your salad flowers? Just dip the blooms in salted water before you tuck in.
- Don’t eat flowers from public highways, dusty roadsides or anywhere where livestock is kept.
We have a couple of months every year when our gardens are overflowing with amazing blossoms everywhere we look, so let’s take advantage of these amazing edible flowers at any chance we get! Happy eating!