Hans Christian Andersen said ‘Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower’
It’s the first day of spring! The spring equinox marks the change of the seasons as we look forward to the arrival of spring and the promise of warmer days we are getting our gardening gloves out and setting too!
Growing up in the countryside of North Wales I was lucky enough to encounter edible flowers at an early age, family walks were a daily occurrence and running through the woods we would regularly scan the hedgerows for our favourite wood sorrel. We called it ‘bread and cheese’ but the taste is in fact very zesty.
Fast forward a few years I am still referring to it as bread and cheese (much to Andi’s amusement). We now use Sorrel to enhance not only the presentation of our dishes but also to add an extra layer of subtle flavour.
Growing flowers not only for their beauty but for their edible properties is hugely satisfying. Whether you grow them in your window box or allotment, vegetable patch or balcony, your blooms can add spice, colour and taste to your plate.
Here are our top 5 edible flowers:
Calendula or Marigold
Calendula has traditionally been used medicinally for centuries to treat burns and rashes due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Not only will the brilliant orange and yellow flowers cheer you and your garden up, they will also add a beautiful pop of colour sprinkled on salads.
These are a great place to start if you are a bit of a gardening novice (like me) as they are really easy to grow. Nasturtium has a lovely delicate peppery taste similar to watercress. Our favourite way to use them is to top off our signature canape - beef carpaccio, truffle mayo and pickled shallot. (Grower’s tip - be careful with these beauties because if the flowers aren’t picked, they will self-seed and spread themselves everywhere!)
I must admit I am a tad obsessed with these pretty little flowers and their heart-shaped leaves and characteristic irregular flowers are a familiar sight for most of us. Pansy flowers come in a huge variety of colours and they have a mild and delicate perfumed flavour. Basically, you can use them in anything! They are a great addition to salads and desserts but can also be candied and frozen in ice cubes to use in cocktails, the sky is the limit!
I’m pretty sure all my fellow 80s children made rose water at some point growing up, but you’ll be shocked to find out there are actually many other uses.
The best flavoured rose petals come from Rugosa roses which have large single flowers. The rose petals can be used to flavour syrups, teas, sauces, jams and preserves…the possibilities are endless. We love to crystalize the delicate petals to dress desserts and canapes on our wedding menus.
This may be a slightly controversial choice for an edible flower as many of us associate lavender with old ladies and scented pillows. But guess what - we’re bringing it back.
The classic pretty blue/purple flowers add a lovely colour and scent to the garden. They are best used in sweet concoctions such as jams, jellies, ice creams and baking. The flowers can also be crystallised (can you guess we like crystalizing things)?
Lavender is easy to grow, and it even thrives in poor dry soils - which is good to know because we all forget to water our plants, right?
By simply growing flowers in your garden it will not only add colour to your life and be aesthetically pleasing, but it is also a new way of adding flavour, fragrance and taste into your cooking.
Also, lavender flowers are a big hit with bees who coincidently are the leading pollinators in the world.