Good enough to eat

Article originally published by: Kiwi Gardener

Rachel Vogan looks to pretty petals to pimp up our summer menus.

We eat with our eyes and in summer it is easy to create a visual symphony by adding edible flowers and petals to salads, slaws, pizza, pasta and numerous other dishes. Foodies love them and nothing brings a plate more alive than something floral.

Edible flowers are not readily available in the shops, which always seems a shame. The only option is to grow your own, so, let the floral fun begin.

For those who like order and structure in the garden, edible flowers are happy to conform to a designated area, behind low hedges or in pots and tubs. For others, like myself, let them nestle themselves into all areas of the garden. I like random blasts of colour throughout the vegetable garden and have drifts of nasturtiums edging my citrus border and tumbling down over the timber edges of my driveway. Other self-sown all-rounders, like calendula and borage, pop up each season in corners of the glasshouse, in amongst the rhubarb and asparagus bed and in any spare nook and cranny of the potager. I always allow my chives to flowers and have planted plenty of daylilies so I don’t need to sacrifice floral displays for food. Fortunately with courgettes, if you pick the male flowers you won’t lose any of your crop.

Some edible flowers are best eaten whole, such as those from borage, courgettes and violas, whereas others, from the likes of calendula, chives and lavender, go a lot further as petals can be separated easily.

10 of the best

  1. Chives

    The flower’s flavour is similar to its leaves. The onion taste is the same in chive flowers, and garlic chives’ flowers have a slightly garlicky note. Separate the individual flowers from the flower head and sprinkle on top of egg and cheese dishes or salads.
  2. Borage

    The perfectly formed, star-shaped blue or white borage flowers are at home in sweet or savoury dishes. The flowers can be crystallised in sugar and used on cakes and baking, or added to numerous savoury dishes.
  3. Pot marigold

    Calendula can bloom for about 10 months of the year, offering bold shades of yellow or orange. Petals are easy to separate from the main head. With a slightly sweet and buttery taste, and a hint of pepper, it is a good one to use when introducing the family to the joys of edible flowers. An ideal option to brighten up club sammies or asparagus rolls.
  4. Violas

    With painted faces and a rainbow of colours, these miniature members of the pansy family have a sweet taste and are great for sprucing up dishes in the cooler months of the year, when they are happiest in the garden. Pansies can be eaten, too, however, the larger flowers do not seem to hold their shape for as long as the violas.
  5. Scarlet runner beans

    With a distinctive bean flavour, the bright scarlet flowers of runner beans are lovely in omelettes and raw salads. Pinch off the flowers once they are about finger-nail size, before the bean starts to form.
  6. Nasturtium

    Probably the most recognisable edible flower, these generous, carpeting and rambling flowers bloom for months on end. If left alone, they can become a little rampant and weed-like. The flower colour spectrum ranges from vivid tones of sunset orange, red and yellow, through to black, with double frilly perennial varieties, too.
  7. Courgette

    Savoured by foodies for stuffing, these delicate-looking flowers are actually quite robust and hold up to being deep-fried, crumbed and battered. Pick the male flowers, as these don’t form fruit. Flavour is nutty and courgette-like.
  8. Daylilies

    The unopened flower buds are the tastiest parts of the daylily. With a real fresh, nutty flavour, they’re a great addition to risottos, pasta and scrambled eggs. Pick the individual buds rather than the whole flower head.
  9. Lavender

    With pungent, perfumed flavour, lavender is generally best suited to sweet food, like cakes, biscuits and drinks. The younger flower heads have a milder taste, whereas dried flowers are more intense.
  10. Roses

    Rose petals are sweet and delicate, they do not store well therefore are best harvested just prior to serving. Remove petals from the stem. For those who enjoy sugar work, the petals can be crystallised with sugar.