EDIBLE FLOWER GARDENS

 

As gardeners, many of us enjoy growing our own food and herbs but often ignore using edible flowers which add taste, beauty, health and make a great conversation starter at dinner.

Below are some notes for uses & preparation of flowers for eating:                                                                                                                           

 

1. Ensure flowers haven’t been sprayed with chemicals or have insects in them. Avoid eating flowers from florists,  garden centres or from the side of the road. Most have been sprayed with pesticides.

2. Flowers of most vegetables & herbs are safe to eat but if in any doubt whether or not it’s edible, don’t eat. (see above paragraph on ones to avoid).

3. When using flowers in salad, put the dressing on first, flowers last to avoid SPS (soggy petal syndrome!)

4. Most herb flowers taste similar to the foliage and are lovely to add to salads. Use petals in any dish you were already going to flavour with the herb. Blooms can be stored in crisper of fridge until ready to use.

5. Introduce flowers into your diet in small quantities one species at a time. Too much of a good thing may upset your digestion.

6. Remove pistils and stamens from flowers before eating - eat petals only. Exceptions are violas and nasturtiums where pistils/stamens add flavor.     PIC: www.middlepath.com.au

7. Allergy sufferers:- introduce edible flowers gradually as some may be aggravating.

8. Harvest flowers in the late afternoon and avoid picking when wet as moisture/dew can spoil the flavour.

 

HERBAL HONEY  - using chopped herbal flowers + unprocessed honey.       

 

METHOD

Place flowers in a wide mouthed glass jar nearly filled to top.

Pour honey over and fill to top, mixing as needed to get rid of air bubbles. Screw lid on tightly, label and date. Leave this to steep for 2 – 6 wks +.

This may be used as a spread on bread, added to raw treat balls, smoothies, dressings and teas.

 

 

FLOWER BUTTER:- using: 1/2 -1 cup chopped fresh or dried petals + 500gms unsalted butter, room temp
 

METHOD

Finely chop petals & mix into softened butter. Allow mixture to stand at room temperature overnight to allow the flavors to fuse. Store in fridge or freezer.
 

WARNING! Not all flowers are meant to be eaten. Some flowers are poisonous and to be thoroughly avoided anywhere near your digestive system!

In particular – stay away from: azalea, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, oleander, frangipani, agapanthus, rhododendron, lily of the valley, tomato, potato, eggplant, capsicum, asparagus, sweet peas and wisteria.

This is by no means a complete list.

For more info on poisonous plants read the excellent book by Australian author Sally Wilson, Some Plants Are Poisonous.

 

 

 FLOWER

 

  NOTES AND RECIPES – HOW TO USE

 

 

 

 APPLE BLOSSOM

 Malus species

 NOTE: Enjoy it in moderation. Flowers  and seeds may contain cyanide  precursors.

             

 Pink/white flowers in early spring. Add to salads and use infused petals in whipped cream or icecream (  (good with apple pie/ tarts). Apple blossoms have a delicate floral flavor and aroma and are lovely with fruit  dishes. May be be crystalised to use as a garnish. Remember if you eat the flower it will not fruit! 

 ARABIAN JASMINE

             

 ‘Duke of Tuscany’ cultivar is used to flavour jasmine tea. Make a syrup and use as base for sorbets,  icecreams or pour over melons, figs or poached pears.                     

 BANANA BLOSSOMS

 Musa paradisiaca

 

              

  Also know as Banana Hearts. These huge flowers are cone shaped and burgundy torpedo, arising from  the  top of the trunks. Banana blossoms are used in Southeast Asian cuisines. The blossoms can be  cooked or  eaten raw. Remove fibrous outer covering to reveal whitish tender parts of the blossom. Slice  and let it sit in  water until most of the sap is gone. If you eat it raw, make sure the blossom comes from a  variety that isn't  bitter. Leaves can be used as eco plates!

 BASIL

 Ocimum basilicum

 

              

 Flavour of basil flower is similar but milder than basil leaves. Many different varieties of basil give rise to  different flower taste ie lemon and mint. Sprinkle them over salad or pasta.

 BORAGE

 Borago officinalis

 NB the ancient Romans sprinkled  borage flowers in  wine as it was  believed to give courage before battle  and help against feelings of sadness.

              

 Mix in salads, especially with cucumbers as borage flowers have a cucumbery taste (add at last minute to  avoid wilt). Freeze in icecubes and float in drinks (punches, lemonade, gin and tonics or iced tea). Eat flower  only (remove hairy sepals before eating).

 Delicious garnish on sorbets, chilled soups, canapes, and dips esp.smoked salmon. Crystallized blossoms  are also used as garnishes for cakes and pastries. Pregnant women should avoid borage flowers as 8-10  flowers can cause milk to flow.

 BROCCOLI 

 Brassica oleracea

             

  Let broccoli go to flower after harvesting secondary mini heads. Attracts hoverflies and other predators which   will munch on your pests. Light yellow flowers have a mild spicy broccoli flavour. Sprinkle them over salads,     in sandwiches, garnish stir fries,or with steamed fish.

 CALENDULA

 Calendula officinalis

             

 Spicy, peppery flavour, slightly bitter. Use fresh petals to add  golden colour to dishes. Use in salads  sparingly and as garnish for soups, frittatas, rice dishes. Add to seafood paella or plain rice (use as a saffron  substitute). Can blend finely chop-ped petals with icing sugar to create bright natural dye. Add to chooks food  to give deeper yellow yolks. Flowers in winter.

 CERCIS (Judas tree)

 Cercis canariensis

             

 Can garnish cooked vegies or add crunch to salads. Also may pickle buds like capers & make  flower  clusters into fritters, frying in batter. Taste: cross between green beans/tart apple.

 CHIVES & SOCIETY
 GARLIC (both varieties)

 

             

 Use in any dish you’d use onions in or to give mild onion flavour. Harvest flowers just after they  open and  separate the florets. Flowers taste better when young. Use in salads, dips, sauces, add  to sour cream and  goat cheese. Garnish cream of tomato soup, add to omelets, pasta dishes.  Yum!

 CORIANDER

 Coriandrum sativum

             

 Pretty white flowers which taste like leaves. Remove small florets from stem (which is tough and  fibrous), c  chop and use sparingly in salads, coconut curries, stir fries, salsas.

 CITRUS BLOSSOMS orange, lemon,         lime, grapefruit, kumquat, lemonade.

  NB Taste first as some citrus are very  strong

             

 Sprinkle petals sparingly on fruit salads or to flavour homemade lemonade whipped  cream/icecream. Use in  jams or syrups. Orange flower water is used as a drink, in pastries or  face spray (keep in fridge – wonderful  in summer). Blooms make great garnish for citrus based  desserts.

 DAYLILY

 Hemerocallis spp & cvs

 

.

 

             

 Ranges in taste from sweetlettuce or melon to metallic – try before using in food. Buds can be used in  stirfries and japanese tempura. Buds taste like cross between to asparagus/green beans. Can saute or  bake buds. Sliced petals can be used sprinkled in salads and soups. Different colored blossoms have  different flavors. Petals are good in desserts. Cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower.  NOTE: Many Lilies contain alkaloids and are NOT edible. Make sure you are eating a daylily! May act as a  diuretic or laxative; eat in moderation

 DILL

 Anethum graveolens

             

 Break up flowerheads & use in omelets, salads or sprinkle over vegie dishes. Tangy flavour goes well with  potatoes, beetroot and carrots. Good in fish sauces and with soft mild cheese. Stronger taste than leaves.  Use yellow flowers as you would the herb to season hot or cold soups, seafood dressings, and dips. The  seeds used in pickling & baking.

 DIANTHUS/CARNATIONS

 Dianthus caryophyllus

             

 Tastes spicy, peppery, clove-like and may be used instead of cloves. Dried flowers can be powdered in  mortar and pestle and used to flavour cakes and biscuits. Can steep in alchol and use like vanilla essence.  Add to fruit salad at last minute. Make into syrup, sorbets or custard. Chopped and mixed into butter, garnish  cakes, soups and punch bowls. Remove white base of petals if it tastes bitter.

 FEIJOIAS (GUAVA)

 Feijoa sellowiana

             

 Delicious petals may be eaten by themselves, tastes sweet and tropical, like the fruit. Use in fruit salads or  cold drinks or with avocados. Interestingly, eating the petals still enables fruit to mature unlike other fruit  trees.  How generous is this tree?

 FENNEL

 Foeniculum vulgare

             

 Yellow florets have mild anise flavour. Use to garnish dishes made with fennel, over fish, chopped and added  to potato, tomato, beetroot, artichoke dishes and desserts.

 FUCHSIA

 Fuchsia x hybrida

             

 Blooms have a slightly acidic flavor. Bright colours and graceful shape make it ideal as garnish. The    berries  are also edible.

 GARLIC FLOWERS

 Allium sativum

             

 White or pink flowers have a garlicky zing which is milder than the garlic bulb. Wonderful in salads or on  potatoes. May use combo of unpeeled garlic cloves and flowers (or just the cloves) to make garlic honey.  Fill  jar with garlic cloves and flowers then pour in honey. Leave to steep, strain and use in flu season in hot  lemon drinks. The longer it’s left the stronger it will be. See entry on chives and society garlic for more uses  of these flowers.

 GERANIUMS

 Perlagonium spp rose, peppermint,  apple-mint and lemon scented are  the best varieties to use. NB  citronella geranium = inedible

.

             

 Use to flavour icecreams, custards or to garnish fruit salad. Add to crème fraiche served over strawberries  or  peaches. Florets can be put into sugar canister to flavour sugar to use in cakes biscuits and tea.  Sprinkle  them over desserts and in refreshing drinks or freeze in ice cubes. Make rose or lemon scented  geranium  honey.

HIBISCUS

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

             

 Cranberry-like flavor with citrus overtones. Use slightly acidic petals sparingly in salads or as garnish on  dips. The flower can be dried to make an exotic tea or try making this cordial:
 Pour 3 cups of boiling water over 3 cups of hibiscus flowers. Chill then strain. Add sugar syrup.

 NB - according to some sources, double petals may be a bit less palatable to the digestive process than the  single. So perhaps only try this with single bloomed hibiscus. The singles (in all flowers) are also a lot easier   for insects/bees to pollinate as they have a more stable 'landing pad'.  

 HONEYSUCKLE

 Lonicera japonica

             

 Sweet honey flavour, tastes like it smells - delicious in desserts. Infuse flowers with strawberries to make  sorbet or steep to make a herbal tea. Use in salads as garnish. Be a bird and slurp nectar out of the bottom  of the flower! Only the flowers are edible. NOTE: Berries are highly poisonous - Do not eat them!

 IMPATIENS 

 Impatiens wallerana

             

 The flowers have a sweet flavour. They can be used as a garnish -  in salads or floated in drinks

 LAVENDER

 Lavandula angustifolia

 English lavender

 (arguably the most deliciously  scented  variety)

 

                  

  Lavender flowers can be used fresh or dried. Leaves and flowers heads can be steeped for making sorbets,   icecream and syrups (delicious over poached pears) custards or flans. May be used to flavour sugar and        used in biscuits/sweets. Flowers look and taste lovely in a glass of champagne or to garnish  chocolate cake.

  Sunshine Shortbread:Thanks  Mary P for this recipe!

 135gm soft butter ∞  1/2 cup SR Flour

 2 tbsp  Instant Shine Milk

 2 tblsp Icing Sugar ∞ 1/2 cup cornflour

 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence

 1 flat tsp dried English lavender (grow your own or buy dried from Freo markets).

 Method:

 Cream butter gradually add other ingredients except lavender. Mix to a pastry texture then add lavender. Mix  well. Roll out pastry. Cut into fingers. Prick with fork, bake in a slow oven 150-160C for 20 mins.

 NASTURTIUM

 Tropaeolum majus

 NB. nasturtiums leaves & flowers  have  antibiotic properties. Can make  tea out  of leaves (very pungent –  needs honey  to make palatable) but  excellent for  immune system boost.

             

 Spicy peppery taste similar to watercress. Use sparingly, the lusher the soil, the milder the taste (leaves &  flowers). Adds zip to sandwiches/salads. May add whole flowers on top of pizzas/soups. Immature seed  pods can be pickled and used instead of expensive capers in salads and on pizza.. Use to make lavender  flower honey. See honey section above.

  PIC: www.middlepath.com.au

 ROCKET Eruca vesicaria

 

 NB Rocket is an excellent beneficial  insect attractor and will reseed in  your garden next season. It is reputed to be excellent for the liver.

             

  White flowers have nutty, horse-radish flavour similar in taste to the leaves. Use in green or pasta salads, f       frittatas, pizzas, roasted vegie paninis, as tomato soup garnish or on sandwich-es. Blooms lend a light             piquant flavor. Leaves have spicy, pep-pery flavor: mild in young leaves, more intense in mature ones 
 

 ROSEMARY

 Rosemarinus officinalis

 

             

 Sprinkle over salads or veg dishes, grilled eggplants, grilled mushrooms, on top of roast potatoes. Flowers  can be added to herb vinegars or honey.Blossoms have a milder flavour than leaf. Fresh or dried herb and  blossoms enhance flavor of Mediterranean dishes. Use with meats, seafoods, sorbets or dressings.

 ROSES

 Rosa rugosa

R. gallica officinalis

 Rose Petal Tea - Serves 2.

 1 cup fragrant rose petals

 (7 large roses) 
 1.5 cups filtered water 
 Honey to taste 

 1. Remove bitter white bases from  rose petals, rinse petals.

 2.  Place petals in small saucepan over med-hi heat.

 3.  Cover with water and bring just to  a simmer for 5 minutes, or until the  petals become discolored.

 4. Strain then add honey to taste if desired.

 

         

 Individual petals of large varieties and small flowered roses can be used as garnishes on platters or  desserts. Use to make rosewater. Can infuse to make flavoured butters and syrups.

 

 Rose sugar: mince 2 cups of fragrant petals and pound in mortar and pestle with 1 cup of granulated sugar.  Let mixture sit for a week, strain out petals. Store in airtight container.

 

 Flavours depend on type, color, and soil conditions. Petals taste sweet with subtle undertones ranging from  fruit to mint to spice. All roses are edible, with the flavour being more pronounced in the darker varieties.  Though dark red varieties can be too strong and metallic tasting. Freeze them in ice cubes and float them in  punches also. Petals are used in syrups, jellies, perfumed butters and sweet spreads. NOTE: Make sure you  remove the bitter white portion of the petals.

 

 Rose honey = lay petals - minus their white bases - into glass jar and pour over honey to cover. Leave to  steep 2 -3 weeks.

 SAGE

 Salvia officinalis

              

 Edible sage blooms are lovely to garnish frittatas, tomato cream soup, mushroom risotto. Mince flowers and  use in butter to melt over grilled mushrooms. Flowers are a delicious companion to many foods including  beans, corn dishes, sauteed or stuffed mushrooms, or pesto sauce. Sage honey is excellent with hot lemon  water for sore throats.
 

 Thymus vulgaris                 Tiny white, pink or lavender flowers are good for garnishing platters or sprinkled over soups, salads, sauces,  asparagus, incorporated into butters. Taste = milder version of leaf. Use sprigs as garnish or remove flowers  and sprinkle over soups, etc. Use thyme flowers anywhere the herb might be used.
     

 VIOLETS

  Viola tricolour - Johnny Jump ups

 

                Pretty in salads, tastes a bit like lettuce with a mild winter-green flavor - can be bitter – try first. These lovely  yellow, white and purple blooms can also be used to decorate cakes, or to serve with soft cheese. They are  also a tasty addition to drinks, soups and desserts. 
 VIOLA SPECIES - violets                 Strong, floral sweet flavour – use in salads as garnish or in sandwiches. Freeze in icecubes and float in a  punch bowl. May use violets to scent a sugar bowl or flavour a custard. Make pretty adornments for icing on  cakes, on sorbets, or any other desserts. Heart-shaped leaves are edible, and tasty when cooked like  spinach. Reportedly good for the heart. Don't you love the doctrine of signatures?!
 Yucca species               

 The white flower is crunchy with a mildly sweet taste and a hint of artichoke. Use in salads and as a garnish.  Only the petals are edible. Other parts contain saponin, which is poisonous. Large amounts may be harmful.

 

 

References:

Edible Flowers - From Garden To Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash

The Edible Flower Garden, by Rosalind Creasy

http://www.frutasdelmundo.inriodulce.com/edibleflowers.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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