Looking for a way to earn yourself some culinary cred? Here’s how to make every dish you serve look blooming delicious
Edible flowers can bring a lovely sense of colour to baked goods, frozen treats or most things really. Imagine a crisp garden salad coloured with bright nasturtiums and a tangy vinaigrette. Or a lemony, almond cake topped with lightly whipped cream and a simple arrangement of purple pansies. You may be surprised to know that many flower varieties are edible.
In fact, some varieties might already be growing in your garden or neighbourhood.
If you have a garden, you can easily grow your own edible flowers from seed. Even a few small pots on your windowsill will do – you don’t need much space at all. Alternatively, farmers’ markets or specialty food stores often sell them, just be sure that they are organically grown without sprays of any kind.
Here’s a list of the flowers I particularly enjoy using, including their unique flavour characteristics and ideas on how to add them to your recipes.
Dandelions: This humble weed is entirely edible, has a honey-like flavour and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The petals make a bright and cheery garnish on baking. You can also add a small handful of the leaves to your smoothie for extra nourishment.
Nasturtiums Flowers: the colour of a brilliant sunset, these little blooms grow wild in our back garden and brighten up a salad like no other. The leaves are also edible and make an excellent addition to pesto. The taste is reminiscent of rocket, peppery with a little spice.
Marigolds: Slightly tangy with gentle citrus notes, you can sprinkle the petals in salads.
Carnations: These crimped petals taste surprisingly sweet, the larger the petals, the more peppery they are.
Calendula: This bright and vibrant flower is tangy and has subtle grassy notes. Toss in salads or add to pasta dough for a touch of colour.
Rose petals: The flower of love, roses are well known for their aroma and flowery taste. The intensity of flavour will depend on the variety and colour, the darker the petals, the more aromatic it will be. Only the petals are edible and they are best used in drinks or for decorating sweet cakes etc.
Chamomile: Well known to have calming and medicinal benefits, chamomile flowers have a gentle, sweet taste. Pretty and practical at the same time.
Lavender: Intensely fragrant with hints of rosemary and mint, use sparingly as a little goes a long way.
Pansies: Possibly the prettiest of edible flowers, I like to use them as a garnish in baking or added to ice cubes for a lovely looking drink. They come in heaps of colours, too.
Fennel blossoms: These yellow wildflowers have a soft aniseed flavour and gentle sweetness, and are lovely in summery, savoury dishes.
Thyme flowers: The little, tiny blooms have a deeply herbaceous aroma, and have hints of mint and lemon, too. Scatter over a vegetable soup, or use as a garnish for roast lamb or chicken.
Borage: These star-shaped blue flowers are gently refreshing, with a cucumber-like taste. The flowers and leaves are beautiful in tea with a drizzle of honey and a slice of lemon.
Cornflowers: The versatile little flowers have a neutral flavour, making them excellent for both sweet and savoury dishes. You can use the whole flower, or just the petals if you prefer. The most common variety is a vivid blue, although you can also grow them in powder pink or purple.
Clover: Commonly found in grass and known as a weed, clover flowers are lightly sweet and have a gentle vanilla-like flavour. They look particularly lovely in salads.
How to store flowers:
Pick them as close to use as possible, place a damp paper towel in the base of a container, and gently arrange the flowers on top. Cover, and place in the fridge until you’d like to use them. To refresh flowers that are a little droopy, plunge them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes, and then allow to dry on a paper towel.
Text by: Eleanor Ozich.