Edible Flowers are growing in popularity every year. While zucchini and squash flowers have had their popularity as pretty cases for delicious stuffings, dainty sugars violets and rose petals have also enjoyed favour over the years. These days with the rise of farm to plate interest and a focus on what can be grown at home for our own cooking explorations, edible flowers of all types are popping up everywhere yet again. I’ve put together a list of blossoms that you can grow and eat along with suggestions for their use based on their inherent flavours. Please note that not all flowers can be consumed with many being toxic or even deadly so be sure of identification and that they are organically grown.
Borage (Borago officinalis)
They taste like fresh cucumbers and make a refreshing tea but can also be added to just about any dish or drink to add a delightful splash of blue with their brilliant royal to sapphire blossoms. It is an annual that requires a very sunny spot, most soils and should be planted in spring through to late summer.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) This traditionally medicinal flower with fantastic skin-healing properties is also a culinary hero as a natural food dye. It has a mild aromatic flavour and works well in almost any form of cookery. Plant from spring through to autumn in a moist, rich soil in a sunny position.
Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)
People have been writing about the joys of eating carnations since writing began! They have a peppery taste and make amazing pickles, drink additives and desserts. Plant in spring through to autumn in a full sun position with a free-draining soil.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
Best with stronger and bitter flavours like dark chocolate or drinks such as wines and spirits, this is a flower that also alienates a few with its strong sweet perfume flavour. The mistake most gardeners make is overwatering lavender. They are a Mediterranean plant and likes full sun, the best drainage you can ensure and light feeding.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
They have zingy pepper flavour that also works well with stir-fries and salads while looking so bright and inviting. Plant by seed in autumn and you will find that they are also a wonderful addition to vegetable gardens as pollinators. Soak seeds overnight before planting in full sun in most soils.
Rosella/Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) The dark red calyx of the flower can be used to create jams and syrups and can be candied or persevered in a sugar syrup as well. The flavour of the calyx is berry-like and can be used best in drinks and sweet dishes while the flowers do well in salads. Grows easily from plant cuttings or seed in late spring through to early summer and needs full sun.
Roses (Rose spp.)
Most people have a love/hate relationship with rose flavoured foods. They are the base of Turkish Delight, and give an exotic aroma and taste to desserts, drinks and sauces. Sugared rose petals are also a pretty decoration for confections and baking. The trick to using roses is to separate the petals and trim away the white base end of each petal as it has an undesirable flavour. Roses need full sun, at least six hours a day, in a wind-sheltered position with rich well-draining soil.
Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo var. giromontiina)
With flowers that mildly taste like their yummy vegetables, these blossoms are one of the most popular of the edible flower bunch. They are delicious stuffed with anything you can imagine but are particularly good filled with cheese-based recipes and then fried or baked. They also make wonderful additions to stir-fries and Mexican cuisine. Plant in spring after the risk of frost has well and truly past. They need a compost-rich soil that is free-draining and full sun.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Brighten up your next salad with sunflower petals and you will also find they work very well in breads and other baked goods. Their flavour is mildly earthy and reminiscent of leafy greens. Plant seeds from late winter through until late spring but I have personally had success planting year-round on the Central Coast and in Sydney. They need full sun, a moisture-retentive soil and if you are growing taller varieties, a stake for each.
Violet (Viola spp.)
Popular as a sugared decoration for baked goods, violets can be tossed into salads, desserts and drinks to add colour and sweet flavour. Plant in autumn and late summer in a semi-shade but bright spot, in a rich moist soil. They are mostly annuals but all easily self-seed.
Bel and Steve – Tranquil Haven, Edible Garden Trail
This is another gorgeous and productive garden joining the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail this weekend. Permaculture practices are employed throughout Bel and Steve’s haven in Avoca that blends more traditional plants, like roses, in with a huge array of edibles. The front garden isa dedicated to veggies and you will find tomatoes, peas, beans, kales, chokos and even cucamelons popping up everywhere. Two years ago, the lawn mower died so Steve dug up the backyard and continued the permaculture dream on. Their garden is on 637 squares and jammed packed with inspiration, love and chickens. Hop onto the Facebook page of the Central Coast Edible Garden Trail to find out more.
PLANT THIS WEEK
Late Spring, temperate areas
This week you can also plant the following: culinary herbs, beans, beetroot, blueberry, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chicory, cress, cucumber, eggplant, endive, leeks, lettuce, marrow, melons, mustard, okra, spring onions, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rosella, salsify, shallots, silverbeet, squashes, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini, ageratum, alyssum, amaranths, aster, begonia (bedding), California poppy, coleus, cosmos, carnation, dianthus, gazania, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunias, phlox, portulaca, lobelia, love-in-a-mist, lupin, nasturtium, nemesia, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragons, sunflowers, vinca, zinnia
Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus
Archived articles can be found on Cheralyn’s Blog: www.florasphere.com
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