This recipe is the fourth in a series of four that was written in partnership with Wyevale Garden Centres who sponsored this post. (Read more about sponsored content on Eat Like a Girl). See my first post on How to Plant an Edible Garden, my second post on Courgette Flowers and a Recipe for Courgette Flower Egg Menemen and my third post on growing aubergines and a lovely recipe for Japanese favourite BBQ Nasu Dengaku.
So it is hard to get your paws on edible flowers, isn’t it? Not so. Did you know that cauliflower is a flower (well, that makes sense, look at the name), and broccoli too? Edible flowers are just for decoration also, right? Not so. The best of them have excellent flavour and where you will find them will surprise you too.
The simple act of growing your own herbs at home will introduce edible flowers with no extra effort. Most herbs have flowers with flavours of the herb, often milder and, therefore perfect for a garnish. Oregano surprised me with a delicate bright tiny orange flower. There are many varieties of individual herbs too. Rosemary has purple flowers, as does sage, but sage can also have orange flowers (tangerine sage). Rocket flowers are delicate and just peppery, often overlooked as people see that as the end of the season.
Some plants have gorgeous and delicious flowers but you might want to leave them alone so that they bear fruit. Pea flowers (worth planting extra to have the flowers too, I think), aubergine flowers (so pretty but sadly flavourless), bean flowers (I have gorgeous purple flowers on my purple beanstalk in my garden).
An edible flower garden requires a plan. Some plants won’t flower the first year, many will though. I started this year, and put down seeds that grew this year but won’t flower until next year (chicory, chive flowers, saffron crocuses). Worth the wait, and in the meantime, I can use the leaves too, often.
Before you start, analyse your garden. Understand how to manipulate shade (wild garlic loves shade, you can transplant some in, but beware, it will take over, and which plants will require sun. These flowers are an easy delicious start, next year we can start thinking about the tougher options, like roses!
The nasturtium is a generous, bright and joyful plant. It grows with ease and returns year after year. There are many colour flowers. I bought a range from Wyevale Garden Centres and I have red, orange, rich yellow and primrose yellow growing in my garden. I also planted climbing ones, and nasturtiums that hang well for hanging baskets. The flowers taste peppery, as do the leaves, which are delicious as a garnish too. When they go to seed you can save them, or you can pickle them like capers also.
Perfect for: window sills, hanging baskets, will climb anywhere. Easy to grow and very versatile. Perennial, so it will come back every year.
Bergamot / bee balm
Called bergamot, but unrelated to the fruit, and also called bee balm, as bees just love it. The flowers grow tall and strong, and the flowers and leaves are so fragrant, they are terrific for herbal teas and alcohol infusions (vodka and gin work well). They are quite striking and terrific for decoration also, of cakes that have a citrus flavour, for example. Mine grow in a pot on my windowsill quite happily.
Perfect for: sunny window sills or borders, and cocktail and herbal tea fans.
Calendula / Marigold
All marigolds are edible, but not all are delicious. Their flavours swing from peppery to citrus to bitter. I have particular affection for them. My mother planted marigolds in small beds in wall pillars, and they were the first flowers of my own that I had to look after. We called these ones English marigolds (what I now know are calendula or pot marigold) and the ones my sister had were French marigolds (tagetes). I planted both this year. Calendula is wonderful as a decorative flower either whole or with individual petals taken off. The flavour is spicy and peppery. It is known as poor mans saffron also, the petals are dried before being ground to a powder to use in cooking later. There are many varieties of tagetes, and I planted a few. They have a gorgeous flower with a taste of zesty flavour like orange zest with a little bit of pith. Perfect or decorating chocolate or salads. Wyevale Garden Centres have a lovely selection.
Perfect for: companion planting with tomatoes, the tagetes repel whitefly. Easy to grow and gorgeous.
I knew borage flowers as I have had them at restaurants, and for a while Waitrose even sold them in the herb section. However, I had no idea just how successful and wild a plant they are. Mine stand 4 ft tall outside my living room window now, bowing with purple flowers. The leaves are edible too, although they require cooking as they are a bit bristly (unless you pick them very young). Borage is self seeding and will come back year after year. You can save the seed also.
Perfect for: drinks, borage in ice cubes brighten a G&T, Pimms and similar. Easy to grow but need staking. Make sure you have the space for them as they grow pretty tall.
Cucumber flowers are a joy. So surprising. Like a petite open courgette flower, they taste of cucumber and are divine with fish or used to decorate salads. Choose a plant with male and female flowers and not just an all female variety. You want the individual flowers as well as those attached to the tiny cucumbers.
Perfect for: cucumber lovers! Easy to grow. Need staking.
So pretty and so easy to grow, pansies are a perfect decorative flower and they are easy to preserve too (brush gently with egg white and sprinkle on caster sugar, before leaving to dry). I planted Swiss pansies, which erupted in shades of purple and yellow. These are a gorgeous delicate flower, tasting fragrant and a little like lettuce or greens, and are perfect for the top of cocktails, or adoring anything that you desire. Perfect for salads, tasting like salad themselves, and I love them brightening a plate of pasta.
My summer garden has been a joyful and bountiful adventure. I highly recommend you start your own. To get going, I have partnered with Wyevale Garden Centres to give you the chance to win a £50 voucher which will buy you everything you need to start an edible flower garden (or a general kitchen garden featuring everything that I have written about). To win, simply leave a comment telling me what you would like to plant, and what you would do with it. The competition will close on the 25th October, and winners will be selected at random, but I do look forward to hearing your kitchen garden ambitions and to being inspired by your ideas.
Happy gardening, and good luck!