Flowers to cook with

by Rebecca Sprosen-Bailey – Allendale Nursery

There is a new warmth in the air and the birds have a different song all indicating spring has started. Spring also means many plants bursting into full growth, so if you haven’t already planted it’s time to get started.

If you have dined at a restaurant or café recently, you will have noticed that edible flowers have become the norm, once seen only as a garnish now an essential ingredient to restaurant cuisine, for both flavour and health benefits. The easiest way to obtain fresh flowers for your dishes is to grow them.

Borage: The flowers are edible and can be used in salads or with fruit, also can be frozen into ice cubes and used in drinks. With its mild celery flavour, the leaves make a fabulous tabouli salad. Health: Flowers and leaves, as well as the oils from the seeds used as medicine.

Calendula (Pot Marigold) Tagetes tenuifolia: These bright little daisy flowers are best known as an affordable substitute for saffron. Can be used sprinkled into salads, muffins and as a tea. Health: Used for centuries to heal wounds, burns, rashes, internally & externally.

Lavender: Can be added to sweet or savoury dishes – cakes, shortbread, Ice cream or on BBQ pork & beef, but be careful, too much and your meal will become bitter. Health: Useful for anxiety, insomnia, depression and restlessness and it can help digestive issues.

Mint: flowers go well with chocolate desserts, fruit salads, added to cold drinks and teas.

Nasturtiums: are probably the most recognised edible flower in salads. The flower will firstly give a sweetness from the nectar followed by a lingering peppery flavour.

Pansies: With pansy flowers eat only the petals. Can be used in fruit salads and candied for cake decoration with cream cheese.

Peas: Flowers have a pea flavour used in salads, pasta and with cheese such as goat’s cheese.

Pumpkin: Flowers can be used.

Rocket: If gone to seed the flowers are a little less peppery than the leaves.

Rose: petals add that vibrancy of colour with a soft lemony, floral flavour perfect for jellies and jams, also helps increase vitamin C intake.

Zucchini: use flower dusted with spices, stuffed with cheese, battered and fried.

Other edible flowers: Basil, Broccoli, Chives, Dill, Lilac, Marjoram, Mustard, Oregano, Salvia. But a warning: If pregnant always check it is safe to consume as some may have adverse reactions. Always avoid eating flowers from the deadly nightshade family such as tomato, chili, capsicum, eggplant and potato.

Happy spring gardening, Rebecca

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Mica Grange