• Grow edible flowers that look good on the plot – but taste even better on the plate

  • Grow Edible Flowers - Macklins Home and Gardens

    FROM rose petals and pansies to marigolds, mums and nasturtiums, flowers bring a haze of scent and rich colour to our garden that’s good enough to eat – and in many cases you can!

    Lets look at how to grow edible flowers, the Chinese were the first to see the potential of flowers in cookery and in Roman times pinks, violets and roses were used in sauces and salads. Of course, many flowers have been found to have medicinal benefits and while further research is needed, recent studies suggest edible flowers might even have cancer-fighting properties. But while many of us probably remember our grandmas or mums using crystallized pansies or violas as decorations on cakes, or nasturtium flowers in salads, it often comes as a surprise to find out just how many edible flowers there are.

    Spring is the ideal time to start sowing, so why not add some edible flowers into your plans? We have plenty to choose from at Knights – and growing your own means you know they are free from pesticides and disease. Tulips, for example, which will start blooming soon, have edible petals that can be stuffed or dipped. They have the crunch of cos lettuce but a flavour profile that ranges from pea to pepper, with earlier varieties being gentler on the palate, and later ones spicier; darker hues are sweeter while whites are smoky. If you didn’t plant them in September, then select from our huge range of pre-sprouted bulbs in pots – but use caution if eating tulip flowers, as some people do have allergies to them.

    The flowers of other spring stalwarts such as primroses, polyanthus and violas are also edible. Remove the stalks and sprinkle in salads, use them to decorate Mother’s Day cakes (March 15) – a perfect way to treat a green-fingered mum – or add a colourful zing to cocktails. If you’d like edible flowers year-long, March is a good time to sow summer-flowering annuals such as borage, which adds cucumber flavour to drinks or soups (avoid the prickles by picking young buds); bellis (daisy), which is lovely as a cake decoration; calendula (pot marigold), which can be used as a substitution for saffron (and is much less expensive); cornflowers, which are easy to grow from seed scattered direct; sunflowers, which can be harvested for buds, petals and of course seeds; and geranium/pelargoniums, the leaves and flowers of which have a citrus fragrance. And of course don’t forget courgette and pumpkin blooms later in the year, which are so often overlooked in this country but are beloved by Italians, who stuff and deep-fry them.

    Throw in a few more unusual specimens such as fuchsias – the flowers and berries can be used to make jam, and they can be productive right up until the first frosts – or gladioli, grown from corms planted 20cm deep in late March/early April (sow in “succession” and you’ll get flowers across the summer), which can be stuffed. Hollyhocks, which can be sown direct now if the soil is warmed or started off indoors for transplanting later (and flowering next year), also make colourful additions to mousses or roulades, and give a subtle flavour to sugar syrup, which can be used for glazes, cocktails or as a marinade for fruit.

    While good identification is essential in knowing what edible flowers you’re picking (some are best avoided if you’re pregnant or suffer from hay fever and asthma), the flower power really is in your hands when it comes to impressing guests at the dining table this year.

    This news story was posted in the Surrey Mirror in March 2015 – to see the original story click here