Edible flowers: Growing flowers to use for cooking
PUBLISHED: 17:27 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:27 08 July 2020
Flowers have been used for culinary purposes as far back as Ancient Greek and Egyptian times. Emma Hutchinson of the Cotswold florist, The Bespoke Flower Co. takes a closer look at edible flowers, why they are enjoying a renaissance on our plates and what you can grow at home to tempt your taste buds!
As a Cotswold based wedding florist, we see flowers go in and out of fashion as much as the rise and fall of hemlines. In recent times, wildflowers have dominated bouquet trends and who would have thought pampas grass would make a comeback?
But this year with weddings on hold and everyone enjoying their own gardens and landscapes in lockdown, it has been all about growing your own fruit, vegetables… so why not grow some edible flowers?
Chefs have been using flowers as a garnish for years, but years before them the Victorians would crystallise violets to decorate desserts and even as far back in 17th Century France, monks would use carnation petals to make a liquor, Chartreuse.
Of course, while many flowers are edible, not all taste good and it is important to stress that you should grow your own or know where they are grown as commercially grown blooms may have been treated with pesticides and those growing on roadsides may be polluted with car exhaust fumes.
So, what have you got in the garden right now? You may have rosemary, mint, chamomile, marigolds, nasturtiums, violets, borage, lavender, and roses, that can all be picked and made into the most wonderful summer dishes. If you are not sure about what to pick do always ask an expert, a local plant nursery or horticulturalist for help and there are plenty of online organic seed companies with helpful guides too.
Revitalise your salads by mixing your salad leaves with balmy infused herbs and striking orange and yellow nasturtium flowers, yellow marigold petals and bright blue borage and corn flowers for a salad that wants to be noticed and not just as a plain old ‘side dish’.
Why waste the resplendent bright yellow courgette flowers? Instead, try stuffing them with ricotta and deep fry in batter for a delicious and stunning dish or press herbs and flowers into your home-made pasta to create a dish that is eye-catching and different.
The current fashion on Pinterest, none the less, is pressing edible flowers to decorate a cake, creating wonderful flowerscapes and meadow images around the sides of birthday and wedding cakes.
We love the challenge of creating unique floral displays for our clients’ weddings, events, and personal bouquets. With the florist world embarking on foam free floristry and minimal waste, we were overjoyed last year when we did our first zero waste wedding for zero-waste vegan chef Max La Manna and Painswick-born, sustainability activist Venetia Falconer. Sustainable wedding flowers, with many of the bride’s flowers from her mother’s beautiful Cotswold garden and local nurseries, all then composted straight after the wedding.
We’ve had many different requests over the years but not for an entirely edible bridal bouquet as yet – so during lockdown we thought we would challenge our florist hands and make one… bursting with dinner plate dahlias, lemon balm, honeysuckle, rosemary, garden roses, chamomile, chives, cabbage leaves, peonies and hollyhocks – and created from our gardens and allotment.