Taste Test - Edible flowers

Edible flowers

Clockwise from top left - Nasturtium, Borage, Lavender, Marigold, Courgette, Monarda

With their brilliant sunset colours and distinct peppery flavour, these are probably the most popular edible flower. They’re very easy to grow from seed and are common on the fringes of veg patches or hanging baskets. The flowers have a similar taste to watercress, or some of the stronger varieties of rocket, and they can really spark up a salad. The large flowers can be stuffed for a strong visual effect.

Lovely little cornflower blue, star-shaped flowers, borage blossoms have a cool, faintly cucumber taste. Drop them into mixed salads, or they’re wonderful in summer punches, lemonade and gin and tonics. It’s a self-seeding annual that’s in bloom most of the summer, so it’s not a hard plant to grow. With uses stretching beyond the obvious, they can even be used for garnishing soups and stews.

Well known for its scent, freshly picked lavender has a sweet floral flavour with a hint of lemon and citrus notes. Rather too strong to eat on their own, you can add lavender flowers to chocolate cake, or use them to garnish or flavour sorbets. A nice lavender ice cream recipe involves mixing crushed lavender flowers into honey and then double cream. You can also try dropping a few flowers into a glass of fizz.

Ranging in colour from pale yellow to vibrant orange, marigolds are in flower from July right through to late autumn. Popular with gardeners not just for their colour but as a useful companion plant to tomatoes, the petals can be used as a saffron substitute to colour risottos and other dishes such as omelettes. Added to the feed of hens it’s claimed to give a richer yolk colour. They’re also superb in salads, offering a citrus flavour and a mild peppery taste.

Even if you struggle to grow prize-winning courgettes, the smaller sizes of this vegetable will still give you large, pointed, yellowy-orange flowers. Cookery books often suggest a recipe involving a batter and deep frying, but the flowers can just be stuffed as they are with something like smoked salmon pâté (one by Creelers of Arran is especially good) – served chilled as a starter it can provide real ‘wow’ factor at a dinner party.

A personal favourite of Pete Jackson at Earthy, monarda has various names including bee balm and cambridge scarlet, though it’s also known as bergamot herb because the scent of the leaves is similar to the oil derived from the fruits of the bergamot tree. Try some petals as decoration for a dish of pears poached in red wine with some vanilla ice cream, and you’ll notice that distinctive Earl Grey tea flavour seeping through.

With thanks to Pete Jackson and his colourful veg patch at Earthy www.earthy.co.uk

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