Photo - Pansies, Linda Ross
You might not have space for a vegetable plot, but foraging in the garden can still yield treats for dinner. Linda Ross picks a few delicious surprises.
I recently visited Petersham Nursery in Richmond outside London and found the chef picking flowers in a patch of pots in the corner of the nursery. Sign of the times, right.
Inspired by foraging chefs like Copenhagen’s Rene Redzepi and Melbourne’s Ben Shewry, cooks are looking beyond what’s in the market,
or even what’s in the vegetable plot. As they are finding to their delight, there are some unexpected, delicious (and free!) treats
growing in the garden.
The Petersham chef was picking giant cat’s face pansies, which I've never thought to eat before, but of course we do eat plenty
of other flowers. Some are disguised, like saffron, which is the dried stigma of the crocus flower. Others are more obvious.
The golden flowers of zucchini can be fried, stuffed or sautéed. Artichokes are flowers eaten while still in bud. Hibiscus, rose and
jasmine are the basis of herbal teas. Rose petals are used in vinegar and jams. Rosella flower syrup turns a glass of sparkling wine
into a cocktail, and blue borage flowers, with their subtle cucumber flavour, are a traditional accompaniment to a Pimms.
As you can see, edible flowers are not just pretty faces. They have a flavour of their own: mild, sharp, sweet, spicy, zesty and fresh.
Try the flowers of lemon, lime, dianthus, honeysuckle, day lilies, thyme, rosemary, violets and feijoa. For a pungent kick
try garlic or chive flowers! Pick flowers that haven’t been sprayed and wash before eating.
Here are our top 5 picks from the flowerbed:
1. Pansies, Viola tricolour
Heartsease, violas and pansies are pretty on a salad. They come in a range of colours and can be seen in full flower in nurseries now.
Grow in sun or part shade, in pots or in the garden.
2. Scented Geranium (Pelargonium spp):
come in a range of fragrances, including peppermint, apple, guava, ginger, lime and rose. The flowers boast a similar flavor to the fragrance
of the leaves.
Photo - Linda Ross
3. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus):
the yellow and orange flowers can be sown now and have a spicy, peppery flavour.
All parts of the dandelion are edible.
5. Calendula, English Marigold
Petals are edible, just throw them over salads.
Text: Linda Ross