Today we consider edible flowers to be an aesthetic addition to the plate, but in the 16th and 17th century flowers were used in cooking for all manner of dishes and many flowers were credited for their medicinal and magical properties. You may be surprised to know that flowers actually taste great and will add interesting flavours to your dishes. Carnations taste like clove, nasturtium flowers are hot and peppery, calendula citrusy and coriander flower is a more intense version of its foliage.
There are many negative beliefs around herbs and edible plants (from coriander to broccoli) going to flower. But by planning ahead and leaving your veggie garden to go to flower, allows you to benefit from the full course of a plant’s life and produces yet another exciting ingredient; the edible flower with intensified flavours of the parent plant.
Growing your own edible flowers from seed at home is really easy and now is the perfect time to be planting your seeds as we head towards summer.
Calendula, commonly known as ‘Pot Marigold’ but not to be confused with Marigolds, is a prolific self-seeder and will flower all year round if spent flower heads are picked regularly.
A spicy and peppery flavour with a hint of citrus, calendula is a versatile flower. Separate petals and use in seafood, pasta dough, baking and desserts.
Calendula seeds are super easy to grow from seed when sown directly into the flower bed. Simply scatter seeds where you want them to grow between September and May for best results. This hardy annual will tolerate most conditions but don’t like to be too wet as they are prone to fungal disease.
Romantic and classic cornflower conjures up visions of these lovely field flowers dotting the landscape of sunny grasslands on the mother land. In a range of vibrant colours from soft pink and white through to electric blue and deep aubergine, cornflower is an excellent border plant for your cottage garden.
With a neutral flavour, cornflower really is the most versatile edible flower and is excellent for both savoury and sweet dishes. Use whole flowers or separate the florets for a punch of vivid blue, pink or aubergine.
Cornflower is easy to grow and when replanted regularly will grow and flower all year round. It can easily be grown from seed at home, it loves water and a sunny position.
To plant seeds use a free draining soil well integrated with compost or good quality potting mix when growing in pots. Sow direct into the patch, or for more careful consideration, propagate indoors or in a mini greenhouse one month before the last frost. Transplant in the patch once spring has sprung. Sow seeds 40 – 50cm apart and 3mm deep in full sun, but they will tolerate partial shade. Their ideal flowering season is November to April.
With some simple spring planning now in your garden, not only will you have a colourful garden to enjoy, but you will have some impressive and exciting new ingredients to add to your dishes all summer long.
For edible flower recipes and information on how to grow visit the website www.petiteingredient.com.au