Growing Edible Flowers at Home
December 14, 2020
Growing Edible Flowers can be easier than you think. Nurtured in Norfolk’s gardening expert Martyn Davey answers all your questions and gives his top horticulture hacks for growing your own.
If you would like any horticulture query answered please do e-mail our head grower at email@example.com to add your thoughts to our horticulture hacks.
Could you please give me some help with planning my new allotment? Having been on the waiting list for five years I have finally got my own allotment. After sharing with friends I have built up some growing skills but would like to experiment with growing edible flowers. I am considering drying the flowers although some I would like to use fresh during the summer. I know nasturtiums are a good staple for brighten up salads but then I am not sure what else to include.
K. Pearce, Norwich.
Edible flowers are a great way to add colour, flavour and texture to savoury and sweet dishes, as well as cordials and butters. A wide range of annuals and perennial edible flowers can be grown in the garden. Although it is important to accurately identify the flowers if you are in doubt, don’t eat them.
For the best results pick young flowers and buds on dry mornings, before the sun becomes too strong, so the colour and flavours will be intense. Use flowers immediately for best results or refrigerate in a plastic bag for a couple of days. Dried or frozen flowers can be used in infusions. Generally, only the petals are used particularly with large flowers like hollyhocks, roses, lilies and hibiscus. For some flowers it’s worth removing the bitter ‘heel’ at the base of the petal.
Home-grown flowers, free from pesticides and soiling by dogs and other pets are best. Many of the plants listed here as having edible flowers are widely offered for sale. However, unless they’re labelled for ‘culinary purposes’ grow them on for at least three months to reduce the risk of pesticide residues, and only harvest subsequent flowerings.
Edible flowers from your vegetable patch include herb flowers like basil, chives, mint, rosemary and thyme impart a more subtle flavour to food than the leaves.
Borage (Borago offincinalis) – the cucumber flavour of these attractive blue flowers adds interest to cakes, salads and pate. Flowers are easily removed and can be frozen in ice cubes or crystallized. Dill (Anethum graveolens) – aniseed flavour, ideal addition to salads, vegetables and fish dishes. Add flowers to mayonnaise, white sauce and pickles. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) – mild onion flavour, good in salads, egg dishes and sauces for fish.
Clover (Trifolium pratense) – both red and white clover flowers can be used to garnish fruit and green salads or make wine from whole red flowers. Courgette or marrow flowers (Cucurbita cvs) – can be eaten hot in a tomato sauce or cold stuffed with cooked rice, cheese, nuts or meat.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – all parts are edible and enhance salmon, pâtés and salads. Flowers preserved in vinegar can be used in winter. Garden pea (Pisum sativum) – add flowers and young shoots to salad for a fresh pea taste. Mint (Mentha spp) – apple, pineapple and ginger mint, plus peppermint and spearmint flowers can all be used in vinegar and butter for both sweet and savoury dishes. Pumpkins and squashes (Cucurbita cvs) – pick male flowers once the females are pollinated. Use in the same way as courgette flowers.
Rosemary (Salvia [formerly Rosmarinus] officinalis) – a sweet flavour similar to the leaves can be used fresh to garnish salads and tomato dishes or to flavour butter. Salad rocket (Eruca vescaria) – adds peppery flavour to salads.
Other things to take into consideration include: Avoid old, faded or dusty flowers from roadsides and areas frequented by livestock or dog walkers. Beware of bees and remove small insects from flowers by giving them a shake to encourage bigger insects to leave, then dipping them in a bowl of cold salt water and dry on paper towel. People susceptible to allergy, especially pollen, should not eat flowers. Insects and diseases are best dealt with by cutting back and encouraging regrowth as no pesticides are specifically approved for use by home gardeners on edible flowers.
Jobs for this week
- Give your greenhouse a winter treat if it’s not full of plants, wash the glass and give it a good clean up ready for spring.
- This is the time to check and sharpen your tools, clean and oil secateurs and ask Santa for any new tools.
- Check ponds are not freezing in the cold weather we have been having to put a football in the pond to help keep an air hole. Drain down pumps and water features that may be damaged if they freeze.