I know some people think the idea of edible flowers decorating salad and puddings is a poncy distraction — and that all that matters, is that what’s on the plate tastes as good as it can, but I don’t agree. From the start of the year, with the winter-flowering pansy, Viola ‘Heartsease’, and primroses, to the end with dahlia petals and chrysanthemums, I add edible flowers to pretty much all our salads and we use them to cheer up bowls of freekeh, quinoa, rice and lentils.
It’s surprising how many flowers are edible. All violas, polyanthus and primroses, roses, pinks (dianthus), dahlias, pelargoniums and chrysanthemums can be eaten, as well as nasturtiums, courgettes, chives, wild garlic, borage and marigolds. I also love the flowers of runner beans, rocket and dill.
Edible flowers don’t just look good, there’s evidence they add goodness too. Interestingly, dairy farmers traditionally valued the presence of wild flowers in their pastures. They realised that, as well as encouraging pollinators, they were an important source of supplementary minerals for their grazing livestock. The livestock knew it too. Many flowers have deep taproots that grow into lower layers of the soil, thus making different and additional minerals available through their flowers. You’ll see it in dairymens’ records through the centuries describing how their animals, when entering a new field of perennial rye grass, would go straight to the edges of the field to enjoy the wild flowers in the hedges. We’ve seen this happen today with the cattle on our farm.
It seems from food trials, that it’s likely edible flowers give us valuable antioxidant compounds and minerals, with body-wide anti-inflammatory effects. A study at Zhejiang University in China found that adding petals from common flowers such as violets, roses, lavender, safflower and nasturtiums to food could help prevent chronic disease and support overall health.
Let’s go for it and scatter them willy-nilly.
March Edible flowers (above) from top left clockwise:
- Red Polyanthus ‘Don Keefe’
- Green Polyanthus ‘Francesca’
- Rosemary ‘Miss Jessop’s Upright’
- Polyanthus ‘Gold Lace’
- Deep purple, Viola ‘Martin’ (left-hand side of pic)
- Yellow and purple Viola ‘Heartsease’
- Pink polyanthus –wild primrose X Polyanthus ‘Gold Lace’
- Red Polyanthus ‘Don Keefe’ (at bottom of pic)
- Polyanthus ‘Gold Lace’ (again on right-hand side of pic)
June Edible Flowers (above) from top left clockwise:
- Allium unifolium (pink allium)
- Dianthus ‘Electron’ (sweet William)
- Pelargonium ‘Orsett’ (bright pink) and ‘Ashby’ (deeper pink)
- Dianthus ‘Devon Wizard’
- Salvia ‘Nachtlinder’ (purple) and ‘Jezabel” (scarlet)
- Roses ‘Darcy Bussell”, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (Purple) and ‘Comte de Chambourd’ (bright pink)
- Borage and Anchusa ‘Loddon Royalist’ (two blues)
- Calendula ‘Sunset Buff’ and ‘Touch of Red Mix’
- Tagetes ‘Orange Gem’ and ‘Lemon Gem’ (mini orange and yellow flowers)
- Nasturtium ‘Cherry Rose’ and ‘Empress of India’
- Sweet Cicely pods
- Courgette Romanesco
Thanks for reading!