episode 129 | show notes & advice
This week is all about the magic and versatility of edible flowers and why they are totally essential for growing at home. Here, Sarah shares her top tips and most helpful hints for cultivating spectacular varieties all year round.
in this episode, discover
- Sarah’s top 12 edible flowers
- Delicious recipes to make at home
- What to plant from January to December
Please note, serious care should be taken when consuming edible flowers. Ensure that it is safe to do so. Seek advice from a gardener, dietitian, or healthcare professional who can provide additional information
Sarah's top uses for edible flowers (1:55)
Common uses include scattering over a salad and puddings. Perfect for adding colour and simply delicious too!
Another excellent use for edible flowers is traditional Japanese tempura. Coated in a light and crunchy batter, they are truly delicious.
Sarah suggests taking seven or eight fragrant flowers, leaves, and vegetables for maximum flavour. Flowers of courgette, runner bean, and sage make great choices, along with the top section of borage. The mixture of the hot oil and cold mix creates great shapes in the crunchy batter.
For the ‘Garden fritto misto, in tempura’ recipe, visit the link here: www.sarahraven.com/articles/garden-fritto-misto-in-tempura
Sarah says she loves using edible flowers for flavouring, and nasturtium flowers work really well in smoked haddock fish cakes thanks to their distinctive, peppery taste.
Sarah also recommends pickling the nasturtium whole, with the bud, leaf, and seed pod, for a lovely garnish.
Why not try adding runner beans to a pilaf or scattering over a rice salad for even better texture and flavour! Vegetable and salad flowers often taste a lot like the vegetable they belong to, so these are great for adding even more flavour.
Edible frosted flowers
Dipping edible flowers in egg whites and sugar is a good way to preserve them and is relatively simple to do.
Sarah says that if she’s having a party and wants to serve ice cream, an ice bowl is an effective way to keep it cold. Take a larger bowl and place a smaller bowl inside it, freezing the edible flowers in the layers. Pelargonium leaves and rose petals work particularly well.
Another handy tip is to add sweet-tasting flower petals to sugar. Simply add your petals to a food processor and they will flavour and colour the sugar, which is a tasty and natural alternative to using artificial colours or sweeteners. This is lovely for scattering over a Victoria sponge or any other cake of your choice.
Sarah’s favourite edible flowers month by month (10:54)
January – primrose and polyanthus
The classic pale-yellow primrose tends to bloom from February, but Sarah finds that if placed in a sunny spot, it can flower from January. Polyanthus 'Stella Champagne' F1 can be grown from seed in the summer and will flower the following winter into spring.
In a pretty peach shade, mixed with apricot and a touch of plum, Sarah uses primrose to scatter across cakes and puddings and adds the petals to salads. Every single one of this flower family is edible, and they are also cut-and-come-again which means the more you harvest the more you will get.
February – violas
Pansies, violets, and violas are all edible and look wonderful in a pot or on a plate. By February (if sown in the autumn), the native variety in distinctive purple and yellow will be in full flower. Sarah also loves Viola x wittrockiana 'Nature Antique Shades' for its unusual colouring and Viola cornuta 'Tiger Eye Red' F1.
Grow from seed or go to the garden centre and buy a tray to pick flowers from.
March – Broad Bean 'Crimson-flowered'
As the broad beans from this variety are starchy when you eat them, Sarah tends to grow it almost exclusively for its delicious flowers. Grown undercover in the greenhouse at Perch Hill, Sarah tends to pick this earlier in March time. Discover Sarah’s Primavera Risotto recipe here: https://www.sarahraven.com/articles/primavera-risotto
April – Tulip 'White Valley' syn `Exotic Emperor'
An abundant month for edible flowers, Tulip 'White Valley' syn `Exotic Emperor' is one of Sarah’s stand-out favourites. An early, white, semi-double tulip, it’s incredibly perennial and fantastic with it.
Sarah suggests adding this to the tempura batter as it tastes exactly like a runner bean, but don’t forget to remove the stigma before eating.
May – Calendula and borage
All of the calendula family are edible, and you can even eat every part of the plant. Both calendula and borage make delicious additions to a garden fritto misto.
Also excellent for decorating drinks, you can also pop a calendula petal or borage flower into the base of an ice cube holder, and they will look magnificent. If you’re looking for more inspiration on freezing flowers, discover the article here: https://www.sarahraven.com/articles/how-to-freeze-flowers.
June – Courgette flowers
Pick the male flowers and remove the stigma. Sarah likes to leave a bit of the stem on, so you’ve got something to hold onto when dipping the flowers in the batter. These are also wonderful, stuffed.
Discover one of Sarah’s top recipes here: https://www.sarahraven.com/articles/stuffed-courgette-flowers-with-honey. Sarah says to be careful not to force too much of the mixture into the centre of the flower, instead use a heaped tablespoon and twist the flower of the courgette to seal it.
July – Runner bean flowers
Sarah prefers to pick the courgette flowers as supposed to the beans, and they are classically cut and come again. Growing a variety of different colours is a nice idea, including Runner Bean 'Polestar,’ ‘Sunshine,’ ‘Aurora,’ ‘Painted Lady’ and ‘White Lady.’
August – Nasturtium
One of Sarah’s absolute favourites, these famously love poor soil conditions. So, if you’ve got rich soil, add grit to the planting situation. Or Sarah plants them on the edge of the car park at Perch Hill, as they are more abundant when the soil is less fertile.
When picking, keep an eye out for little black beetles and check the leaves for cabbage white butterfly eggs, and caterpillars.
September – Dahlias
September is the perfect month for picking dahlias. Sarah loves to incorporate dahlias into her cooking, and luckily, every part of the plant is edible! Sarah particularly loves the petals, which she says serve as wonderful threads of colour weaving in and out of hand-picked salad leaves.
October – Salvia
Every variety of salvia is edible and often flower until Christmas, so these are a must-have in Sarah’s book. So, whether it’s the small and annual Salvia viridis 'Blue Monday' or the fragrant pineapple sage, or Salvia x jamensis 'Nachtvlinder' – all of these are edible and totally delicious.
November – Chrysanthemum
Back to Japan as inspiration, every chrysanthemum is also edible and widely used as flavouring agent with a totally unique flavour. Sarah uses chrysanthemum petals in a similar way to how you would use dahlia petals scattered over a salad.
December – Pelargoniums
If you can bring these plants undercover, they are a sublime addition to dishes in December. Most notably, Sarah uses Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’ for their distinctive rose flavour but says that any of the scented-leaf varieties are good choices. Scatter over a cake, ice cream, or pudding for an amazing look and taste.