Traditionally, allotments are used to grow fruit and vegetables, enabling green-fingered gardeners to enjoy the literal ‘fruits of their labour’. So why would you want to save a patch of your prized beds for edible flowers?
Well for starters, flowers will brighten the place up a bit, attracting beneficial insects and pollinators to your allotment which in turn help to boost the health and yield of your crop. Also… they happen to make quite delicious eating!
Bright, beautiful and packed with nutritional goodies, edible flowers can make a delicious and unusual addition to your cooking. They’re often easier to grow than vegetables and require less care. In fact, you’ve probably got a few yummy edibles growing in your garden right now!
There are a wide variety of edible flowers to choose from and most can be planted and grown from early spring right up until late autumn, so you’ve still got time to turn that bare patch of soil into a thriving bed of edible flowers.
Pretty and packed with goodness
As well as adding a bit of pep to your plate, edible flowers offer plenty of nutritional benefits. Chives, marigolds and roses are rich in Vitamin C, lavender helps ease stress, whilst Violas have anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to ease respiratory ailments.
The flowers of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain many of the same powerful anti-oxidants.
Calendula and elderberry blooms can aid digestion, reduce fevers and stimulate the immune system and many common herb flowers, such as basil, borage, rosemary, dill, oregano and thyme have the same flavour and medicinal value as the leaves.
Edible flowers can be sprinkled on salads and rice dishes, used to make teas and cordials and even added to home-made butters for extra flavour.
You might already be familiar with edible flowers such as stuffed courgette flowers but other, more unusual edible varieties might surprise you…
Both the flowers and young leaves of borage are a tasty treat. Borage is easy to grow and self-seeding so it will happily grow year after year. The petals have a cucumber-like taste.
The petals of this familiar pot marigold are delicious sprinkled in a salad. They’re usually a warm orange colour, but creams and yellows are also available.
Chive flowers are delicate little blooms with a mild, onion-like flavour. Add them to salads for extra flavour, sprinkle them on scrambled eggs or mix them into a sauce to be served with fish.
A well-known and popular edible flower, courgette flowers are yummy when stuffed with cooked rice or simply serve deep fried as finger food! Snip them off when you harvest your courgettes.
These bouffant flowers add a gaudy splash of colour and spicy flavour to salad and rice dishes. The petals can be also be dried for later use, pickled in vinegar or added to oil to create a spicy infusion.
Lavender flowers are wonderfully fragrant and can be used to make a soothing tea or a batch of sweet cookies! In autumn, place a few sprigs in a roasting tin with pork, lamb or chicken to add a subtle flavour.
These fragrant little flowers make a wonderful garnish for cakes, scones and sweets. They’re also delicious mixed with cream cheese or stirred into natural yoghurt.
All rose varieties are edible and are particularly delicious when candied or crystalised for cake decoration and can also be used to flavour water, sugar for baking and even icing. Fragrant petals usually give the best flavour.
To make your own candied rose petals follow this simple process:
Separate each petal and place them in water to stay fresh. Next, place one egg white (powdered egg white also works well) in a bowl and dilute with a few drops of water. Holding your petal with tweezers gently brush both side of the petal with your egg white mixture and then sprinkle each side with fine sugar. For an extra fun effect try coloured sugars. Place the petal on baking parchment to dry and leave for at least eight hours.
Use these flowers to add a mild strawberry flavour to salads and desserts. Sprinkle them over an eton mess, float them in pink lemonade or champagne, infuse them to make a refreshing cold drink, or freeze them in ice cubes and serve with your favourite tipple.
Add these pretty little pansies to salads or use as edible decorations for cakes and desserts. The miniature varieties have a more delicate flavour than larger blooms.
Lavender tea recipe
Ready to get creative in the kitchen with your favourite blooms? Try this recipe for lavender lemonade from the Royal Horticultural Society
10g lavender seeds
230ml sugar syrup
330ml lemon juice
1 lemon, cut in thin wedges
ice cubes or crushed ice
Put the lavender seeds in a heatproof jug and add 900ml of boiling water from the kettle. Mix well then cover with cling film and leave to infuse for 1 hour.
Strain the lavender infusion into another large jug and add 900ml of cold water. Add the sugar syrup, lemon juice and lemon wedges. Mix gently and place in the fridge overnight.
To serve, fill a long glass or large wine glass with ice. Add the lavender lemonade and decorate with a lemon wedge and/or lavender flowers.
For more advice on growing, recognising and using edible flowers, click to visit the Royal Horticultural Society website