Spring has simply burst forth with a blast of colour and an abundance of blooms – what a festival of life and renewal! We can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to bring the garden to the table and zoosh up your salads, platters, canapés, cakes, desserts, cocktails and drinks with vibrant edible flowers.
Of course, not all flowers are edible, so we’ve taken care of the guess-work and recommend these beauties from the spring and summer garden, available at Lifestyle Home Garden, to safely impress guests and add cheer to your table and new zest to your favourite dishes and drinks.
A firm, true-blue favourite. The borage flower has a distinct cucumber taste (hence the Afrikaans name “Komkommerkruid”) and will therefore complement any salad and subtly add to starters and drinks like lemonade and your G&T’s. The flower itself is dainty, star-shaped, perfectly blue and too beautiful to resist – a perfect decoration for cakes and scones.
The borage plant (Borago officinalis) is a no-nonsense annual herb that looks great in sunny borders and beds as well as in pots in a full sun / morning sun position. The leaves can also be added fresh to salads or cooked as an addition to marogo.
The peppery taste and bright colours of Nasturtium flowers are perfect partners to salads and meaty platters and the leaves with their unusual patterns and variations can be added for interest too!
Nasturtiums are fast-growing, annual, herbaceous plants and must-adds to vegetable and herb gardens where they can be sown directly into beds and borders or into pots and hanging baskets. They are well known aphid busters. Plant them in a full sun position.
Zucchini (baby marrow) blossoms
Zucchini flowers have a delicate, slightly sweet taste, similar to the vegetable borne of them. Both male and female flowers are edible and need to be used while still fresh. These bright yellow blooms will add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any table, either scattered over a salad platter or stuffed, the traditional way, with cream cheese or goat’s milk cheese and a selection of fresh herbs and then fried in a tempura batter. So fine!
Zucchini is a spring and summer vegetable that needs a full sun position. Due to their spreading habit, they need quite a large space, but new, more compact varieties have become available on the market that can even be grown in a large container.
The large Dianthus caryophyllus flowers taste as divine as their spicy fragrance suggest – subtly sweet with hints of clove and nutmeg. They can be used to decorate salads, desserts and cakes and added to improve the taste of a full, mulled red wine. In fact, Carnation petals are one of the secret ingredients in the making of Chartreuse, a French liqueur…not such a secret anymore, I guess!
Dianthuses are sold as annuals and can be planted most of the year. Plant them in full sun in beds, borders, baskets and pots wherever you can. They will bring you endless pleasure in the garden and on the table.
If you let your chives go to flower, you will be pleasantly surprised by the dainty, round, light mauve flowers that will add a subtle onion flavour to your dishes. Either use them whole or gently separate the florets and sprinkle them over salads and soups, in dips, butters, egg dishes and on your favourite sarmie.
Chives are very easy to grow in full sun or morning sun (during hot summers) either in beds or pots on patios and balconies. They might die down during very cold winters, but will pop up again in spring. No house should be without a chive plant.
An unusual, but delectable addition to our list, the Day Lily has become increasingly popular as an edible flower. The flowers are slightly sweet with a taste that lies somewhere between a zucchini and asparagus with a touch of melon. The intact flowers look absolutely stunning and dramatic on large salad platters and as cake decorations. They can also be stuffed in the same way as zucchini flowers and served as horse d’oeuvres.
Hemerocallis are easy-to grow, lily-like perennials that thrive in a full sun position. The flowers are really stunning in a range of vibrant colours. As the name suggests, the blooms last for one day only, so you have to be quick in the picking. The more you pick, though, the more the plant will reward you with new blooms.
Scented Pelargoniums come in a range of fragrances, the most commonly available ones being:
- Rose-scented Pelargonium – small, mauve flowers with a strong rose flavour. Scatter fresh flowers over salads or use in jellies, jams, juices, ice tea, fruit salad apple pies and cakes.
- Citronella Pelargonium – small, lavender-pink flowers with a strong citrus flavour. Use in ice tea or to make a refreshing tea on its own. Also great in desserts, punch and to make a fragrant lemon-vinegar.
- Nutmeg Pelargonium – small, white flowers with a pleasant spicy flavour that will warm the cockles of your heart if used in desserts, drinks (try it in coffee or cocoa) and cakes.
Pelargoniums are small, indigenous perennial shrubs that thrive in full sun. Plant them in beds, borders and pots and especially along a pathway where they will impart their lovely aroma when brushed against.
Of course there are the usual and unusual – too many to mention – like lavender, bergamot, rocket and mustard blooms, herby dill and fennel flowers, Hibiscus, citrus blossoms and tiny Elderberry florets. The most important is to remember the following:
- Not all flowers are edible. Consult a good, reliable source before using a particular flower that you are not absolutely familiar with.
- Only use flowers that have been grown organically. Avoid the use of chemical pesticides on plants if you are going to use their flowers – the bees will thank you for it too!
- Don’t harvest flowers from the roadside, parking areas, garden centres, florists or any public places. If you harvest from a friend’s garden, make sure they practice organic gardening principles.
- Wash flowers before using them and make sure there are no insects trapped inside.
- Use flowers in moderation, as an addition to your food and drinks, and introduce them slowly if you are prone to allergies.
- Remove pollen, pistils and stamens from larger flowers and use only the petals.