Been blackberry picking for a crumble? Grown apricots for that homemade jam? Chances are that you’ve dabbled in this latest foodie trend that was once a thing of the past. Foraging for our food is on the rise with more people connecting back to nature and getting hands on in the garden. With our new found appreciation for what the countryside has to offer, edible flowers are enjoying a strong revival from their heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries, when flowers were a staple item of our diet. Today, you’ll find flowers confetti-ed over soups, salads and Michelin star dishes, vividly enhancing colour, texture and taste. Used properly, edible flowers add a subtle layer of fragrance and depth of flavour that takes your dining experience to a whole new dimension. So we’ve taken a look at our top floral flavourings.
There’s a stunning magic about a lavender field – it’s like a treasure chest brimming with lilac loot. Greeks & Romans appreciated its fragrant properties by bathing in lavender scented water; hence the Latin word ‘lavo’ means ‘to wash’. Apart from its hypnotic fragrance being able to lull you into a peaceful slumber, in cooking it is used to complement dishes with its sweetly floral and citrus notes. Add to your tea for a beautifully ornamental brew or substitute it for rosemary in recipes – think lavender rubbed lamb. It also works exceptionally well with sweets and is deliciously earthy in shortbread and ice cream.
On a lighter note, rose petals give a distinct, floral flavour evocative of Arabian Nights and magic carpet rides – especially when paired with pistachio. It has been adopted and adored by Middle Eastern cuisine for many years, being incorporated into a range of dishes including fragrant curries and infused into syrup-laden desserts. In general, rose petals are delicately fragrant in tea, exotic in cocktails and pleasant in jam, to name just a few uses. They also give a twist to the traditional sponge cake when mixed into its butter icing.
The nasturtium flower, once dubbed the ‘Capucine Cress’, is a gardener’s delight due to its bright colour, perfectly formed petals and its ability to cultivate easily. But they are also enticing for their surprisingly savoury taste as well as their ornamental value; their peppery flavour is reminiscent of watercress so it works excellently in salads and sprinkled into butter or even suspended into ice cubes. For food of the hot variety, nasturtium add a spiciness to scrambled eggs or take the traditional route and use them as an elegant garnish.
Courgettes are no stranger to your shopping basket but did you know that their bright yellow flower are edible too? Denoting sunshine and summer food, courgette flowers are an Italian favourite and it is easy to see why. They are delectably moreish when dipped into a light batter and deep fried to be simply eaten with lemon juice and salt. For a more indulgent matter, they are especially satisfying when stuffed with a soft cheese by the likes of ricotta or goat’s.
WILD GARLIC FLOWER
From spring to late summer time, dense bundles of starry, wild garlic flowers cluster in their droves in British woodlands. They have a milder taste than that of domestic garlic and their flavour is best enjoyed in salads and soups or used to dramatically liven up sauces, creams and mayonnaise. The wild garlic leaf looks similar to the toxic Lily of the Valley but the smell usually gives the edible version away. As with all foraging however, it’s essential to be weary and you should always be completely sure that the flower is fit for consumption, or even better – grow it yourself at home.