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The Good guide to: Edible flowers

Beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, edible flowers will add a delicate touch to your next dish. 

Eating flowers might sound like something your hippy uncle would do, but there’s a growing trend in using colourful blooms to brighten up food. It’s far from a new concept, in fact using flowers in food dates back to the Stone Age. In 15th century England it was particularly popular: herb and flower salads using violets, daisies and borage were common, along with cakes made with rosewater and elderflower vinegar. Sage flowers, lavender, and peonies were made into conserves, which had medicinal virtues. By the 18th century, there were cookbooks filled with instructions on how to ‘candy’ all sorts of flowers. 

There is something magical about putting flowers in your food; scattering their bright petals like confetti over salads and desserts turns any meal into a celebration. Not only are they beautiful and uplifting, many of them are high in nutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties too. 

Edible flowers can make even the simplest of dishes look spectacular. Although they each have their own subtle flavours and scents, their primary role is to look pretty – they can inspire creativity and turn a cook into an artist. Try using them as a healthy alternative to icing or sprinkles when decorating cakes, or freeze them in ice cubes to create edible jewels for your drinks. 

Growing your own edible flowers can also be a great way to get kids involved in the garden; they love helping, and feel a real sense of achievement when they have grown something themselves. Flowers can be a fun way of getting them excited about food too, as it only takes a handful of bright edible petals and some child-like imagination to turn any food into a fairy feast.

Some tips

· Make sure you correctly identify the flower before eating it. Eat only the petals, unless you know the whole flower is edible.  

· Be sure of the origin of your flowers to avoid eating any that may have been treated with pesticides. 

· Pick your flowers early or late in the day when their water content is highest and they have the most flavour. Harvest at or near opening.

· Rinse well before eating and don’t eat any that are blemished.

· They’re best eaten the day they’re picked, but should keep for 3-4 days in the fridge or somewhere cool. 

Floral flavours

· Cornflower Bright blue flowers with a clove-like flavour and frilly texture. 

· Daylily Comes in a range of colours, with a sweet melon flavour.

· Violet Purple flowers with a sweet, perfumed flavour.

· Pansy Available in just about every colour. Delicate, perfumed flavour and velvety texture.

· Pineapple sage Vibrant red flowers that taste like fresh pineapple.

· Nasturtium Jewel bright orange and deep red flowers. Mustardy and peppery taste with a touch
of honey.

· Chamomile Miniature daisy-like white flowers with
a yellow centre. Slight apple flavour.

· Lavender Purple flowers with a sweet, herbal taste.

· Calendula Yellow or orange flowers with a peppery, mildly tangy taste.

· Borage Bright blue and star-shaped, with a fresh cucumber taste.

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