Brighten up food with edible flowersThey're great for both flavouring and decoration

02 November 2007

 

Dianthus Flashing Lights

Cooks wanting to brighten up simple salads, shop-bought herbal teas, cakes and jam should look no further than their garden for inspiration, says Gardening Which?.

Most people have heard of flowery favourites such as saffron, camomile tea and elderflower cordial, but there are more than 100 different plants in the UK that have edible flowers. 

Gardening Which? put the plants to the test to find out which ones cross over from the garden to the dining table.

Researchers looked at 37 varieties renowned for their edible flowers that would also make worthy additions to the garden.

Fragrant flowers

They found that:

  • borage has a cucumber-like taste which is slightly sweet.  It can be added to both sweet and savoury food, but is used to best effect frozen in ice cubes and floated in jugs of Pimm’s
  • the ‘Alaska Salmon Orange’ variety of nasturtium is pleasantly peppery, so ideal to add to salads or steep to flavour oil and vinegar
  • you can use the flowers of the lemon variety of basil as you would the leaves – in pasta dishes or salads for a zesty flavour
  • pinks plants have a sweet, clove-like taste making their bright and attractive petals ideal for decorating cakes, puddings, fruit salads and ice creams
  • with fragrant, purple flowers, sweet rocket is mild enough to add to salads and to decorate desserts
  • yellower varieties of pot marigold will give saffron-like colour to rice or soup, while the ‘Coffee Cream’ is good for adding to savoury dishes.

Flavouring and decoration

Gardening Which? Editor Ceri Thomas said: ‘Keen cooks and gardeners alike have got used to popping out to their garden to get some mint or thyme to add to their dinner, but everyone should consider adding flowers to their ingredients both for flavouring and decoration.

‘It was great to see so many varieties in our tests that successfully cross over from beautiful in the borders to tasty on the dining room table – I'll definitely be adding a bit of zest to my tea from now on.’

However, remember that before using the flowers you should remove each petal and cut off the bitter white ‘heel’ at their bases. 

In most cases, only the petals are edible, not the centre of the flower.