It’s not surprising (given the name of our business) that we love edible flowers. They bring us great joy when we are growing them in the garden, and much happiness in our cooking and baking. Edible flowers are great companion plants (they can reduce pests and attract pollinating insects) in the vegetable garden and of course they look absolutely gorgeous in food.
Grow Edible Flowers
Our top three easy edible flowers for you to try growing in your garden are calendula, nasturiums and cornflowers. They are all annuals (the complete their lives in one year – you have to sow them again each year) – and you should sow them in spring for a summer full of glorious flowers. The more you pick, the more they will keep flowering.
Buy Edible Flowers
From early Summer until mid Autumn (basically until the first frosts) we have a surplus of edible flowers which you can fresh buy from us – to pick up from us in Saintfield.
A seasonal selection costs £5 for a punnet of 30-50 flowers (or £7 out of peak-season) – The best in the garden that day.
To order, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org with the date you want to pick up and the number of punnets you would like.
If you want a custom pick of specific flowers or colours, or to discuss repeat orders for resturants / cafes, please email us with your request.
Using Edible Flowers
Here is a guide to some of the most popular edible flowers we grow and how best to use them.
Star-shaped borage flowers are small (a couple of centimetres across) and have five pointed petals, most often in a bright, light blue but also occasionally in white. They have a dark black pointy stamen in the middle and we sell them with their fuzzy stem still attached because it helps keep their shape. The fuzzy stem isn’t nice to eat so we always recommend removing it before using the flowers. To remove the fuzzy stem hold the flower by the black stamen and with the other hand gently hold the fuzzy stem and pull it off from the flower. We use borage fresh as we don’t find it dries or presses particularly well. It’s excellent in cocktails, floral ice cubes or tossed through green salads or used to garnish delicate puddings. It has a mild cucumber flavour that is particularly good with mint.
Calendula (Pot Marigold)
Calendula have a peppery flavour making them the perfect addition to savoury dishes. The classic colour is bright orange, but we also grow bright yellow flowers and a few paler lemon and peach ones. The flowers can also be used whole on top of cakes (they add a kind of 1960s/70s flower child vibe) and we also press them whole to decorate our pressed flower cakes – they retain their colour beautifully. If you are pressing them please note they take a bit longer to dry and press than some other flowers as they are quite chunky – we leave them in the flower press for at least two weeks, sometimes longer. The petals can be easily removed from fresh calendula by holding the flower at the top of the stem, behind the flowerhead, and then plucking the petals off as you would a daisy. Fresh petals can be added to salad, slaws, stir fries or bread. The petals dehydrate well in a low oven or dehydrator.
Chamomile looks quite like a daisy with a yellow centre and many small white petals around the outside, the foliage is feathery and it most distinctive feature is it’s strong herbal scent. Whole chamomile flowers are not pleasant eaten raw, they can be really bitter. However, they press beautifully for decorating cakes, they look lovely used to decorate the top of cakes or cupcakes and you can dry them in a low oven or dehydrator and then use the dried flowers to make tea or to flavour puddings or a sorbet. When used in moderation chamomile has a green apple flavour with a earthy, grassy undertone and a hint of honey.
Classic cornflowers are the most vibrant cerulean blue. They are very pretty used whole as a floral crown on a cake (perhaps mixed with chamomile and violas) or you can pluck the petals out of each flower head and use them individually on small cakes, salads or tossed through rice or a grain salad. The flavour of cornflowers is very mild which makes them very versatile for decorating. The individual petals can be dehydrated in a low oven or dehydrator and keep their colour very well. We also press the flower whole to decorate our pressed flower cakes, but the colour of pressed cornflowers sometimes fades, so if you plan to use them this way order more than you need. As well as classic blue cornflowers this year we hope to have red, white, pink and purple cornflowers.
Cucumber flowers are bright yellow and look a little like a mini courgette flower, like courgettes cucumbers produce male and female flowers so male flowers can be removed from the plant without compromising your cucumber crop. Don’t remove all of them immediately as you do need some to ensure your female flowers are fertilised and produce cucumbers. You will see small cucumbers forming behind the female flowers, so you will know which is which. Cucumber flowers have a delicious floral cucumber flavour that is magical in a gin & tonic – we put the flowers in fresh. You can also remove any prickly bits from the base of the flower and then add the yellow petals to salads or thrown in a stir-fry at the very end, after you have taken it off the heat.
Did you know dahlias were edible? Don’t eat the ones from the supermarket or a florist as they are very likely to have been sprayed with nasties but if you grow your own or can find an organic supplier then large dahlia flowers make beautiful cake toppers for a special occasion. Smaller dahlias with a simple structure of 8 petals (rather than large pom-pom or multi-petalled varieties) press well, though like calendula take a bit longer (a couple of weeks) to totally dry in a flower press. The flavour of dahlia flowers varies it can be nutty, spicy even appley but I find they can sometimes be a bit bitter so taste before you liberally sprinkle on a salad.
Peppery nasturtium flowers come in vibrant shades of yellow, red and orange. The whole flowers look beautiful garnishing a cocktail or a platter of food, we also press them whole to decorate our pressed flower cakes. But we use them most often with the petals plucked off, tossed through salad or to decorate biscuits. To remove the petals hold the flower by the stem (or the place where the stem would be) and gently detach the petals from the sepal (the yellowy bit behind the petals that hold them together). Three of the petals are almost round with a thin stem attaching them to the centre of the flower, they are quite easy to remove, The other two petals are teardrop shaped and are a bit trickier to remove, make sure you are holding the petal close to the base as you detach them to ensure the petals don’t rip.
Primroses and Primula
Some of the very first flowers to appear in the new year, for me lemony yellow primroses are the harbingers of spring. Delicate primroses and primulas don’t have a very strong flavour (a very mild honeyed sweetness) but they are beautiful sugared (painted in egg white and dusted in caster sugar to decorate cakes), pressed to decorate biscuits or used fresh tossed through a green salad. To use hold the stem and gently detach the flower from the stem and sepals. Primroses can sometimes cause contact dermatitis so if you are worried about this or have sensitive skin or a history of allergic reactions please keep this in mind
We grow the pelargonium graveolens variety of scented geraniums much more for their beautiful frilly and deliciously scented leaves than for their small pink flowers. The leaves are delicious added to flavour fruit compotes, cocktails, cakes, panna cottas and custards. They have a gorgeous and distinctive rosy lemony scent. They are also a beautiful shape so make beautiful garnishes on cakes and the small pink flowers, when they appear, can be used to decorate cakes, biscuits and delicate desserts.
Pretty little violas come in a range of colours but tending towards purples, yellows, white and lilac. They have a mild, slightly sweet, lettuce flavour which makes them perfect for sweet or savoury dishes. They look beautiful garnishing cakes, cocktails or desserts and they are excellent frozen in ice for floral ice cubes. They press beautifully and relatively quickly to put on biscuits or cakes. We also like to use them tossed through a green salad or garnishing Asian dishes like noodle salads or Vietnamese spring rolls. Violas are best used whole at it is tricky to detach the petals from the base without ripping them.
Some Important Warnings: As with eating anything that is growing in your garden or in the wild, please make sure that you are 100% sure of your identification before you have a nibble.
We do not recommend eating flowers that have been bought from garden centres, florists or sold as cut-flowers in supermarkets. Even if the flower is edible, if it is not being sold for eating it is very likely it will have been treated with pesticides and fertilisers.
Please only eat flowers you have grown yourself (pesticide and chemical fertiliser free) or which you have bought from a reputable supplier of edible flowers.