Friday, 25 October 2013

A Sprinkle Of Glitter


Inspired by a friend's birthday present of a book entitled 'The Edible Flower Garden' and by Veg Plotting's  52 Week Salad Challenge, I've been on a mission to be more adventurous this year. I started eating flowers at an early age. In the summer months lightly fried courgette flowers dipped in a herby batter appeared quite regularly on the menu. Little did I know how unusual it was to eat such fare in England at that time. My Mum is Italian so bought she this dish with her persuading my Dad to grow zucchini, as we grew up calling them, on his allotment plot. Dad was the first person to grow them on his allotment site yet now these are staple plants on most plots. As I got older I think that perhaps I became more cautious about what I ate especially when I started to cook for myself. It's only in the last few years since I've had my own plot that I've been munching flowers again. This year I've eaten some flowers that I have tasted before such as roses, calendula, nasturtiums, violas, chive, borage and lavender but have also made a conscious effort to try out one or two new to me tastes :

The first of these were tulip petals. It's that long ago that I can't remember what they actually tasted like. I think that they were quite innocuous though. My book advised that a few people are allergic to tulips so that "all new diners should proceed with caution" which is exactly what I did. They obviously did not make much of an impact though so there was no danger of spoiling the aesthetic appeal of my pots of spring flowering bulbs.

Then in early summer there were pea flowers - yes the flowers of the garden pea. If you asked me what they tasted like I would have to say of pea. Nothing special but not at all unpleasant. My book suggests that "flowers of some varieties have a "grassy flavour" ; others have a mild, sweet, floral taste". I can imagine a few scattered in a salad but given that a pea flower turns into a pea pod I would rather enjoy the final product on my plate.

Day lily or hemerocallis flowers were also munched in 2013. Apparently the taste of the petals can range from "sweet floral to slightly metallic". Advice is given that you should taste them before using them in a recipe. Fortunately I came across "sweet floral" only. I was pleased that I was able to tempt himself into having a little taste of them when we were on holiday. The suspicious look on his face was priceless. When he realised that he was still living we had a conversation as to whether the colour of the petal might produce different tastes but we were unable to put this to the test at the time. Must try this out next year.

Moving on to pinks or dianthus. I have a most strongly scented bright pink pink growing at the allotment and it was petals from this plant that I tried. Taste wise the experience was pleasantly warm and clovelike. Definitely more memorable than pea or day lily.

Finally the revelation of the year were the petals of anise hyssop or agastache. A lot of taste is packed into these quite tiny petals. Aniseedy and reminiscent of a childhood sweet these are most refreshing and moreish. I had the odd nibble most days when I passed by the plant and was worried that I might eventually pluck the flower heads bald.

There are comprehensive lists of edible flowers over at Derry Watkin's Special Plants Nursery website (see list entitled 'Edibles In The Border') as well at over at Thompson and Morgan where there are also some recipe suggestions. Another list of suggestions can be found in Alys Fowler's book 'The Edible Garden'.  Mark Diacono's book 'A Taste Of The Unexpected' includes a chapter on on 'Leaves and Flowers'. I particularly liked his advice "I'll also urge you to eat a few flowers. Although they may not be enough to keep body and soul together, edible flowers do add a little glitter to what otherwise be a plainer parade".

It goes without saying that you need to make sure that you need to do some careful research and have your facts right before you taste any flowers or come to think of it any other part of a plant. Expectant mothers and anybody with a medical condition needs to be extra careful. Some flowers may be eaten whole whilst with others just the petals are edible.

Meanwhile if you grow chrysanthemums in your garden and see an intruder leaning over them in the next few weeks to have a nibble it could well be me!

20 comments:

  1. I just can't get my head round eating flowers, I don't know why. As for chrysanthemums, I don't grow them but Hubby's uncle does and he's just brought the most beautiful bouquet round for me, I'm not going to nibble them though.

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    1. I can understand Jo but worth having a go :) What a shame that you are not nearer or I would be knocking on your door.

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  2. Great post, Anna. I like a scattering of flowers in my salad and have been known to chop up nasturtium flowers and use them in a herby breadcrumb mixture that goes very well with fish. I'm not sure I could justify picking my tulip flowers to eat though. ;) I do like the sound of the agastache. I do like the flavour of aniseed.

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    1. Oh nasturtium flowers in a herby breadcrumb mix sounds rather yummy WW. Thanks for the idea. I must admit to only picking the odd tulip petal Did not want to decimate my display.

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  3. Very interesting, Anna. I've never been very adventurous when it comes to eating flowers. I have a hard time bringing myself to cut flowers to bring inside for a bouquet, let alone to eat:)
    I had the good fortune to hear Rosalind Creasy speak at a conference several years ago. At the time I'd never heard of her, but her talk and the slide show of her garden were amazing! I'd love to visit her garden in person.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Rose. I have the same problem when it comes to cutting flowers too apart from sweet peas which I do grow for cutting :)

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  4. Oh Anna - this was so fascinating and reminds me that I do want to learn more about which flowers are edible. I was encouraged to try Hemerocallis earlier this year, I think by Annette, one of our fellow bloggers, and was very pleasantly surprised. It's a psychological thing, really, as we are accustomed to eating leaves and fruit but not flowers - and reminds of the cooking I used to do with my class of mostly autistic children, partly to encourage them to try new foods (didn't often work though, but they still loved the cooking!)

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    1. Yes it certainly is a most interesting subject Cathy. Your class must have been challenging but great fun though.

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  5. Really interesting post Anna and lots of new edible flower ideas. I'm definitely going to give the agastache a try, I love aniseed. I tried hemerocallis flowers at River Cottage and I liked the crunchiness.

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    1. Hope that you enjoy the agastache Annie :)

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  6. Very enjoyable post, Anna, especially for someone like me who loves eating flowers! Book seems very interesting too. Sometimes I just love the flowers too much to eat them, and on occasions when we invite friends it's such fun to watch them as they're not sure whether it's decoration or not but most are very brave and when they see me munching away, they do too. With your Italian mum, you must have got so many wonderful inspirations!

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    1. Oh I can just imagine your dinner parties Annette :) It has been a positive experience to have grown up with both British and Italian influences.

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  7. I've had a go this year, but nothing like you have! I've enjoyed borage and chive flowers - and calendula petals - on salads, but have to admit that I find most flowers that I have tasted rather disappointing. I do, however, love rocket and mustard flowers. Yum...

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    1. Some of them are on the bland side Janet but some have surprised me. Now rocket and mustard have gone down on my list to be nibbled next year - thank you.

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  8. What a brilliant post! I just have visions of you munching on flowers in your garden now and doing taste tests! I'd love to try the courgette flowers and must admit that every year I do think about frying them up but I never get round to it. With borage I put the flowers in ice cubes for pretty drinks rather than eating. Such a great post, I really enjoyed reading about your experiments :)

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    1. Thanks for your comments Anna. So glad that you enjoyed the post. Borage flowers certainly do look great in ice cubes - just perfect with a glass of Pimms :)

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  9. You're more adventurous than me Anna! I keep hearing how good daylilies are when lightly sauteed or steamed, as a side vegetable, but haven't dared try them yet! I also think some flowers should be allowed to flower and set seed, like peas, rather than be eaten! I do love coriander and fennel flowers, and this year we tried the shoots of our ostrich ferns, which were delicious. I didn't realise tulip petals were edible... I bet there is so much out there we could eat and don't even know it, but like you say, caution is necessary.

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    1. Oh ostrich fern shoots sound intriguing Cathy - off to investigate forthwith.

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  10. I have that book! Brilliant, isn't it! I love the idea of eating flowers and have written about frying stuffed courgette flowers. Nasturtium flowers look wonderful on pumpkin soup and roses make lovely jam - my sister puts rose petal jam as the base for her almond Maids of Honour tarts. If you have a semi-shady space in your garden (or a spare pot) try growing sweet cicely for a mild aniseed taste - flowers, leaves and seedpods are all good for nibbling! I agree about the bean flowers - I'd rather eat the beans!

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  11. Yes it's a great book Caro and was so pleased to have recieved it. I can envisage how attractive nasturtium flowers would look floating on pumpkin soup and as for the idea of the rose petal jam at the bottom of the tarts - mmmmm. I bought a sweet cicely plant at our garden club plant sale this year :)

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.