A well-tended border or bed in the garden can be more than simply beautiful. It can also contain surprising new ingredients for all kinds of dishes.
Recently popularised in the cookery and lifestyle blogosphere, cooking with edible flowers actually has a long and illustrious history. You can find reference to marigolds in Mrs Beetons’ Book of Household Management, but ancient records show chrysanthemums, for example, were being used in Chinese cookery as early as 200BC. Meanwhile, the Romans were perhaps the first to recognise the flavoursome uses of roses and violets. While marigolds, roses, violets and chrysanthemums are well-known as safe to eat, it is wise to check that more unusual choices are not poisonous. The RHS has a helpful list of edible flowers.
Epicureans, or just the merely curious, can seek out a wealth of online food recipes using edible flowers. Many of them trace back to ancient recipes, but others are more modern creations. Here are a few ideas.
This involves blanching the flower heads and tossing them with shrimp, capers, artichoke and diced potato. If cooking with chrysanthemum appeals, have a look at online resources, such as http://food-tales.com/online-food-recipes/, for more ideas.
Dandelion flowers are too bitter to eat, but they make a wonderful wine. It’s strong, rich, medium sweet and as redolent of summertime as you would hope. Nettles, marigolds and daisies also all make excellent wine.
Some may prefer these showy, blowsy flowers to remain on their stems in the garden, but they are delicious when boiled and fried. They can also be mixed into salads or added to punch.
Tomato and lavender tart
Lavender has uses beyond scenting drawers and handkerchiefs. It is also a thoroughly nice addition to a tomato tart. The crushed lavender flowers should be sprinkled over the top of the tart before baking, in order to let the flavour fully permeate the dish.
Made with purple pansies and granulated sugar, this is a simple recipe that requires boiling water to be poured over the flower heads. The resulting concoction is left to infuse for 12 hours before the sugar is stirred in and dissolved using the heat of a gas or electric stove burner. The syrup is then strained, bottled and refrigerated, ready to pour over ice cream, fruit salads and chocolate mousse.