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Why do people turn their noses up at edible flowers? What could be more delicious than beautiful chive heads tossed into a salad? They add quite an intense burst of onion flavour when eaten – probably more powerful than chopped chive leaves themselves.
When Kevin Smith asked our theatre audiences at Gardeners’ World Live whether they used edible flowers in their cooking, very few people responded. What a missed opportunity.
The flowers of chives and many herbs are edible, including rocket, coriander, mint, thyme and rosemary.
Then there are nasturtiums – vibrant, colourful blooms produced in profusion by these easy-to-grow hardy annuals. They have a warming, peppery flavour, not unlike watercress. Which is hardly surprising when you realise that the Latin name for watercress is Nasturtium officinale.
So, what other edible flowers add colour to my summer salads? Well, pot marigold or calendula petals look lovely. Orange varieties self-seed on my veg plot, and one or two flowers provide sufficient petals to be sprinkled over a dish of salad leaves. No, I don’t think they provide any additional flavour or nutrition, but they look great.
I’ve eaten day lily flowers before. Eat hemerocallis flowers when in tight bud and they have a satisfying crunch. Again, they don’t really have any flavour I could detect, but are fun to add to salads.
And don’t forget your weeds either. Dandelion flowers have a very distinct flavour. They’re quite sweet when picked just as they open, and their golden petals go perfectly in a rustic bowl of mixed leaves. Or try bittercress, that ubiquitous weed that seems to arrive as a ‘free sample’ with many garden centre purchases.
So, whether you want delicate viola flowers in a salad or would like to try crystallising rose petals, embrace the colour and offer your family more than just lettuce leaves the next time you serve up a salad.
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