Flowers look lovely painted on a porcelain plate, but why stop there when edible blossoms are on hand? The Romans used pungent mustard blooms in love potions, and Victorians made fairy cakes from pinks and red rose petals. Our own grandmothers brewed sweet cordials such as elder blow and dandelion wine from plants growing outside the kitchen door. Recently, I purchased an organic herbes de Provence seasoning mix and was surprised by the delicious floral scent in my kitchen. Along with the usual combination of thyme, rosemary, marjoram and summer savory, an unexpected (to me) addition of dried lavender imbued my simple chicken sauté with amazing fragrance and flavour. Edible flowers can find their way into salads, cheese spreads, herbal butters and vinegars, teas and punches—and a small scattering of colourful petals will glorify any dish.
Growing edible flowers
As with any food source, it’s important to know the flowers you plan to eat are free from pesticides. Be wary of flowers purchased from florists, nurseries or garden centres, or those found growing wild by the roadside, as they may be contaminated. The best way to be sure is to grow them yourself. Petals have their best flavour and fragrance when grown with your own tender loving care and harvested on demand. Give plants a sunny, well-draining location and amend the soil with peat moss, leaves and homemade garden compost. Do not add animal manure to soil in which food plants (including edible flowers) are grown, to prevent possible contamination from pathogens carried in animal waste. Water regularly according to the season, with extra irrigation during hot, dry weather; avoid overhead watering, which can spot and mar the petals. Instead, use a soaker hose laid on the ground through the growing bed or slowly flood the soil surface with an ordinary garden hose. A balanced granular—not liquid, which could splash on petals— fertilizer such as 10-10-10, given every three to four weeks will keep the plants growing robustly. (Follow package directions for amount to apply.) Deadhead every week to prevent the plants from going to seed and to keep more buds opening.