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16 October 2014
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Winter 2004
John Cushnie On...

Edible Flowers
15th April 2005

Don’t ask me why but most people prefer their food to look interesting. A salad is no longer a good salad unless it is brightly coloured. I have to confess that I don’t eat any green rabbit food and adding coloured foliage or flowers won’t make me a convert.

Not every flower is edible indeed many are poisonous but there are sufficient available to ring the changes and impress your guests.

CauliflowerThe biggest and most common is the cauliflower, closely followed by broccoli. The edible part of the globe artichoke is really a large, unopened thistle-like flower.

Nasturtium flowers are brightly coloured with a strong, peppery flavour making them ideal for salads and pasta dishes. Those with long spurs at the base of the flowers are very sweet at the tips.

Sweet violet, Viola odorata has blue or white flowers appearing in winter and early spring. They can be used with sweet or savoury food. Crystallize with sugar and egg white to decorate cakes and desserts. The ordinary violet including the near black flowering Viola ‘Mollie Sanderson’ are scented. They don’t have a strong flavour but they are attractive when mixed through a salad.

Like the sweet violet, the flowers of the primrose may be crystallized for decorating cakes. The bright yellow flowers brighten up a green salad. A close relative, the cowslip (Primula veris) has a wonderful honey scent and may be crystallized for decoration.

At the height of summer roses are at their best. The better the fragrance the more flavour the rose variety will have.

The tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) has bright orange-red flowers with purple spots. The petals are turned back and unscented. Try whole flowers with roast duck or torn up through a green salad.

Bergamot (Monarda didyma)For a sweet, spicy flavour use the bright red or pink petals of bergamot (Monarda didyma).For the sweetest flavour choose flowers that have just opened.

The Chinese use the flowers of the day lily (Hemerocallis) in stir fries and soups. Here they are used in salads. The flower bud as well as the open flower may be used and leave a peppery after taste.The buds are thick and crunchy and are easier to use if they are cut in half.

The peppery flavoured petals of pot marigold, Calendula officinalis are brightly coloured with white, cream and orange flowers all from the same packet of seed. The petals can be dried and used to colour and flavour throughout the winter months.

The compact, purple flower heads of chives (Allium schoenoprasum) have a slight onion flavour. They may be used to top dress salads and other vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and potatoes .It seems to be the “ in thing” to place a flower on top of scrambled egg.I suppose it is a change to the limp sprig of parsley!


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