Take Stock leads you up the garden path to pick summer flowers to use in sweet and savoury dishes.
From pansies to cowslips, geraniums and dandelions to nasturtiums and daisies, right now the UK is a meadow of edible flowers that can be used not only to add colour and fragrance to your cooking, but also flavour and nutritional value-given that they contain antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and other health-giving substances, such as carotenoids and bioflavonoids. A simple green salad can be transformed into something quite marvellous and exotic by adding a few flowers, while topping cupcakes with dainty violets or delicate rose petals can make for the prettiest of afternoon teas. One of the most versatile cooking flowers is lavender. It belongs to the same family as many of our most popular herbs and its spikes and leaves make a great substitute for rosemary in breads, lamb dishes and stews.
Use the spikes or stems for making prawn or fruit kebabs. Its edible flowers add a beautiful colour to salads and with their lemon and citrus notes, taste good in a glass of Champagne, with chocolate cake or as a garnish to sorbets and ice creams.
Make lavender tea by adding two teaspoons of flowers to boiling water, sweetening to taste with honey. Lavender tea taken at bedtime is said by herbalists to help promote good sleep. It is also used to calm anxiety, soothe tummy problems and ease the pain of headaches, backache and arthritis. When cooled and applied to the skin, it can help heal cuts, wounds and sores and was used for such on injured soldiers up until the end of the First World War.
Grow Your Own Cooking Flowers
Flowers from some florists, nurseries or garden centres may have been treated with pesticides not labelled for food crops, so, if you are planning to use them in your cooking, check first or to be on the safe side, use the Internet to Google organic growers. Many of them supply seeds. Even if you are short of space, most edible flowers grow well in pots, hanging baskets and containers, including lavender, pansies, heartsease, violets, nasturtiums, cowslip, oxlip, primroses, geraniums and pot marigolds. In addition to being good ingredients, you can also use them to brighten up doorways, windowsills and patios. Always choose the flowers that appear the most perfectly ripe and ready for cooking. These will be most flavourful (select your edible flowers as you would fruit i.e. pick blooms with the fullest colour, passing over any that seem wilted or less ripe).