Pretty violas, golden calendula, peppery nasturtiums and sweetly scented roses. Yes, edible flowers have become a food trend this summer. These blooms are jazzing up salads, becoming hugely popular for decorating cakes, and being used to add a touch of seasonal glamour to cocktails.
Edible flowers have been grown in the gardens and fields of flower farmers for some years now. The freshly picked blooms have been snapped up by restaurants and cake decorators, looking to add flavour and a touch of floral beauty to their food. And in 2017 edible flowers are hitting the big time. Following in the footsteps of micro greens and pea tips, they are available to buy from supermarkets, albeit at vastly inflated prices. Their photogenic qualities have seen them making appearances in foodie ‘top five’ lists published in magazines and newspapers, and you can barely flick through Instagram without coming across tables decorated with edible blooms.
While they bring colour and charm to dishes, when you’re talking about flowers, edible doesn’t always mean tasty. So which flowers should you choose if you are looking to bring an extra layer of flavour to your summer table? Pretty white rocket flowers don’t have the mustardy punch of the leaves, but are definitely worth trying. And, given that rocket is quick to give up on leaf production and switch to flowering in the heat of summer, they are easy to grow at home. Nasturtium flowers too have a flavour similar to, but less intense than, the leaves. They’re really good, mixed with lettuce and other summer salad leaves. The star shaped, rich blue flowers of borage might not offer much in the way of flavour, but they are an essential ingredient in a jug of Pimms. They look decorative frozen into ice cubes too. Calendula petals have more colour than taste, and can be a little fibrous. But they are known as ‘poor man’s saffron’, and can be used to bring a rich orange glow to rice, herb butters and eggs.
So really you don’t need to be either trendy, or a foodie to make the most of edible flowers this summer. Get out into the garden, or contact your local flower farmer, for some organically grown blooms and experiment with petals in your cooking (but do make sure that the petals you’re experimenting with really are edible). Where will this season’s food trend take you?