Spring has most certainly sprung. One of the most colourful aspects of the season is the abundance of gorgeous flowers in full bloom. But did you know that many of these bouquets are more than simple eye candy? There is a wealth of edible flowers around, and we’ve done the hard yards on what to eat, how to use them and where they can be found.
A word of warning before we begin – proceed with extreme caution if you suffer from hay fever or other allergies. Always triple check your flowers before consumption to ensure they are of the edible variety.
Pineapple sage features a vivacious red-pink flower, which is easily spotted due to its phenomenal colouring. Though not related to actual pineapples, the saccharine scent will have you second-guessing this for sure. Native to Mexico, pineapple sage is often planted in gardens to attract butterflies and birds. Even nature just can’t get enough of the sugary-sweet fragrance.
As you can probably guess, pineapple sage is the candy of the flower family. Sweet in smell and taste, pineapple sage works well with other fruit flavours. You can use both the leaves and the flower, with the former being the more mild of the two. In particular, the leaves work well as an alternative to basil in both pestos and creamy sauces. The flowers are well suited to baked desserts with fruit as the star ingredient. Use both in a refreshing iced tea concoction.
Lavender possesses some of the strongest flavour notes of the flowers on this list. The most common in Australia, the English or lavandula lavender has a huge range of culinary applications. This hardy plant flowers all year round and is exceptionally versatile.
Although a member of the mint family, lavender has a sweet fragrance. Don’t let this sugary scent fool you – lavender works for both sweet and savoury recipes. We recommend drying out the buds before use, though you can also use them fresh. Simply cut the stems, tie together with twine and hang upside down in a cool, dry place. Whizz them in a food processor to produce a powder-like substance perfect for infusing butter, oil or sugar. Use lavender to add a whole new layer to sweets and desserts, or combine with sea salt for an exceptionally fragrant seasoning with proteins.
Rosemary is a delightful herb and there’s even more to this plant than meets the eye. The petite, purple flowers of rosemary are most definitely edible and will add an aromatic pop of both colour and flavour to your plate. They are available all year round.
In contrast to the distinct fragrance of the rosemary herb, the blooming flowers have a far more delicate scent. Used together, the herb and flower are truly an unbeatable combination. If you happen to be growing your own, the flowers are an indication that the rosemary has reached peak flavour. Use them as a zesty garnish on your Sunday
lamb roast, with root vegetables, or for a sweet kick with honey, apple
or pear. The flowers are best used as fresh as possible and will deteriorate if heated.
Rose petals are widely used in a variety of teas for their medicinal purposes and distinct aroma. The petals of these romantic and
decadent flowers are equally at home in a broad range of culinary delights. Most strains are edible, so you have a huge range of colours
and flavours to choose from. Roses bloom all year round but are most prevalent during spring.
An important thing to remember when using rose petals is that the white base often bitter taste, so it’s generally a safe bet to remove this portion. This is key if your desire is to use them fresh in salads or as a garnish. The rose is derived from the same plant family as the strawberry, and both work well with similar ingredients. Rose petals shine brightest when dried, as this is when their perfumed fragrance is intensified. Sugar them for cakes and desserts, or infuse everything from butter to jams.
Where to find them
Before you chomp down on your flowers, you need to find out exactly where they came from. It’s really important to avoid pesticides and chemicals, which are often found in the flowers sold at commercial florists.
If you stroll through the suburbs of Melbourne you’ll find most of these flowers exploding from gardens onto the footpath. Rather than go full guerrilla, always ask your neighbours before plucking their precious flora. Not only is it important to be courteous, but you can also seriously destroy someone’s crop if not cut correctly. Not to mention the pesticide risk (yes, again with the pesticides). You don’t want to give yourself a nasty stomach ache, or worse. You’ll find most people are accommodating, especially if you offer to bring them some of the spoils from your cooking adventures.
Alternatively, head to your local nursery. Either start from scratch with seeds, or skip a step and grab yourself some potted babies to grow at home. Plants such as rosemary and broccollini are multi-faceted, in that you can use the entire thing.
If all of that’s too much hassle, fresh, dried, freeze-dried and preserved flowers are readily available at specialty cooking outlets both online and in store.
Victorian grown edible flowers available online. Their website features a huge range of recipes and you can also purchase seeds to grow your own.
Sprout House Farms specialise in organic gourmet ingredients grown in the Geelong region. You can buy a huge variety of flowers and seeds via their online store. They even run workshops on growing your own.