There is a surprising amount of flowers growing in our garden that are actually edible.
Edible flowers have been used for years in cooking or as decorations for various dishes.
They can add colour, flavour and personality to even the most simple of dishes. Many of the top chefs in the UK and indeed throughout the world are increasingly using more and more edible flowers to enhance their salads, as well as for decoration on appetizers, starters, cakes and many other dishes.
Before you start searching your garden for flowers to include in your salad, you need to know which ones are edible and which are not. Growing them yourself is always best as that way you can be confident that they are clean, fresh and free from pests and disease.
There are dozens of plants and flowers that are safe to eat. Some of the most obvious ones include Basil, Chives, Dill and Lavender. There are other edible flowers commonly found in Britain that are perhaps less obvious, for example; the Dandelion, English Daisy, Mallow, Okra, Pansy and the Primrose can bring colour and texture to even the most humble of dishes and are all perfectly safe to eat.
These are often used as a decorative garnish because of their bright colour. However, they also have a wonderfully peppery taste, so are great in salads or as an edible garnish.
The iconic sunflower has a leafy, slightly bitter taste. If you are cooking them you should lightly steam petals to lessen the bitterness. Unopened flower buds can be steamed like artichokes.
Depending on the variety, Angelicas range from pale lavender-blue to deep rose and have a liquorice-like flavour.
Blossoms come in a variety of colours, from white to pink to lavender; the flavour is similar to the leaves, but milder.
Rose petals are often used in Middle Eastern cooking, to make syrups and jellies. Another easy, accessible way to cook with roses is to use rose water. Roses are very fragrant and can be used in sweet or savoury dishes.
While dandelions are rather easy to come by, make sure to harvest them only from organic gardens. Avoid any which are grown near roads or picked from lawns where chemicals may be present.
Like lavender, the flowers of lilac have an intensely floral flavour with lemon undertones. A little goes a long way, but one or two individual flowers added to a summer punch look wonderful and taste very refreshing.