Incredible Edibles!

In this informative blog, Ollie talks about how some common garden flowers can be used in everyday cooking…

edible flowersIn this day and age it is very easy to lose touch with where our food comes from. We are so used to going to the supermarket and picking up pre-packaged foods whenever we like. Caring for a garden or an allotment revitalises this tangible connection to food. You can’t beat the taste and nutrition of home grown produce, so fresh it is still growing when you bite into it!

We can all identify the obvious crops we grow on the veggie patch, such as carrots, lettuce, beetroots, beans and brassicas, but you may be surprised to learn that many of our common garden plants are edible too. Here are a few:

cake

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) petals, have an intense colour and a peppery taste, ideal for sprinkling on salads, as are both the leaves and flowers of Nasturium (Tropaeolummajus).

Sunflower (Helianthusannuus) petals can be used to garnish salads and as we all know the seeds are healthy and delicious.

The flowers of Pansies (Violaodorata), Primroses (Primula vulgaris) and Cowslips (Primula veris) can be eaten whole and are often candied to decorate spring time cakes.

Surprisingly even the petals of the common Daisies (Bellis perennis) are edible, although not particularly flavoursome.

common daisies

Another unusual edible flower is that of the Day lily (Hemerocallis), which can be added to stir fries, salads and soups. Beware however as they can have a laxative effect!

Most of us are familiar with Elderflower (Sambucus nigra). The flowers are used to make cordials and presse, but my favourite treat is elderflower fritters. The flowers are battered, deep fried and dipped in sugar, yum! Interestingly, with exception of the berries, all other parts of the elder are poisonous.

borage

Vibrant blue Borage (Borago offincinalis) flowers add a zing of colour and a mild cucumber flavour to salads. They are great frozen in ice cubes to give cocktails the wow factor.Rose flowers have been used for centuries to flavour food and drink. The stronger the fragrance, the more floral the flavour, with the petals used to garnishing dishes.
flowers in ice cubes

The most important thing before eating anything you forage, is that you are 100% sure you have identified the plant correctly. There are equally as many toxic and deadly plants as there are tasty edible ones! 

It is also advisable to avoid eating old faded flowers, plants that could have been sprayed with pesticides, plants that are exposed to fumes near roads and areas frequented by pets. People who suffer from allergies should be extra cautious too, as they may be more susceptible to harmful reactions from edible flowers.

If you are interested in finding out more about incredible edibles in your garden and the surrounding countryside then I can recommend the book “Food for Free” written by Richard Mabey.

Disclaimer: This blog it meant as an informative guide on which common flowers are edible. Easton Walled Gardens accept no responsibility for individuals who decide to consume any of the flowers mentioned. Please forage responsibly and carefully!

Summer Garden Maintenance Tips

Head Gardener, Ollie Ryan-Moore, gives us a few helpful tips for maintaining a healthy summer garden…

Summer has arrived, and our gardens are bursting with life. Fresh flowers gleaming and verdant foliage lapping up the sunshine of the longest days of the year. During these potentially drier periods it pays to keep a close eye on watering. Seedlings, newly planted plants, trees and shrubs in their first growing season after planting and containers are most vulnerable in dry conditions. Without expansive root systems these plants aren’t able to access enough water, so we need to help them. The best time to water is in the morning or evening. Watering when it isn’t so sunny reduces water loss through evaporation. Give plenty of water, but keep the frequency low, this ensures plants get a good soaking, but are still encouraged to develop their root systems.

summer vegetable garden

Weekly mowing can be a chore, so if you want to reduce your workload, then consider leaving and area of lawn to grow wild, just mowing pathways through it. The long grass can all be cut in the autumn and composted. Leaving areas of long grass is good for wildlife and you may see wildflowers start to pop up as well. If you are mowing a fine lawn, then it pays to raise the height of cut during dry spells. This leaves the grass a little longer and puts less stress on the turf.

terraces

Weeding is always important and summer is when the hoe is most effective. Using a hoe slices through weeds and means they can be left to wilt and die on the soil surface. Another job for this time of year is pruning stone fruit trees such as plums, cherries and damsons. These fruit trees are susceptible to diseases if pruned in the winter as their wounds are slow to heal over. Pruning in early summer allows them to heal quickly whilst they are growing vigorously and reduce the chance of infection. It is also the best time to prune spring flowering shrubs such as Weigela, Philadelphus and Forsythia. They need the rest of the season to regrow shoots that will bear next year’s spring flowers.

weeding in the sweet peas

Take note of pests and diseases on your plants. Pests such as aphids, caterpillars and vine weevil can quickly do a lot of damage, so take action at first sight of problems. If you are having regular pest and disease problems with a particular plant then it is likely to be weak or unhealthy. The most resistant plants are the strongest, healthiest ones. Finally, take time to enjoy your garden in the sun!