It's Garden Day: a day to down your tools and spend some time on yourself!
If you're feeling peckish, you've come to the right place. In this article, Alice Whitehead shows us how to whip up some eye-catching floral snacks using edible flowers, that you can find growing in the garden or allotment.
Don't have time to bake this weekend? Remember to save this article for later! Show us your floral creations on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ShowUsYourBlooms!
What flowers to use:
Edible flowers are in abundance in May, bringing colour, scent – and tasty ingredients to the kitchen. Bite-sized blooms to choose from at this time of year include Roses, Borage, Anchusa, Cornflowers, Dianthus and Nasturtium, to name but a few.
For many of my recipes below, I gathered bundles of fresh Violas, Pansies and Primulas. I love the bright, open faces on these flowers, and they come in all sorts of colours. Dried petals such as Calendula, Rose, Chive and Bellis Daisy also work beautifully in baking. And scented Geranium leaves are not to be missed! They bring a Turkish delight bouquet to bakes and drinks.
Shop edible flowers here:
PurpleBloomSeedsPink & Cherry Rose -Nasturtium and Cornflower Seeds Bundle
PurpleBloomSeedsWhite Borage (30 Seeds)
PurpleBloomSeedsGrow Your Own Herbal Companions Kit
PurpleBloomSeedsNasturtium 'Alaska' (20 Seeds) & Nasturtium 'Empress of India' (25 Seeds)
PurpleBloomSeedsGrow Your Own Edible Flowers - Pretty Little Things
Old_Hogden_4_seedsWinter flowering Pansy. Swiss Giants
How to use:
The petals of edible flowers are usually the tastiest part. Aside from Nasturtium – which can be eaten whole - I like to remove the stems and sepals of edible flowers as these can be chewy and bitter. Pick flowers in the morning, so all those lovely juices and oils are at their freshest. If you’re not using them straight away, pop them into an air-tight container in the fridge to keep for a few days.
Four Tasty Recipes Using Edible Flowers
1. Petal cheese balls
These look divine as a starter with crusty bread or dropped into a crunchy spring salad – but they are effortless to make. One log of soft, fresh goat’s cheese will give you three or four large balls or eight smaller ones.
- Goats cheese.
- Fresh herbs of your choosing. You can use chives, thyme and young rosemary leaves, or basil, coriander or parsley.
- The zest of a lemon or lime.
- Edible flower petals.
- Salt and pepper.
A colourful blend of petals and herbs
Take the cheese out of the fridge last, so it is firm and easier to work with. Gather a handful of edible petals – I used a nice mix of bright colours. Then, collect together some fresh herbs. I used chives, thyme leaves and young rosemary leaves. But you could use basil, coriander or parsley, depending on the flavour you want to go for. The zest of a lemon or lime can also bring a fresh tang. There are no strict measurements – it’s all about experimentation!
Roughly chop all of your fresh, washed ingredients and place them into a small bowl. Add a good grind of black pepper and salt to taste. Take out your goat’s cheese and slice it into sections and roll these into balls. Then, roll the cheese balls in the flower and herb mixture to coat and place in another dish. They can be eaten immediately or doused in olive oil to store in the fridge for 24 hours.
2. Blooming biscuits
These biscuits will go down a treat with adults and children alike – but they almost look too good to eat!
- 1 medium egg.
- 100g/3½oz unsalted butter.
- 100g/3½oz of caster sugar.
- 275g/10oz of sifted plain flour.
- Vanilla extract.
- 200g/70z of icing sugar.
- 3tbsp water
- Your edible flowers.
For the shortbread, beat one medium egg in a cup and set aside. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cream together 100g/3½oz unsalted (room temperature) butter and 100g/3½oz of caster sugar until smooth, then beat in a little of your egg at a time, along with a drop of vanilla extract. Add more egg gradually as you stir and another drop of extract until well mixed. Stir in 275g/10oz of sifted plain flour.
Roll the mixture in your hands to form a dough, and roll out on a floured surface to 1cm thick. Cut out your shapes and place them onto the baking tray. They only need 10 minutes in the oven – or until they’re golden – but make sure they are completely cool before you ice them.
To make the icing, sift 200g/70z of icing sugar in a bowl with 3tbsp water and a drop of food colouring. Spread thinly over the biscuit surface.
Decorate with your edible flowers by pressing them into the icing while it is still wet. Dust them gently with icing sugar. You can take a pinch between finger and thumb and sprinkle, or use a soft paintbrush. They should be completely set in a couple of hours.
3. Pansy pops
What child could resist these sweet treats? These lollipops capture a moment of spring that can be enjoyed for weeks.
- Your edible flowers (darker coloured flowers are preferable).
- 240ml of golden syrup.
- 350g of sugar.
- 120ml of water.
Choose darker coloured flowers for this recipe, such as pansies or viola, that the golden syrup won’t overpower. Go for ones that are a good fit for the mould size too. The blooms tend to shrink when the warm syrup is added.
A lollipop mould is vital for this task as other receptacles are a bit fiddly. Lay it out with the lollipop sticks in place. Spray with some non-stick oil. Then carefully heat 240ml of golden syrup, 350g of sugar and 120ml of water in a pan until the sugar granules disappear. Use a thermometer to continue to heat the mixture to 145C. Let the syrup cool for around 30 seconds or so (your flowers will cook if it’s still boiling), and place one flowerhead in each of the moulds. Use a teaspoon to pour over your syrup carefully.
Make sure your flower head is completely covered, and give the stick a little wiggle to immerse it properly. Leave to set completely before popping them out and storing (or licking!)
4. Scented geranium cake
The range of fragrances you can get from scented geranium leaves never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to their natural essential oils, some are citrusy, some are musky vanilla, some have a hint of spicy ginger, while others are reminiscent of Parma Violets or rose water. Both the blooms and leaves of scented geraniums are edible and can be used for sorbets, salads and teas – but for this recipe; I’ve just used the leaves.
This is a pound cake style recipe, which means the batter may be much thicker than you’re used to with other cake batters. Also, it will require much longer baking than other sponge recipes.
- Butter for greasing
- 20 whole fresh geranium leaves – and 40g of these finely-chopped
- 200g plain flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- ¼tsp salt
- ⅛tsp baking soda
- 225g butter
- 225g caster sugar
- Juice and zest of two lemons
- 4 eggs
Let the butter and egg come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Butter your cake or loaf tin with plenty of butter and line the base with your whole geranium leaves. In a bowl, combine your flour, baking powder/soda and salt. And in a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and beat in lemon juice. Whisk your eggs, and add them gradually, mixing as you go. Finally, add your flour and stir in the lemon zest and finely chopped leaves. Pour your batter onto the leaves. If you’re making it in a loaf tin, bake for at least an hour. It may take up to 90mins in a round cake tin. Make sure you check it’s cooked throughout using a skewer. Allow cooling before turning out. The bottom of the cake will be on show – complete with a geranium leaf wreath!
N.B Always properly ID flowers before eating them: if in doubt, don’t eat them! Many common flowers such as daffodil, poppy, foxglove, clematis, larkspur and hydrangea are very poisonous. If you suffer from hay fever or allergies, edible flowers should be avoided. Always add them to your diet gradually.