Saturday, 22 September 2018

Cool Coloured Edible Flowers

Heart's Ease (above) is what my English mum, gardener and botanist, called those pretty, small Viola known here in Australia as Johnny Jump Ups. Also known as wild pansy, Viola tricola is a sweet, hardy annual but rather fond of self-sowing with abandon, otherwise I'd grow it - the lovely dark purple form grown in the 1970's without too much yellow (or other colours) as well. Just pick to add to salads or decorate cakes; the flowers can be eaten whole. 
Larger Viola - pansies (above) - in all the colours of the rainbow (bar true blue or bright red) just don't self-sow as much, if at all. So I can grow them in my edible patch which is a hop, skip and a (Johnny) jump from lovely bushland. We're lucky enough to live amongst the gums and the wattles and many wild orchids, so we try to be responsible.
And it's so much fun to add lemon pansies to a gold chard bed, and black ones amongst Tuscan kale and purple broccoli. (The yellow crucifer kale flowers are probably edible...I'll keep you posted.) Pansies are large flowers so perhaps use sparingly.

Lavender flowers (above) can be eaten too; just pull apart the clustered blooms and sprinkle onto chocolate cake....mmm. The tiny flowers can be added to drinks too, but in moderation - they have a strong floral flavour. I like having lavenders in the veg patch; not just pretty and edible plants, they attract bees too.

Bergamot, or Monarda didyma, is sometimes known as bee balm and has pretty pink or red flowers in summer, occasionally mauve. Pull off the petals then add to cakes, drinks and salads. I haven't tried the young leaves but these are said to be edible too and when dried can make a herbal tea.

Borage is well known for its edible flowers. The starry sky-blue flowers can, famously, be frozen into ice cubes and, yes, added to drinks. Like lemon, lime and bitters. Mmm. Borago officionalis is an annual herb and (sadly for me) flings seeds around generously. But if you grow it, then salads will look pretty with a sprinkling of these pretty blooms, or use a couple of sprigs to decorate cheese platters.

Anise Hyssop, or Agastache, a mint relative, is a perennial with pink or lilac flowers in summer and autumn, which attract butterflies. The mauve-flowering Agastache foeniculum  has edible flowers (and the soft, anise-scented leaves are said to be used as a seasoning, as a tea and in potpourri). Pull off the tubular petals and scatter in salads or in drinks for a dash of colour and mildly liquorice flavour. This perennial is handy as it blooms after many other herbs have declined, but I am not sure if the hybrids, like this pink variety `Sangria' (above) are edible too. Munchers beware!
Lastly English daisy (above), Bellis perennis, a small plant with sweet little flowers, white and pink-backed. I love seeing this sweet perennial scattered through a lawn but as a fairly prolific generator of new little plants, it, obviously, doesn't grow here at Possum Creek. I enjoy it in the gardens of city friends who use the tiny petals (the whole flower is edible, if bitter). But I'd use the whole flower on cakes; they're just so pretty.
So jazz up cakes, soups, drinks and especially salads with some of these edible flowers. Some in moderation, but some, like Heart's Ease, can be scattered densely and look oh-so-wonderful!
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria. (