Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 14 June 2013

A Year of Salad Flowers

The silver lining from a bolting salad: oriental mustard and mizuna flowers

Since starting the Salad Challenge last year, I've expanded the range of flowers we eat in our salads. Like many people, I started off with peppery nasturtiums and was surprised to find ultra-conservative NAH enjoyed them too. Now he happily munches away at any flowery offerings in our salads, rather than shooting me a look of deep suspicion. Remember, here is a guy who only liked peas when I first met him ;)

Marigold alerted me to the virtues of Mizuna flowers last year and it's just as well she did, because my salad mixes this year have been quick to bolt. I've been flinging handfuls of their flowers into our salads over the past few weeks in a desperate attempt to keep leaf production going to give my later sowings a chance to catch up. The above picture shows that mustards and mizuna are close botanical cousins, despite their variety in the leaf department.

As well as these and the aforementioned nasturtiums, NAH and I have tried violas, the odd tulip petal and primroses. Tulips were the surprise discovery last year but one we take in moderation, not because they don't taste good, but because we'd quickly use up our garden display. I've also tried daylily flowers and on one memorable occasion demonstrated their edibile qualities to my fellow choirmakers on holiday in the Czech Republic. They kindly waited 24 hours to make sure I didn't drop dead from the experience and then joined in with my flower grazings.

Petra once commented she couldn't see the value in eating flowers - we were discussing the merits of Dahlias if I remember correctly. Agreed not all edible flowers are tasty - indeed some are flavourless -  but I recalled the wise words of Taffy Tatty when I met him at a potato day a few years ago. We taste first with our eyes, then with our tongue, he told me, and whilst his remark was nothing to do with edible flowers, I believe it still applies.

At Sarah Raven's Grow, Cook, Eat study day at Yeo Valley* in March, she provided a list of floral suggestions to scatter over the top of salads throughout the year as follows:
  • November to February - Violas, particularly the heartsease variety. NB some are awful (like the red one I grew a couple of years ago), so it's good to have a pointer to a tasty variety
  • March to April - Polyanthus (all of the family are edible) and Rocket
  • April - Gold/silver laced Polyanthus
  • May/June to first frosts - Calendula, borage (a prolific self-seeder, so eat the flowers!), courgette, Dahlias, Nasturtiums (her favourite) and Anchusa
And repeat. Looking back at my notes from the Alys Fowler* study day I went to last year she adds:
  • Viola 'Rebecca'
  • Sun lovers - Nasturtiums, marigolds (= 'poor man's saffron' - petals only), cornflowers (petals only), sage, pinks, pelargoniums, primulas, roses, daylilies (a cornflower substitute), sweet williams, chives, mallow, rocket
  • Dappled shade - Campanulas, violets, mouse garlic and golden garlic (Allium moly)
There's plenty of flowers to add an attractive decoration and taste to your salad! Which ones have you tried?

Related Post

Edible Flowers for Your Salad - includes a recipe for primrose salad and the surprise discovery that tulips are edible

* = both in support of Horatio's Garden
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The 52 Week Salad Challenge is sponsored by Greenhouse Sensation.

Note to readers: sponsorship goes towards my blogging costs and does not affect my independence.

20 comments:

  1. Love your edible flower ideas. We've been eating lots of primulas, chive flowers, rocket flowers, violas and looking forward to the nasturtiums and calendula which self-seed like crazy in my garden. Hadn't realised anchusa was edible though, heading out to try them now! I've been tardy in leaving my purple sprouting broccoli to go to seed too and it's covered in yellow flowers which the bees love - had better see if I like them too.

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    1. Hi Andrea - you certainly eat a wide range of flowers! :) Someone (sadly can't remember who) posted about the joys of PSB flowers last year, so I'm sure you'll like them. I've been trying to get some Agastache seeds to germinate ever since Jane Perrone tweeted last year how spectacularly tasty they are. I'm beginning to think they'll never germinate :(

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  2. I eat some of these but certainly more to add to my list here! I love growing nasturtiums for the school garden club I run - the children are very suspicious to start with but once enticed into trying both leaves and flowers, love showing off eating them - I think it feels a bit naughty and different!

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    1. Here's hoping being naughty and different helps to instill a love of GYO in them!

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  3. Apparently (according to James Wong) day lilies are best eaten not fresh but wilted and dried a bit. Have you tried them like this? I am going to have to grow some just to find out :)

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    1. Hi Lisa - lovely to see you again :)

      I must confess most of the ones I've tasted have been of the wilted variety, seeing they were on public display! Consider it dead-heading ;)

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  4. I've only tried chives, which are so pretty when broken up over a bowl of green leaves. Nasturtiums sound lovely, I really like peppery things. And I often have flowering mustards and rocket, so I shall be trying those these summer I think. A great list of things to try.

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    1. If you like chive flowers I'm sure you'll love the others :)

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  5. Anchusa?....that I didn't know. Thank you. I do love the look of flowers in a salad..not to overdo it..just a few here and there. But, I have also seen arranged an almost whole flower salad, which can be quite stunning. But, I admit, am still a bit nervous about eating flowers...silly, I know.

    Great post VP

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    1. Anchusa was a new one to me as well Bren. Wow, a whole flower salad... you've got me thinking...

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  6. Flowers really do brighten up the look of a salad. I have only tried chive flowers, but my mizuna has gone to flower too so I'll give that a try along with nasturtium and calendula.

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    1. They're really good, Margaret. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

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  7. Nibbled a pea flower today and still alive to tell the tale but there's one less pea pod for the plate :)

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    1. Now that's spooky. I'd just been thinking I'd not mentioned how Charles Dowding recommended pea flowers when I visited him last year and hear you are, mentioning them.

      I grow extra peas so we can munch on their flowers and not spoil the crop for other meals. Nice pea taste :)

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  8. I am slowly easing into edible flowers this year...this pushes me further into more choices.

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    1. Hope you find this useful Donna. Looking forward to hearing what you make of them in a future Salad Days post :)

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  9. I think they're so pretty - sell mustard and chive flowers as part of my edible bunches on my flower stall. Found a fantastic recipe online for chive flower vinegar - steep them in white wine vinegar for 2-3 weeks, then strain. Sounds brilliant - a violet coloured vinegar tasting faintly of chives which is a great addition to salad dressings apparently. My project for this week is to make some!

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    1. That's sounds fabulous! *heads off to google*

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  10. So glad you found the course helpful! Edible flowers are always an inmportant component of any salad at Perch Hill...

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