Growing lots of flowers is great for bringing in bees to the veg patch which will in turn help your veggies. Why not make them edible flowers that you can enjoy too – for cocktails, cakes, salads and other dishes…
Our collection of edible flowers includes borage, violas, calendula and nasturtiums- here’s a little bit about growing and using each one:
These plants are well suited to beds and borders in full sun or partial shade. You can grow in pots too, but as the flowers can get fairly tall choose a large, wide based pot. Plant them about 40cm apart, and keep them well watered during dry spells.
They will flower from early summer right through to the end of autumn. Harvest just the flowers by gently pulling them off. Harvesting is best done by mid-morning, as the flowers are opening up.
Use the flowers to decorate cakes, sprinkle on salads or add to cocktails – they have a light cucumber-like flavour that works well in a gin and tonic. At the end of the season, they will self seed readily, so leave them to spread if you want extra plants next year.
You can very happily grow violas in pots or straight in the ground. They will do well in full sun and partial shade. Plant them about 10-15cm apart. You can happily grow 5 plants to a 20-25cm pot.Keep them well watered if growing in pots, and remember that they tend to be quite popular with slugs eating the flowers, especially early on in the season when there’s not a lot else for slugs to enjoy in the veg patch!
They will flower right through from late spring to late autumn, and should come back again the following year providing they don’t get too chilly with hard frosts.
Harvest the flowers once they are fully open. They look so lovely sprinkled over a salad, and you can use them to decorate cakes (see below for instructions on how to crystallise flowers – it’s a great project for a lazy weekend of baking!)
Calendula flowers are a fantastic addition to the veg plot – they will do wonders for bringing in bees, butterflies and other brilliant bugs to help your veggies thrive, they look lovely and add a splash of vibrant colour, and you can use the petals in cooking too. Plant them in beds, borders or deep pots, about 20cm apart. They will do best in full sun, but also grow well in partial shade.
Deadhead the flowers regularly to keep them flowering for longer (and to prevent them from self-seeding if you don’t want them to take over your plot!) They will usually flower right through the summer and on into autumn.
To use in the kitchen, pull the petals off the flower heads and sprinkle into salads, pasta dishes, risotto, paella etc for a splash of orange vibrancy.
Grow nasturtiums in pots, beds, borders or hanging baskets. They will do well in sun or partial shade. Be aware, they are popular with cabbage white butterflies, so if you often find your brassicas are easter by caterpillars, then these are likely to be munched as well. If so, it is best to grow them under insect-proof netting.
You can eat both the leaves and the flowers, and they add a peppery flavour to salads. Just pick what you need as and when you want to use them.
How to crystallise flowers:
- Lightly whisk an egg white
- Use a fine paintbrush (a child’s paintbrush is perfectly acceptable) to cover the surface of each petal with the egg white
- Sprinkle caster sugar evenly over the flowers while the egg white is still wet
- Place the flowers face down on grease proof paper to dry
- After 12 hours, use the flowers to decorate cakes and cupcakes