Author Archives: Dorcas Custer

Autumn is the time to sow some hardy edible flowers

Autumn is the time to sow some hardy edible flowers…..

You may not realise it but many annual edible flowers can be sown in August and September for an early crop of flowers next spring. If you sow them in the autumn you can be enjoying your beautiful edible flowers from next spring. Why not try out some of these..

Cornflowers – I absolutely LOVE cornflowers and we are growing loads this year.  They are on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list, incredibly easy to grow and beautiful to look at, as well as being fantastic edible flowers.   Cornflowers have loads of uses in food and drinks, the simplest being to scatter the petals over food for decoration, but they can also be used to make floral teas, a natural food colouring, to decorate cakes or make floral sugars and syrups.  Cornflowers come in a range of colours, and we currently have three to choose from:- blue, black or red.

Calendula – a popular edible flower and one which is very easy to grow.  Calendula are beautiful, bright cheery edible flowers suitable for any size garden.  We presently have three varieties on offer, Fiesta Gitana which produces a lovely mix of yellow and orange flowers, Bon Bon Calendula which flower early in the year, and Calypso.

Calendula

Calendula

Cowslip – Cowslips have a beautifully mild sweet flavour, reminiscent of honey.  Cowslips have tall stems, with clusters of delicate yellow flowers.  They have been enjoyed as an edible flower for centuries, and may be used to make vinegars, sugars and syrups as well as colourful additions to cakes and desserts.  A perfect edible flower to add to your garden, particularly if you would like to create a wildflower garden.

Wild Primrose – It is best to sow Wild Primroses at this time of year as they need a period of cold to break their dormancy and encourage germination.  Although they are commonly sold at garden centres, it is unwise to eat ready grown plants as you will not know what pesticides they have been treated with.  In addition, they should not be picked from the wild because they have decreased in recent decades in the wild due to pressures on their natural habitat. Wild Primroses are a popular flower with pollinating insects as they are one of the first flowers of the season.   They have a lovely mild, sweet flavour and can be sugared easily to create lovely easter cake decorations.  The young leaves and flowers are also great when added to salads.

Viola Heartsease – Violas are always a popular choice with edible flower fans and Viola Heartsease is one of the most commonly enjoyed as it produces beautiful little pansy-like flowers for a lovely display both in the garden and when added to food.  The sweet tasting flowers are easy to use in the kitchen, being added to salads, to decorate sweet or savoury dishes, to make floral teas, crystalise or to make sugars and syrups.

Viola Heartsease

Viola Heartsease

Viola Freckles – A more unusual and less known Viola is Freckles which produces an abundance of delicate white and purple freckled flowers.  A great choice for anyone who would like to grow a more unusual looking Viola to add to their food. Lovely for cakes and desserts.

Edible Flowers to Sow in July

We are well in to summer now, even if the weather might sometimes tell you otherwise.! However, there are still plenty of edible flowers that you can sow in July and August to fill your garden or window box with beautiful and delicious flowers. See your garden in a whole new way and get eating those flowers!!

Borage is a very decorative plant which grows quickly and easily and provides beautiful blue, star-shaped flowers throughout summer. The flowers and leaves are versatile and have many culinary uses both sweet and savoury, and are extremely popular with bees. Very easy to grow.

Daisy, Galaxy Rose“Galaxy” Daisies are a cultivated English daisy which are unusual in that they will flower the first autumn after sowing. Clumps of low-lying green leaves are punctuated by large bright pink or bright white daisies. The flowers are popular with bees and butterflies. Daisies can be enjoyed in salads, used as a garnish, in hot & cold drinks, cakes, desserts and savoury dishes

Daisies

Daisies

Daisy, Habanera White“Habanera” Daisies are delightful cultivated English daisy with long white or pink petals which curl upwards. A compact plant which is perfect for use as a bedding plant or for growing in containers. Delicious in salads, garnishes, hot & cold drinks, cakes, desserts and savoury dishes.

Kale is a delicious and striking leaf vegetable which adds strong colour and structure to many types of garden. In addition to the leaves,the flowers are highly nutritious and taste fantastic. The leaves have a sweet, slightly peppery, cabbage-like flavour and the flowers are beautifully sweet and tasty. Kale is easy to grow and will provide you with young leaves for salads, larger leaves for cooking and delicate bright yellow flowers for any savoury meal.

Pea Flowers, including Ambassador, are an easy to grow annual vegetable which produce two delicious crops; firstly the sweet tasting and delicate flowers and secondly the tasty mangetout or podded peas. Ambassadors grow lovely, sweet, white flowers and goes on to produce delicious sweet tasting peas. Two crops for the price of one!

Radishes, including French Breakfast and Scarlet Globe, are most commonly grown only for their edible root but few know that the entire plant is edible. Radishes are probably one of the quickest, easiest vegetables and edible flowers to grow. Radish flowers make lovely tasty additions to salads and savoury dishes and allow you to make the most of radish root crops which have gone past their best. Enjoy radishes throughout the life of the plant and harvest three delicious crops: roots, flowers and seed pods.

Radishes

Radishes

Runner Beans are tall, vining plants which can grow over two metres high. The plants are most often grown for their green seed pods. However, many people do not realise that they may also eat the mature beans inside, which are delicious cooked in soups or stews, as well as the bright scarlet flowers which make a vibrant addition to many savoury dishes including salads and soups. Runner Beans are a popular plant for the vegetable garden but can also make an extremely attractive edible plant for the ornamental garden.

Our colourful range of “Sorbet” Violas have a combination of striking flowers which can provide colour for much of the year, even flowering during winter in mild conditions. Violas are popular edible flowers, with a wide range of culinary uses. They are most commonly used to decorate cakes and desserts, are ideal for sugaring and beautiful when scattered over salads or used as a garnish.

Edible Flowers to Sow in April

Spring is here and summer is on the way!

There is a wide range of edible flowers you can sow in April so start planning your delicious and beautiful edible flower garden now….

Broad Bean, Bunyards Exhibition has flowers which are simply delicious; they have a lovely sweet, fresh bean flavour and look beautiful on many savoury dishes. People often overlook their broad bean flowers in the vegetable garden and miss out on a real treat. To get the best from your crop, start planting now, and keep sowing every few weeks, so that you can enjoy a harvest of broad beans and broad bean flowers from May onwards.

Calendula are a well known edible flower and incredibly easy to grow, with bright yellow-orange flowers, similar in shape to daisies. They are easy to sow, fast growing and have many culinary uses, including salads, garnishes, cakes, desserts, savoury cooking, food colouring, hot & cold drinks, oils and butters. A must for any edible flower garden.

Chives are the smallest species of the edible onion family. The purple ‘pom-pom’ chive flowers look spectacular on a well-established plant and are popular with pollinating insects. The flowers are easy to use for decoration or adding flavour to any savoury dish, salads, for flavouring oils, vinegars and making Chive Flower Butter. A commonly used and enjoyed edible flower.

Chives

Chives

Cornflowers are delightful, easy to grow annuals which flower for much of the summer. They are traditionally blue in colour but are also available in a variety of colours, including red and “black” (actually dark burgandy). Cornflowers look beautiful in borders, particularly when planted in drifts, and provide a rich source of nectar for bees and butterflies. Cornflowers add vibrant colour to salads, sweet and savoury dishes, and to make natural food colouring.

Courgettes are an easy to grow summer crop which produce abundant fruits as well as brightly coloured and versatile yellow flowers. Courgette flowers are popular in restaurants, either on their own, or attached to young courgettes. They are most commonly stuffed with cheese filling or used to make fritters but there are many other ways to make use of these delightful flowers and the courgettes themselves including salads, savoury cooking and scrumptious desserts.

Dianthus, Arctic Fire produces a carpet of delightful white and red flowers which are well suited to any sized garden. This dwarf dianthus is great for providing ground cover in the garden, but will also grow well in a container. The delicate flowers are lovely when used to garnish any food, whether sweet or savoury. They make stunning additions to cake and biscuits, particularly when they have been sugared.

Dianthus, Flashing Light is a miniature dianthus, great for any size garden, with striking deep red flowers on a low lying bushy plant. Flashing Light is ideal for providing ground cover in the garden but will grow equally well in containers. The delicate flowers make lovely colourful additions to salads and when used to decorate cakes and sweet dishes. Seed sown in early spring should produce flowers in its first summer.

Dianthus, Parfait (Strawberry, Raspberry and Red Peppermint) is a selection of three extremely pretty dianthus with colourful white, pink and red petals. Dianthus are popular edible flowers which make lovely additions to salads, and are ideal for sugaring to add to cakes and desserts for unusual and colourful decorations. A compact plant which grows up to 15cm tall; they are perfect for containers and small gardens.

Dianthus

Dianthus

French Marigolds, such as Durango Bolero, Bee, Flame, Gold, Orange, and Yellow, with their distinctive flamboyant appearance make a striking contribution to any garden, big or small. These easy to grow annuals are perfect for borders, as bedding plants, in containers and in the vegetable garden. The fragrant flowers also have a number of culinary uses and their mild citrus taste makes them perfect for both sweet and savoury dishes.

Garlic chives are a hardy perennial with tiny white star-shaped flowers. The flat, grasslike leaves are most often used finely chopped to add to salads, or any savoury cooked meals, particularly sauces, soups and casseroles. The white flowers are attractive additions to the garden and can be added to any savoury dish for both flavour and visual interest including in salads, as a garnish, savoury cooking, and to flavour oils, vinegars and butters.

Kale is a delicious and striking leaf vegetable which adds strong colour and structure to many types of garden. In addition to the leaves,the flowers are highly nutritious and taste fantastic. The leaves have a sweet, slightly peppery, cabbage-like flavour and the flowers are beautifully sweet and tasty. Kale is easy to grow and will provide you with young leaves for salads, larger leaves for cooking and delicate bright yellow flowers for any savoury meal.

Lavenders Munstead and Hidcote are both culinary lavenders, which, with their striking violet-blue spikes and lovely green-grey, fragrant foliage are a must for any edible flower garden. These perennials are suitable for any size or type of garden, and have a wide range of culinary uses, both sweet and savoury. Lavender is also particularly well suited to drying, for use at any time of the year.

Mexican Tarragon is a beautiful herb which is often grown as a substitute for French Tarragon. The leaves have an anise-like flavour, with the plant also producing small flavoursome, bright yellow flowers. The plant is native to Mexico and Central America and, as such, is suitable for growing in warmer conditions and is particularly well suited to growing indoors on a sunny windowsill, or within a greenhouse or conservatory

Nasturtiums are a fast growing annual and incredibly easy to grow. They come in a wide variety of colours and types, with some being suited to containers, whilst others are useful for covering walls or trellis, providing ground cover or trailing from hanging baskets. Nasturtiums have a fantastic strong, peppery taste. An easy to use and versatile edible flower with edible leaves, flowers, stems and seeds.

Pea Flowers, including Carouby de Maussane, Oregon Sugar, Ambassador, Greenshaftand Early Onward are an easy to grow annual vegetable which produce two delicious crops; firstly the sweet tasting and delicate flowers and secondly the tasty mangetout or podded peas. Carouby de Maussane provides delicate pink and purple flowers, while Oregon Sugar, Ambassador, Greenshaft and Early Onward grow lovely, sweet, white flowers. Two crops for the price of one!

Radishes, including French Breakfast and Scarlet Globe, are most commonly grown only for their edible root but few know that the entire plant is edible. Radishes are probably one of the quickest, easiest vegetables and edible flowers to grow. Radish flowers make lovely tasty additions to salads and savoury dishes and allow you to make the most of radish root crops which have gone past their best. Enjoy radishes throughout the life of the plant and harvest three delicious crops: roots, flowers and seed pods.

Runner Beans are tall, vining plants which can grow over two metres high. The plants are most often grown for their green seed pods. However, many people do not realise that they may also eat the mature beans inside, which are delicious cooked in soups or stews, as well as the bright scarlet flowers which make a vibrant addition to many savoury dishes including salads and soups. Runner Beans are a popular plant for the vegetable garden but can also make an extremely attractive edible plant for the ornamental garden.

Runner Beans

Runner Beans

Viola Freckles is a small, hardy, clump-forming perennial, with dark-green, rounded leaves. Single white flowers with purple “freckles” which grow on upright stems above the foliage. Violas are popular edible flowers, with a wide range of culinary uses. They are most commonly used to decorate cakes and desserts, are ideal for sugaring and beautiful when scattered over salads or used as a garnish.

Viola Heartsease looks like a dainty, miniature pansy with five petals which are predominantly purple with some white and yellow. Viola tricolour is an easy to grow, hardy annual and a common wild flower of Europe. Violas are popular edible flowers, with a wide range of culinary uses. They are most commonly used to decorate cakes and desserts, are ideal for sugaring and beautiful when scattered over salads or used as a garnish.

Viola, Sorbet Raspberry is a brighly coloured Viola Cornuta with striking deep raspberry red/purple colour petals for most of the year, providing much needed colour and interest to the winter garden in mild conditions. Violas are popular edible flowers, with a wide range of culinary uses. They are most commonly used to decorate cakes and desserts, are ideal for sugaring and beautiful when scattered over salads or used as a garnish.

Edible Flowers & Companion Planting

Edible Flowers & Companion Planting

I had an email today asking me about edible flowers and companion planting and it reminded me that I have long been intending to compile a list of edible flowers which can be used for companion planting. I have got an initial list but would really love to hear from anyone with an interest in this subject so that together we can compile a comprehensive list. As I love nothing better than a beautiful allotment full of fruit, vegetables and edible flowers it makes sense to plant them all together in a way which allows them to benefit each other as much as possible. I would love to hear how you do this – please let me know.

The easiest way I have found is to simply grow as many edible flowers as possible on your vegetable plot or allotment which attract beneficial insects. Really easy to grow edible flowers which are on the RHS Perfect for Pollinators list include nasturtiums, chive flowers, cornflowers, single-flowered calendula and, one of my absolute favourites, borage. We always grow borage along the bottom boundary of our allotment and you can hear the buzzing of bees almost before you can even see our allotment! Our of our neighbours has a few beehives and he loves the fact that we have so much borage growing, as well as all our cornflowers.

planting flowers

planting flowers

Another favourite of mine (and our local bees) is chive flowers. They look beautiful and taste delicious.

So, on to other edible flowers and companion planting – here is my list so far:-

Borage – said to enhance the flavour of strawberries

Lavender – I have heard that lavender can benefit cabbages and cauliflowers as it can help ward off pests – I presume the cabbage white butterfly? The same goes for carrots and leeks in terms of deterring pests.

Nasturtiums – said to attract blackfly away from other vegetables so a good companion for any vegetables which are susceptible to blackfly BUT I have never been sure about this because you will then risk losing your nasturtium crop! In addition, the peppery leaves are said to ward of insects such as cucumber beetles and squash vine borers making them suitable companions to pumpkins, squash and cucumbers.

Chive flowers – plant near carrots as the smell of the chives can help mask the smell of carrots and help deter carrot roof fly

Calendula – can attract hover flies to the garden, which are natural aphid predators. May also be planted near to cucumber plants to help trap cucumber beetle (although you may lose your calendula crop). I have heard that if you then plant next to radishes this will in turn deter the cucumber beetle from the calendula (and radish flowers are edible by the way!)

French Marigolds – often interplanted with a number of vegetables, including tomatoes, as they are said to repel harmful insects. Avoid planting French Marigolds next to beans as they are said to stunt their growth. French Marigolds can attract hover flies which in turn feed on aphids so may benefit any susceptible vegetable they are planted close to.

Companion Planting

Companion Planting

If you do not already know about it, try looking up “Three sisters planting” on the internet. That can work well by combining sweetcorn, squash/courgettes and beans or climbing peas – and as you can harvest edible flowers from squash, courgettes and many peas and beans this counts as using edible flowers for companion planting! This method is worth thinking about, especially if you are short of space or want to maximise your ground cover and try to minimise the weeds.

I am quite sure the list of edible flowers for companion planting is much more extensive than this – I would love to hear your experiences and ideas.