The fresh expectation of Spring is a beautiful feeling, flowers coming out and the sun slowly starting to creep across the sky. Our lawn turns into a field of onion flowers; these lovely little flowers have a delicate onion flavour similar to chives. The whole plant can be eaten, including the bulb. Edible flowers in my spring garden fill me with inspiration for fresh salads covered in nasturtiums, borage and calendula flowers. My kids delight in picking edible flowers out of the garden for meal times, as do I.
As well as being totally beautiful and nutritious edible flowers play a really important part in the home garden for attracting bees and other beneficial insects, companion planting with edible flowers and herbs also helps to deter pests.
"Borage brings courage to the heart and drives away sadness"
Borage also known as star flower is great in salads or added to fresh Rice Rolls with its delicate cucumber taste makes it perfect to add into vegetable and fruit salads, or use to garnish soups or to decorate desserts. An excellent choice for freezing in ice cubes and floating on iced tea. Petals have a cucumber taste and the stamens add a hint of sweetness.
Medicinal and health benefits:
High in Vitamins C and A as well as minerals including Iron, Calcium and Potassium. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid borage flowers, as more than eight to ten flowers can cause milk to flow. They can also have a diuretic effect, so should not be eaten in great quantity.
Garden notes – Loves to be planted with tomatoes, strawberries, cabbage and pumpkin.
Nasturtiums planted near broccoli will keep aphids away and benefit radish and potatoes. Nasturtium makes an excellent herb tea both for spraying and watering onto plants.
Nasturtium leaves and flowers are packed with nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin C and support our immune system as well as tackling sore throats, coughs, and colds, as well as bacterial and fungal infections. They also contain high amounts of manganese, iron, flavonoids, and beta carotene. Studies have shown that the leaves also have antibiotic properties, and suggest that they are the most effective prior to flowering. At the moment I'm having a handful on my toast in the morning with some chopped up dandelion leaves, but they are also great in salads for a peppery note similar to cress or wild rocket or added to a pesto or as a garnish to pretty much any dish. Avoid if pregnant.
Calendula flowers come in a vibrant orange and this sunny yellow. The are a great garden tonic, nutrient accumulator and love to be companion planted with silverbeet, radish, carrots, tomatoes, thyme and parsley. You can sprinkle the pretty petals over salads and to top baked dishes or over pasta.
They can also be dried and used as a natural dye to colour baking and icings, they also use them as a saffron 'cheat' for colouring rice dishes, custards and ice creams. They make a lovely tea which is beneficial for stomach disorders, liver issues and is an immune and lymphatic stimulant. The dried petals can also be used to infuse oil which a remarkable healer of skin, cuts, bruises and bites. In fact there are countless uses internally and externally for calendula.
Pansy's and Viola's are so pretty to top sweet baking and desserts and brighten the garden as well as attracting, and feeding the bee's, they also have many health benefits and therapeutic uses.
They have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties for the skin. Made into a tea or poultice they can help with a wide range of skin conditions including psoriasis, acne, eczema, itchy skin, impetigo and cradle cap. It is well known for treating respiratory conditions such as asthma, whooping could, and bronchitis. Also an anti-inflammatory it soothes irritations in the mucus membranes of the throat and loosens and eliminates phlegm and helps with rheumatism and arthritis. Regular consumption of pansy can also reduce blood pressure.
The best way to treat such ailments is by gargling with pansy tea or a pansy infusion. You could also drink the tea made with dried pansy flowers and leaves steeped in hot water. Add honey or lemon juice to taste. It is also great for your hair, so boil the kettle or run yourself a bath and reap the benefits of this beautiful spring time flower.
Rosemary flowers are edible and are where the essential oil is gathered from. They have a beautiful strong rosemary flavour along with an impressive list of health benefits:
Great for hair growth
Improves oral health
Good for skin conditions
Improves cognitive function (helps the brain)
Boosts the immune system
Removes bad odour
Treats respiratory problems
Plus it is a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin b-6. As for companion planting sage and rosemary are the best of friends and will flourish together as will beans, broccoli, cabbage and chilli.
Pink jasmine is going absolutely nuts at the moment and yes it is ridiculously invasive, but the fragrance is beautiful and it makes a stunning table decoration and fills the house with its heady scent. You can eat the pink variety of jasmine flowers, they taste like they smell and can be used as a garnish, salad ingredient, infused in a tea or why not try infusing vodka with the freshly picked flowers for a floral twist to your vodka, lime and soda.
Jasmine flowers have a positive effect on the nervous system, as it calms the nerves and stimulates sensuality. They boost the immune system, have anti-oxidant properties, helps to lower cholesterol, has an anti-septic action and it is uplifting and calming and are naturally sweet.
Fennel grows wild on the road sides all over New Zealand and has many health benefits as well as providing bee food. A concentrated source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, vitamin C, iron, selenium and magnesium. It also regulates blood pressure, reduces asthma symptoms, helps with water retention, constipation, indigestion, IBS and bloating. Fennel seeds have a cooling effect on the body and are chocka with nutrients making them a must have in the kitchen.
To harvest the pollen, shake harvested flower heads onto a sheet of baking paper or into a paper bag. Use the paper bag method for the seeds.
Add to shortbread, biscotti, or to top savoury dishes like pastas, soups or it would be a perfect garnish for my Ratatouille dish (please find in the recipe blog tags)
Last but not least we finally come to my favourite wild edible flower onion weed. Equally a pest and invasive weed to many as jasmine is, onion weed helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, stimulates the circulatory blood system, it is antimicrobial and acts as a digestive system tonic plus it contains chlorophyll, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Its juicy stalks and pretty little white flowers are a perfect alternative to chives and spring onions with its delicate onion flavour. The entire plant is edible including the bulbs that can be harvested in late summer. Use the flowers to garnish salads, egg dishes, soups, dips, they pretty much make anything look impressive!
Tempura Onion Weed Flowers
This recipe is for Tempura Onion flowers which are crispy, moreish and a wonderful addition to your Friday night chip night. If you don’t have a deep fryer, use a large wok or saucepan and a thermometer to ensure the oil doesn’t get too hot. Once the oil has cooled down, strain it through a sieve into a jar or container and use again.
Alternatively you can chop up a big bunch of onion flowers and stems and stir through the batter and shallow fry as you would a fritter, they turn out like little fluffy clouds. Tasty options to add to the fritters are1/4 c parmesan, dairy or alternative and/or 300g tofu, mashed.
Vegan | Dairy free
Gather a couple of big handfuls of onion flowers with stems and measure the following into a large bowl:
1 c (120g) plain flour
1/2 c (65g) cornflour
1 1/2 c (180g) gluten-free flour mix
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
300ml soda water, ice cold
Don’t whisk too much and let it be a little lumpy, leave it to rest.
Into your deep-fryer or large wok, pour:
1 L rice bran oil
Heat the oil to 180ºC. Holding each flower by the stem, dip the into the batter wiping off any excess on the side of the bowl before dropping them carefully into the hot oil. Flip over to ensure even cooking. When light a golden colour, remove with a slotted spoon or frying spider and drain on a rack with a tray underneath. Season with salt.
Serve as a appetiser with sweet chilli or your favourite sauce.
You can also prepare other vegetables, sliced tempeh or cubed marinated tofu and cook this way to make into a meal and serve with rice. Full recipe in The Veggie Tree Autumn & Winter Cook book.