Edible Flowers – Viola

I’ve been so taken with the summer trend of using flowers in food, I feel a bit sad that salad season is almost over. The vivid colours and peppery notes of flavour have brightened many a meal for me this season.

There is a way to keep using these dainty delights though, and it’s probably in your garden right this minute.

Happy little faces brighten the morning.
©kam

Yes the humble viola mainstay of many a patio pot and a bright little face to cheer the days as winter draws in, is also a diamond when it comes to culinary delight. They can be used to give a delicate flavour to many recipes, and look absolutely delightful. Take care which variety you choose though, since not all are edible. The most common edible ones are Viola Cornuta, Viola x wittrockiana and Viola tricolor .

Growing Violas in the Herb Garden means the Hundred House has an endless supply.
©kam

 

As well as adding a pretty zing to your favourite dishes, Violas also work beautifully when crystallised. It’s incredibly simple to do and makes the humblest of cakes look like a work of art.  I use this method which features on the BBC Food website.

Crystallised Flowers

Ingredients

Method

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the egg white and water. Grasp the petals with a pair of tweezers and carefully brush the egg mixture onto the petals, lightly coating both sides.
  2. In another bowl, toss the petals with the sugar and transfer to a rack. Allow the petals to dry at least 6 hours, longer if necessary.

    Crystallised violas
    ©kam

I find using a flat paintbrush gives me a more even finish. The main thing is to pick flowers that are at their best. Any little nicks or blemishes will be more obvious after crystallisation. It’s a lovely way to cheer up a grey afternoon!

The finished article. Not bad for a first attempt.
©kam

 

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What’s in the garden ? Edible flowers

As promised, here’s a bit more the best value members of the garden, edible flowers. These guys really earn their keep!  Looking good and tasting great is no mean feat. Having the combination of beautiful gardens and great food really makes the Hundred House special, and it’s great to be able to share some of that with you.

Lavender 
©KAM

First up, Lavender; we’ve seen it used with varying success, it’s been the downfall of more than one contestant on a certain British Baking contest. Use with care, it gives a unique flavour to desserts, can be used to create flavoured honey, sugar and vinegars, and the sprigs complement pork, lamb and chicken. It has a mass of health benefits too, being renowned for helping us to sleep, and soothe anxiety, as well as aiding digestion.

Mix 1kg of caster sugar with 2tsp lavender to make lavender sugar, sprinkle over freshly baked shortbread for a sweet treat.

 

 

One of the nicest ways to use it is in a delicate dessert this adaptation of our classic Panna cotta is a glorious end to a summer meal.

Lavender Panna cotta

For the lavender flowers

225ml/8fl oz. water

100g/3½oz caster sugar

handful lavender flowers

For the panna cotta

  • 625ml whole milk
  • 170ml pouring cream
  • 125g superfine sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 6 gelatine leaves

 

 

Method

To prepare the lavender flowers

Heat the water and caster sugar together in a pan.

Stir until the sugar melts. Boil gently so the liquid reduces a little.

Remove from the heat, and allow to cool.

Once cooled, add the lavender flowers to the pan.

Allow to steep, to create a delicate lavender syrup. After a few of hours, remove the lavender and allow to dry. Keep them to decorate the panna cotta.

To make the Panna Cotta

  • Mix milk, cream, sugar, cardamom and vanilla bean & seeds in saucepan over medium heat
  • Bring it to boil then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes
  • Soak gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes until soft then squeeze the excess water out. Add them to milk mixture until combined.
  • Remove from heat & pass through a fine sieve into clean jug
  • Pour into cups and refrigerate overnight
  • Turn the panna cotta out onto individual serving plates and drizzle the lavender syrup over them. Decorate with the crystallised lavender flowers.
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What’s in the garden ? Edible flower special .

Flowers have been used to decorate and add diversity to food for centuries. The idea of pepping up your salad with a few petals is having a resurgence, and the use of edible flowers is booming.

At the Hundred House, we use them in many ways, not least to decorate our desserts. Time to drool over this delicious Sticky Toffee Pod!

 

Decoration aside, are so many more ways that flowers can be used to give a real sparkle to our ingredients. One of the stars of the edible flower world is the humble Nasturtium.

Nasturtium
©KAM

These plants are so amazing. They look stunning, are the best companion plants for brassicas, feed bees, hoverflies and a host of other pollinators, are incredibly easy to grow, and give an exciting peppery note to salads and pasta dishes. They grow brilliantly in pots too, so no excuses not to have a little crop next year!

As well as using as garnish, or in salads, try this recipe for Nasturtium Pesto. It’s stunning used to dress your favourite pasta, or as a garnish for a simple risotto.

Ingredients

2 generous handfuls nasturtium leaves

100g toasted pine nuts

4 cloves garlic (or

200 ml olive oil

100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Blitz everything up, grate in the parmesan, then drizzle the olive oil to thin the paste , check for seasoning, and enjoy .

Growing Nasturtiums

If you fancy growing your own Nasturtiums for next year, they are super easy. It was the first plant my Dad taught me to grow, probably because he knew they always worked!

Nasturtiums grow beautifully in hanging baskets
©KAM

How to grow Nasturtiums in pots

Get a pack of your favourite variety. I like Tom Thumb and Empress of India. Dwarf varieties are best for pots.

After all danger of frost has passed, sown them directly into your chosen pot, or hanging basket. Just scatter a handful over the surface and rake so they’re lightly covered with soil.  Keep the soil moist whilst they are germinating, and as they grow, then just let them do their thing!

Keeping your nasturtiums happy

  • Nasturtiums prefer poor soil, so don’t feed them. If you do, you’ll get the most tremendous leaves, but very few flowers.
  • Keep them damp. A proper soak once a week should be enough, unless the weather is dry.
  • They can get infested with blackfly. Resist the urge to use chemicals! Removing the aphids by hand is the most effective way, or lightly spraying with a soap solution.
  • They are a magnet for caterpillars, specifically cabbage whites. This is great news if you are growing brassicas, because it distracts them form your lovely veggies, but not such great news if you’re growing them to look pretty. Picking them off by hand is the only option, but be quick, they can decimate a crop in hours. If you don’t make it in time, it is quite cute watching them munch away.
  • As with all annuals, the more you pick, the more they flower, so use them in the kitchen, and the make a cut flower too. When they’re coming to the end of their season, collect the seeds, let them dry, and voila, nasturtiums next year too!

Bright and beautiful, I adore nasturtiums.
©KAM

I’ve found out so much about edible flowers there will be a few more posts popping up over the next few weeks. Don’t forget to subscribe by pressing the little green envelope at the end of this post .

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