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 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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What’s in the Garden ?

Glorious Gardens

May bounced into life. Glorious sunny days, trees are a hundred shades of green, and the swifts have returned, soaring higher than high.  And the best bit ?  I get to see it all from the perfect peace of The Hundred House herb garden. Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world.

Forget-me-nots lead the way to the Herb Garden

A cloud of  Forget-me-nots edge the path to The Hundred House Herb Garden.

 

Apple Blossom. Looks stunning, turns into apples which turn into divine deliciousness.

Apple Blossom. Looks stunning,turns into apples, which are turned into divine deliciousness by The Hundred House kitchen.Happiness actually does grow on trees.

Of course it’s not all wafting around through apple blossom, at least not for head gardener Denise Purnell.  This is the beginning one of the busiest times for a gardener, nurturing seeds, preparing beds and generally making sure that the stunning range of home grown ingredients available at The Hundred House is as abundant as ever. You’ve heard of field to fork and gate to plate?  This garden is literally steps from the kitchen. Steps. No wonder I can’t stop dreaming about the Salsa Verde.

So, what’s here today?  I can almost hear the seedlings growing, as the days get longer and the temperature inches up. Denise is getting ready to pot on, harden off, and eventually plant out. The range is incredible, way beyond the slightly depressed looking pots of green I see in the supermarket.

Cinnamon Basil

                                           Cinnamon Basil

I love Basil, it makes the simplest dish taste of holidays and sunshine. Cinnamon Basil was new to me, and it turns out it’s a bit of a wonder herb. It repels all sorts of nasties from precious tomato plants, keeps you safe from pesky mosquitoes,and tastes utterly divine in Goat’s cheese pesto or as a subtle flavour in a shortbread.

Garlic Chives

                                            Garlic Chives

 

 

Giant Parsley

                                          Giant Parsley

I’m more familiar with these two fellows. So much more than a whimsical garnish, these two feature at so many stages in so many dishes; sometimes so subtle you barely notice, but you’d notice if it wasn’t there. Herbs give so much they are worthy of being the main event, especially when they’re so wonderfully fresh.

Now,  remember that Salsa Verde ? Here’s a little bonus recipe for you to try tonight. It’s gorgeous with pretty much everything, but especially with barbecued meats, chicken or just over new potatoes.

Hundred House Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Capers

6 Anchovies

3 shallots

1/clove garlic
1Tbsp Lemon juice
150ml Virgin olive oil

Method:
1.Puree all ingredients together
2.Add handful of parsley and any other sweet herbs available, e.g.rocket
3.Taste to make sure it is not bitter – if it is then add more lemon and olive oil.

There you are, a little bit of Hundred House magic in your own kitchen. I can’t wait to come and see what’s growing over the next few weeks !

Salsa Verde

 Fresh and vibrant Salsa Verde. Gorgeous with Chicken, drizzled over smokey charred steak, or to liven up new potatoes. 

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