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.
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.
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 .
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!
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!
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 .