Summer is almost here so it’s the perfect time to start cooking with edible flowers!

As a passionate foodie and cook, I feel very lucky to live in a place that’s surrounded by incredible farmers and quality produce- this is what inspires my ideas and recipes. Right now, I can’t get enough of the amazing edible flowers grown by my friend Janelle on her Byron Bay Organic Produce farm in Ewingsdale, 5 minutes from me.

Stunning edible flowers from the Byron Bay Organic Produce farm.

I love creating dishes with a bit of “wow” factor, but I’m not going to slave over complicated techniques and tweezers for hours to achieve this (I’ll leave that to Darren!). As in life, my philosophy in the kitchen is a careful balance between effort vs return and I can’t think of another ingredient that achieves spectacular impact with very little effort more than edible flowers! Because they themselves are works of art, they make any dish look spectacular, plus they’re full of medicinal benefits and can also be added for flavour and spice.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to how you can use them. They’re perfect for cake and dessert decorations, especially pavlova; transform a simple salad into a dish in its own right just by scattering flowers amongst the other ingredients; use flowers to create impressive garnishes in soups and breakfast dishes such as muesli, porridge and yoghurt; the flowers can also be frozen in ice cubes and added to drinks and cocktails- they look gorgeous!

Some different colour combinations for decorating your cakes. The middle one is great for Christmas!

Before you get started, here are some tips from flower farmer Janelle.

Safe Eating:

Don’t eat flowers from non-organic sources as they may contain pesticide residue.
If you suffer from hay fever or allergies to pollen, try and avoid them. Either way, edible flowers should be introduced gradually into your diet.

Make sure you only use flowers that are edible as some can be poisonous. It’s best to buy organic packed flowers from shops and markets, and the internet is good source of information.  If in doubt, leave it out.

How to prepare your edible flowers: Wash them gently under water just before you use them but not under a kitchen tap as it may damage them. Best to dunk them in a bowl of water and then pat dry with a towel. Store them in air tight container in the fridge.

Common edibles flowers and their taste and qualities: 

Some of the flowers commonly grown are calendula, roses and sunflowers (for their petals) , violas, pansies, marigold, nasturium, dianthus, freesia, stocks and cornflowers. Most herb flowers are edible and usually taste like the herb- chives, garlic, leeks , basil, rocket, borage, chervil, coriander, fennel, ginger, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Common vegetable flowers are broccoli, okra, radish and squash (zucchini).

Once you start cooking with edible flowers, you might want to try growing some amongst your herbs. Most nurseries will have varieties like camomile and nasturtium that are very easy to grow.

My easy, gorgeous Floral Pavlova

This recipe is so easy but wait till you see your guests faces light up when you serve it! It’s the perfect summer and Christmas Day dessert.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Beat the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
  3. Slowly add the sugar and keep beating until the mixture looks satiny and stiff.
  4. Turn off the mixer, then slowly and gently fold in the cornflour and vinegar with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  5. If you’re making a cake, spoon the meringue mixture onto the tray in a circle shape with a diameter of roughly 20cm. Otherwise, you can make 6 individual smaller meringues to serve separately.
  6. Turn the oven down to 150 degrees and bake the meringues for 30 minutes, then turn it down to 120 degrees and bake for a further 45 minutes.
  7. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there to cool completely.
  8. Before serving, whip the cream and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff.
  9. Gently arrange the cream over the meringue (hiding any cracks!) and top with your beautiful berries, passionfruit pulp, mint leaves, chopped pistachios and edible flowers. The mint and pistachios aren’t essential but they add lovely colour to the pavlova.

Tip: For easy and effortless entertaining on the day, you can make the meringue can be made 1-2 before and stored in an airtight container. You can also pre-whip the cream and store in the fridge, giving it a quick refresh before serving.

Please note: I cook my meringues with the time/temperatures above to achieve a meringue that’s crispy and lightly golden on the outside and airy and chewy in the middle. If you want a “chalkier” consistency with no cracks then preheat the oven to 100 degrees and bake for 3.5-4 hours. The colder the cream, the better it whips so place your bowl and utensils in the fridge or freezer 15 minutes before you whip. To avoid over-whipping the cream, you can whip the last part by hand just before it’s ready. If you happen to over-whip it, just add more fresh cream to the mixture. It doesn’t matter if your meringue cracks as you’ll be covering it with cream and flowers!

My stunning edible flowers are from www.byronbayorganicproduce.com.au