Flower Power

eggs and aparagus
  • recipes Mary Gwyn
  • pictures David Merewether

This summer take inspiration from the past and let flowers take their place in the kitchen. Mary Gwynn has a bunch of recipes to inspire you...

At last it's June and my garden is finally packed full of colour and perfume. The long winter seems a distant memory, and both my vegetable garden and the cottage style beds that we put in round the oast house last year are full of plants ready for the harvesting. This month it's marigolds, lavender, borage and rose; later in the summer courgette flowers, nasturtiums and the flowers from the runner beans. I've already used the spring flowers such as primroses and violas to add early interest scattered into salads or as a flavouring for any creamy sauce or stuffing for pasta dishes. The cottage gardens of the past had to work hard for those who tended them, and every plant needed to justify the space it occupied. Plant uses ranged from herbal remedies to beauty treatments, as a cooking ingredient, to provide dyes or to make teas and tisanes. As we rediscover the wisdom of previous generations when it comes to growing more of our own food, it all makes sense that plants that work on so many levels earn a place in our modern gardens.

I still find it eminently satisfying that all the flowers that I have 'companion' planted amongst my vegetables are perfect for cooking with. My marigolds help keep green and white fly away from my tomatoes whilst I'm praying that the nasturtiums do what I've been assured they should and keep the caterpillars away from my cabbages. Last year was a disaster for all things brassica and so I live in hope! But whatever the outcome in the battleground of the garden, in the kitchen flowers will appear in all kinds of dishes including the recipes shown here. If using flowers in cooking make sure you use ones that have not been sprayed with pesticides or other agricultural chemicals. Ideally pick from your own garden.