On Friday I harvested the first of my roses to dry the petals. The edible flowers here are beginning to bloom in abundance, adding beauty and colour to the garden and food, with the added bonus of smelling amazing and feeding the bees. My article on growing and using edible flowers, including many recipes, is in the current issue of Permaculture Magazine (International) and the new publication, Permaculture Magazine, North America.Permaculture Magazine is on tour with Neil Young – this is especially exciting for me as I have been listening to his music literally for as long as I can remember (so long that Ihave most of his albums on vinyl as well as on my iPod.) When I was 17 I made a pair of jeans covered with patches like those he is wearing on After The Goldfish and wore them all of the time, they took a lot of sewing (my autocorrect wants to change that to ‘After the Goldfish’!) Sadly I wasn’t able to buy a ticket for his concert but at least I will be sort of there through my writing. I wonder if he likes edible flowers?
The article includes lots of recipes and ideas for growing and using edible flowers. I’ve grow them for personal use and also for clients – my flowers have been used in photoshoots in London, to decorate wedding feasts and have even sailed the seas on smart yachts!
I’m growing many varieties of edible flowers as companion plants and for the restaurant at the kitchen garden beds at Roth Bar and Grill, Bruton. This borage has self sown from borage planted in the two herb beds by Jekka McVicar last year; bees are loving it.
I choose the most open of the fragrant blooms from my rose bushes, picking the petals off into a bamboo herb dryer which resembles a large dish. I bought several from the little hardware shop in the village where my dad lives in Thailand; they are so useful.
Today (two days later) the petals look like this:
When I have enough dried petals, I will use them to make fragrant rose vinegar. It looks and smells gorgeous and has so many uses.
To make it you will need:
1 cup rose petals
1 cup of cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
A large glass jar with a lid
Place the petals in the jar, pour on the vinegar and replace the lid. Put the jar on a sunny windowsill for a week (a bit of a challenge I know in a British summer…!) shaking every day.
Strain through a fine sieve or muslin, discarding the rose petals into the compost heap. Store in a dark cupboard in a labelled jar. (The dark is to protect the beautiful colour from fading.) I use jars with plastic or coated metal lids as the vinegar can react with plain metal.
You can use this to make many things including:
a refreshing drink
add a cupful to the bath and relax
Soak a flannel in the vinegar and place on the skin to soothe minor sunburn or itchy skin (avoid contact with eyes and sensitive or broken skin, it will sting.) I apply it to insect bites and nettle stings too, to soothe them. Experiment first on a patch of skin – I am fine with neat rose vinegar, but some people may find it too strong, in which case dilute it 50/50 with plain or infused water (cooled chamomile tea is lovely and adds extra soothing properties.)
To make a skin toner, mix 25% rose vinegar with 75% cooled, boiled water – or use infused cooled boiled water. Good herbs to use include chamomile, calendula and lavender. Add 4 tsp of dried herbs (8 tsp of fresh) to one litre of boiled, hot water and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain and allow to cool before mixing with the vinegar.
Pour into a spray bottle for a refreshing spritz.
Always label your bottles and jars! The amount of mystery unlabelled bottles I have found, all of which I just *knew* at the time I’d remember what they were…. Recently Charles and I were playing ‘guess the fruit’ sipping a liqueur I made last autumn and stored in an unlabelled bottle. It is delicious; we think it is blackberry!
Here are some of the edible flowers in my garden now. Today I am finishing planting calendula and marigolds in the polytunnel as companions for the tomatoes, for beneficial insects, to harvest and to enjoy the gorgeous colours and fragrance.