Roses; Roses are arguably the most popular roses and are attention-grabbers. In the kitchen, they can add a flourish of colour and dash of style to dishes. Rose petals eaten straight from the bush might taste bitter or chewy and leave a funny texture in your mouth but sugar-crusted petals are a real treat (dip them in egg white, dab with a paper towel to remove excess, coat in castor sugar and air-dry on a rack overnight), as are rose petal-infused syrups, jams and butters. Miniature petals of patio rose varieties look gorgeous sprinkled over ice-cream, desserts or salads. People describe the flavour as being reminiscent of strawberries or apples but I find them fruity, spicy or minty, depending on the variety.
Cut away the bitter white part of the petals before using.
Lavender; Lavender is one of the most popular and enduring plants in the garden. Beyond its role as a decorative shrub, the scented blooms add a delicate, sweet and floral flavour, with hint of citrus, to sweet and savoury dishes. Add them to your next batch of scones, cupcakes or shortbread for that mysterious flavour. Or dissect the flower spike and sprinkle the buds on to ice-cream or in glasses of champagne.
Lavender-infused milk, to be used in custard, pastry cream, ice-cream or puddings, is as easy as simmering a handful of flowers with milk, then straining.
Naturtium; Nasturtium leaves add a peppery note to salads and sandwiches, but it is the flowers, which come in all the sunset colours, that add a shot of colour to your salad bowl. Nasturtium blooms have a sweet/spicy flavour, not unlike watercress or, at times, a hint of radish. They have most impact when used whole as a garnish on cheese platters, canapes, salads and desserts. Try whole flowers stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese, garlic and herbs
Pansies: These are an excellent choice for brightening entertainment areas, flowering non-stop.. Some have striking, cat-like faces that seem to look right at you; others can be ruffled, frilly and always romantic. The most dazzling pansies come in contrasting colours such as purple and yellow or maroon and yellow, and make a strong statement in the garden and on the plate. The flowers have a nondescript, mild, grassy flavour, but drizzle them in enough balsamic vinegar and olive oil and they will sit happily with other salad greens. Whole flowers or petals make a colourful spring garnish on fruit salads or cakes.
Place the whole flower on a dollop of cream and sprinkle lightly with icing sugar.
Sweet Violet: It has been graced our gardens for centuries. This pretty little wood lander carpets the ground with colour and gives off its distinctive fragrance throughout. The petite purple flowers are edible, too, rich in vitamin C. Violets can be candied or crystallised and used to embellish cakes and sweets. Freeze them into ice-blocks and add to summer drinks, or sprinkle over spring salads.
African Violets are not edible. Eat only flowers that have been organically grown. Make sure you correctly identify the flower and eat only the edible parts. Never eat flowers bought from a florist or picked from the roadside.
Consumers want fresh, healthy, convenient packs
Part of the struggle to eat healthier, is often the preparation involved when eating fresh produce. With that in mind, a US firm, Earthbound Farm, has rolled out products which make it easier for consumers to eat healthy.
In July, they introduced a line of mixed organic baby kale which is packaged tender and comes pre-washed. The result is a product which is easier to prepare and eat. Along those lines, Earthbound also introduced a line of ready-to-eat meals which it will market as Power Meal salads. The salads will include fresh organic greens, seeds, fruits and whole grains.
“In our busy world, meals that can deliver health, flavor and convenience are what consumers are longing for,” said the firm in a statement. “Consumers told us they wanted ready-to-eat salad meals that taste great, satisfy, and deliver a nutrient-dense punch. These all-organic Power Meals, which are full of plant-based proteins, are a great answer to that search.”