As September drifts on, all crisp mornings and rich harvests, I’m at my happiest. It’s a time for walking along the tractor tracks in wheat fields, for collecting blackberries and beginning the mushroom hunt.
Back in the garden after what has, frankly, been a dreadful gardening summer we are enjoying our own little harvest. This week we have been harvesting edible flowers. A remarkable number of edible flowers grow happily in gardens and they bring a little extra oomph to salads, biscuits, cakes, jellies and jams.
Edible Flowers – Blue Borage
First up, blue borage. An essential addition in a jug of Pimm’s or popped into a late summer/early autumn salad and one of the secret ingredients in Mrs Oberon’s Cockahoop Honey Cake (if you have a 4-8 year old and you haven’t got Margaret Mahy’s A Busy Day for a Good Grandmother in your book collection you are missing out!) It has been grown for its medicinal properties since ancient times and is easy peasy to grow. It’s a hardy annual which self seeds liberally but, most importantly of all, it is beautiful!
Edible Flowers – Evening Primrose
Evening Primrose is another happy self seeder, I love the effortless repopulation of my garden with these familiar friends! As with borage once you’ve got it in the garden it keeps coming back. If you don’t like where it has decided to pop itself it is easy to spot and remove! Evening Primrose flowers when the sun goes down, unfurling its flouncy yellow petals to tempt the moths in for a drink. It flowers in my garden from midsummer until Halloween and fills the evening air with its soft scent. The petals are delicious eaten as a salad ‘leaf’ and we have been known to munch on them as we sit with friends on a summer’s evening sipping a glass of white wine!
Edible Flowers – Nasturtiums
Nasturtium (or Nasty Urchins as my mother calls them because of their ‘take over the patch’ bully boy tactics) are very good value for money as you can eat the leaves, flowers and the green seeds! Young leaves and flowers both have a peppery taste and spice up a salad nicely, the leaves make a nice little salad plate for a garden picnic and a delicious nasturtium pesto while the green seeds can be made into Poor Man’s Capers. I’ve got lots of seeds out there waiting to be harvested and I think little pots of capers and jars of pesto will make lovely additions to Christmas gift hampers!
Edible Flowers – Lavender
Probably the most well known edible flower, if you haven’t got lavender in your garden I insist that you go out this weekend and buy a plant! A reliable grower, either in a well-drained pot or a poor piece of ground, plant it where you can brush past it and release its scent. Mine spills out over the path into our garden and the family complain that they have to clamber through it to get anywhere but I ignore them, it’s too lovely!
You can use it to make lavender sugar (2tbsps lavender flowers to 1 cup of white sugar. Put the lavender into a piece of muslin and tie the top. Put it into a lidded jar with the sugar. Leave it for two weeks, shaking the jar daily. Remove the lavender bag after two weeks), lavender biscuits and scones are delicious and you can use the leaves as you would rosemary. But best of all, the bees love it!
Help Save our Bees!
We take bees for granted as they busy themselves in our gardens, pollinating our plants and in our fields, pollinating our crops. Summer wouldn’t be summer without the hum of honey bees and toast wouldn’t be toast without honey.
But, there is a problem and I find it very worrying. Bees and other wild pollinators are vanishing. In Britain honeybee colonies have fallen by over 50% in the last twenty years. Bees and other wild pollinators are responsible for pollinating 84% of EU crops. No pollinators = no crops.
Why is this happening?
The reason for this decline is two-fold. Firstly, it is now widely recognised that neonicotinoids, a group of particularly powerful pesticides, are at the heart of the bees disappearance. These insecticides are not choosy, they don’t recognise beneficial insects, they just zap the lot. Secondly, the trend in farming for enormous agricultural farms and acres of crop filled fields (as seen in my first photograph) doesn’t make for good foraging for bees, beneficial insects, animals and birds. The removal of hedgerows and wildflowers has created a dessert, the bees have lost their habitat and food source and are starving to death.
So, What Can We Do?
We need to act now to halt the steady decline in bee numbers, and there are a number of ways we can do this:
- buy organic or pesticide free produce
- let parts of our gardens go wild to create a safe haven for bees and other insects (watch this space for some ideas for insect hotels!)
- plant organic, bee friendly herbs and wild flowers in our gardens and in any spare patch of ground in our neighbourhoods
- buy Bee Lovely products from Neal’s Yard who have teamed up with four bee friendly charities and are donating 5% of the purchase price for all products in the Bee Lovely range. I have the hand cream and it smells divine!
We met up with some Friends of the Earth bees at the Wilderness Festival!
*This post first appeared in 2012, I’ve refreshed and updated in September 2016 to include some more recipe links and to remove out of date information because I think it’s a lovely post which deserves to be seen again!*