There are so many signs of spring popping up at the moment, and the most obvious of these are the abundance of flowers appearing in our hedgerows, gardens and parks. But did you know that many of these flowers are in fact edible, along with other parts of the plant they grow on.
As my learning deepens, my amazement keeps growing to the incredible plant life, and all of its uses, that are right on my doorstep.
Here is a collection of 7 edible flowers you are more than likely to see as spring appears, and the plant world begins to awaken again after a long winter.
Over the next few weeks, I am going to experiment with a few recipes using these flowers and their counterparts. Let the spring forage commence!
These recognisable little flowers are abundant at the moment, and can be found on grassy verges, as the base of trees or often in a pot in your neighbour’s front garden!
The flowers and the leaves are edible; the flowers having a refreshing sweet taste and the leaves a spicier, ‘anise’ flavour.
The flowers can be used in salads as a colourful, sweet addition, or candied and used decoratively in baking or desserts. The young leaves can also be added to salads or cooked as a leafy green.
Primrose has a few medicinal uses. The flowers and leaves can be brewed into a tea to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and migraines.
The root of a primrose plant has been used in cough syrup remedies and is often found in medicines that reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
This large, beautiful flowers are just coming out, and although you are very unlikely to find this growing in the wild they are abundant in gardens around the UK.
The whole flower is edible and has a mild ginger – cardamon flavour. Next time you pass a magnolia tree, have a nibble on a petal, you will not be disappointed!
Magnolia can be prepared in a number of ways, and is used more commonly in Asian cooking. The petals can be pickled to preserve them and used to add a ginger note when cooking, that is less intense than a ginger root. The whole flower, pre-bloom, or when open can also be brushed with a batter and deep fried for a gingery, tempura style snack.
A tea or a tincture can also be made with this flower to relieve a cough or congestion.
3 Cornered Leek
One of the many alliums that are abundant at them moment is 3 cornered leek, it is hard to miss the swathes of this edible weed. Every part of this plant is edible from the flower tops, the stems and leaves and the garlic-y bulb beneath the soil.
3 Cornered Leek is also known as a snowbell due to its distinctive white flowers. Another easy identification aid is the 3 cornered (V-shaped) stem – giving rise to its name.
This plant has spring onion/ chive vibes, and the bulbs are like tiny garlic onions.
Add the leaves or flowers to salads or any cooking to give it that chive flavour. You can pickle the bulbs to preserve them in vinegar and add them to cooking or simply snack on them like mini-pickled onions.
All alliums are known to be good for high blood pressure. Other abundant alliums growing now are wild garlic and wild chives.
White Dead Nettle
I am sure many of you will recognise these pretty little plants. The leaves of this plant are similar to that of a nettle but they don’t sting!
A small droplet of nectar is found at the base ofthese flowers and this is a lovely way to get children interested in these plants. Pick the little white flowers and suck the sweet nectar out the base. These flowers can again be added to salads or candied and used to decorate cakes and deserts.
The flowers can also be made into a sweet wine.
The whole plant can be eaten either raw or cooked as a vegetable.
Ancient medicinal uses of these plants were to relieve symptoms from heavy or painful periods.
Cuckoo Flower/ Lady’s smock
These beautiful flowers are often found in grassy verges, meadows or open fields. The petals have a distinctive purple hue with dark purple veins.
The flowers have a cress-like flavour that is sweet with hot hints, and the leaves have a much stronger flavour like hot mustard or wasabi.
Similar to above, the flowers and leaves can be added to a salad or cooked as a vegetable in a stir fry or stew.
This plant flowers around the same time that the cuckoo starts to sing – the origins of its name.
Similar to the white nettle, a tea made of cuckoo flower can be used to relieve symptoms of heavy and painful menstrual cycles.
Another flower you will unlikely find growing in the wild, but is an abundant flower to see at this time of year, likely hanging over walls or protruding out of hedgerows.
These bright yellow flowers act as early pollinators and are distinctive with their 4 symmetrical petals. Look for these flowers, in lines up a branch with no leaves. A burst of yellow!
The flowers although edible are slightly bitter, so just a few should be added to a salad to give a touch of spring colour.
Herbal remedies use this flower to reduce fever and inflammation in the body.
A common weed, that again the leaves and flowers can be eaten.
Compared to many edible weeds the flavour of bittercress is very gentle and not bitter (despite the name!).
This weed likes compact ground, so will be found sprouting up in cracks in the pavement or in walls. After washing (thoroughly), add this whole plant to your salad for a free and delicious green!
Now you are familiar with these flowers and all their amazing uses, I guarantee you’ll be spotting them everywhere!
Look out for some recipes using these flowers in the coming weeks.