Flowers have been eaten since ancient times, and have medicinal as well as nutritional value. The most common use of flowers is in salads, but you can incorporate them into sauces, tarts, preserves, pickles, fritters and salads.
Many of the flowers used traditionally in this way are disappearing from the wild, but are available from many seed companies. If you are picking from the wild, follow a few simple rules : only pick flowers if they are really plentiful, and always leave far more than you pick (in some countries this is illegal). Wild plants should never be up-rooted. Don’t pick from road-sides where there is a risk of contamination by car exhausts, or anywhere that may have been sprayed with poisons.
Pick the flowers early in the day when the dew has just disappeared, and handle the flowers gently so as not to bruise them. Shake gently to remove insects. Wash them gently when you get home, and pat them dry. You can store them for a few hours in the fridge if you put them in a polythene bag.
Small delicate flowers can be eaten whole, or you can separate the petals from larger varieties. Remove all the green parts, stems and leaves, and any white ‘heels’ on petals.
The following are flowers commonly used in British and cool temperate climates.