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Flowers in My Vase and on My Salad

tcs_flowers-4There’s nothing more appealing to the senses than a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Flowers for the commercial markets have been grown on Tamborine Mountain since the 1920s. Popular ones were camellias, carnations, chrysanthemums, daffodils, dahlias, gladioli, jonquils, magnolia, narcissus, poppies, roses, stocks, violets, watsonias, annuals and shrubs for greenery. The industry flourished up until the 1970s. I still see remnants of old flower beds in paddocks near me (Main Western Road south), across the road among the sheep and alpacas. Square blocks of jonquils pop up each year, violets line the fence lines and dahlias in colours of lolly pink and mauve are along the side of the road closer to the Goat Track. Also near me is a farm that still supplies greenery and strelitzias for the floral industry.

tcs_flowers-2Flowers have got the lot – vibrant splashes of colour to please the eye, velvety soft petals to tantalise with their touch and that heady aroma that draws you in and lingers in the memory .But have you ever thought about how some blooms can also tempt the taste buds?

Edible flowers have been making the move from the garden to the dinner plate ever since Roman times, gracing traditional dishes in regions across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

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And in the case of everything old being new again, pretty petals are making a comeback in kitchens again today. If you had been watching MasterChef you may have seen George with his tweezers delicately placing flower petals strategically on his dishes.

But before you hurry outside to start harvesting from your garden or rush to rifle through your vase to see what’s on offer – beware – not every flower is blooming delicious. I have found that most are unpalatable, if not poisonous.

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I have beds of flowers I grow especially to use on my salads, and to decorate cakes and desserts. And to be honest, I decorate just about any dish. In Moroccan cuisine rose petals are used in their famous Ras El Hanout spice mix and rose water in desserts. Spanish food is colourful and bold so large nasturtium flowers are used; they are both sweet and peppery at the same time. I save my delicate violets for use in French salads with goat’s cheese.

Any herb flowers can be used for garnish, and most are blue – mint, sage, thyme, basil and chive blooms look great on plates. Another of my favourites is broccoli that has gone to flower, the bright yellow flowers attract the bees and taste good too.

tcs_flowers-7The flower is a main ingredient when it comes to zucchinis. Zucchini flowers stuffed with herbs and cheese, then battered and deep fried, are hugely popular. Does anyone grow them on the Mountain??

I grow every colour of viola I can get my hands on – they look good in ice cubes for your favourite summer drinks (although my husband thinks it’s a bit weird having flowers in his scotch). Make sure you are certain the flowers you select are safe to eat – there are plenty of trusted food reference sources available to cross check against – and never use flowers that have been treated with chemicals or pesticides.

Springtime on the Mountain is on in a couple of weeks. Friday 23 to Sunday 25 September. B
e sure to put a day aside to get a look at the best gardens on the Mountain. The gardens this year are full of blooms; see if you can spot the edible ones.

November 18, 2016 / Uncategorized / thechef