Monday, 12 May 2014

Spring salad of flowers

 With spring in full swing and summer on the doorstep there is an abundance of edible wild flowers everywhere you look at the moment, be it in hedgerows, fields, parks or front gardens. I made this a few weeks back, so you'd be hard pushed to find Cherry blossom, Primroses or Grape Hyacinths now, but there are plenty of alternatives still around, such as using Hawthorn blossom in place of the Cherry blossom - they both have a bitter almond taste.

I didn't use any Allium blossoms in this salad for fear of them overpowering the delicate flavours of the other flowers. The salad dressing was made from a mixture of Magnolia and Grape Hyacinth vinegars, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

Other edible flowers available at the moment are;

Gorse, Broom, Wisteria (rest of the plant is poisonous), Jack-by-the-Hedge, Ramsons, Three-cornered Leek, Hairy Bittercress, Ground-ivy, Fuchsias, Green Alkanet, Greater / Lesser Stitchwort, White Dead-nettle, Wood Sorrel, Hawthorn blossom, Elderflower, Vetch, Campanulas, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Pineappleweed etc

Cow Parsley / Wild Chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris):

Flowers have an aniseed-like taste. Beware of Hemlock (Conium maculatum), the very poisonous lookalike.

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum):

A member of the mint family, steamed young leaves are also edible.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):

Pick the petals off the main flower head and sprinkle as a garnish.

Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis):

One of my favourite edible wild flowers - it's deliciously spicy. Grows abundantly in damp areas, be it by riverbanks, roadside ditches or in low-lying fields, like the picture below.

Yellow Archangel / Yellow Dead-nettle (Lamium galeobdolon):

Leaves have an unpleasant smell and taste, but this does not persist in the flowers.

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum):

Not a commonly eaten plant, probably due to the lack of any real flavour. All parts of the plant are edible. Most commonly consumed for medicinal purposes. 

Common Daisy (Bellis perennis):

A very common and easily identifiable flower with a distinct, pungent flavour. Hay fever sufferers be warned, eating Daisy flowers can trigger a reaction.

Cherry blossom (Prunus spp.):

Prunus spp. blossoms tend to have a bitter almond taste. I used the blossom of an ornamental Cherry (pictured below), Hawthorn and Sloe blossoms can also be used. A marzipan-like syrup can be made by pouring boiling water over the blossoms, leaving overnight, and then mixing with sugar over a low heat. 

Primrose and Grape Hyacinth (Primula vulgaris & Muscari neglectum):

Grape Hyacinths have an initial fragrant, floral taste which is followed by a slightly bitter one. Use individually as garnish or use to make a flavoured vinegar.


Magnolia and Grape Hyacinth vinegar:

To make flavoured vinegars, simply macerate the flowers for a few days in vinegar, preferably rice wine as the taste is cleaner and so will take on the flavour of the flowers better. Once macerated, strain the flowers out the vinegar, mix with olive oil, a dash of Dijon, salt and pepper. Adjust to taste. 


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