Words: Clare Falzon
I’m lucky enough to have a large garden at home, and although it requires a lot of work, it is consistently rewarding, whether it be collecting a harvest for dinner, filling up the fruit bowl, or watching the flowers bloom each season.
A lot of the plants and trees have a purpose, whether it is for edible produce, screening, or even just something pretty to look at while I have my first coffee of the day outside.
Some of these flowers however, may seem to fall into the primarily aesthetic category, but I do also regularly get to use them in my cooking, and eagerly too!
Lavender – Lavandula
There are a lot of different groups of lavender and although this plant is usually associated with its fragrance, it goes very well with both savory and sweet dishes.
On the savory side of things, it pairs great with red meat such as beef, lamb and kangaroo.
It can be used fresh as a subsite or accompaniment to rosemary and thyme.
Dried, it can be used to season by blending with salt, or added to a marinade or rub.
To use in sweet treats, the flowers can be steeped in milk to add to ice creams, and added dry to cookies and slices.
Lavender and lime syrup is a favourite of ours at Hentley Farm, which can be used to make refreshing cordial.
Nasturtium – Tropaeolum
I love having nasturtium in the garden!
Each year it crawls along the ground with leaves which make me think of lily pads, and big but delicate flowers of different colours poking out.
Eventually it seeds, they drop, the plant dies off and they reappear the following season.
All parts of the nasturtium plant are edible; the leaves have a peppery taste and are a welcome addition to most salads.
The seeds can be grated and have a wasabi like taste, or can be pickled and used like capers.
The flowers also have a peppery taste, and are a great companion to their leaves in salads. I particularly like adding them to tomato salads, which are in season at the same time.
I enjoy accompanying soft cheeses with the flowers, and making nasturtium flower vinegar by steeping them in white wine vinegar, which I can then use in salad dressings and seafood dishes thorough the rest of the year.
Society Garlic – Tulbaghia violacea
A chef’s favourite, society garlic has a sweet garlic taste and looks beautiful with it’s pink, purple, or occasionally white, petals.
They have a very pungent smell, and I always know if they’re on the menu in a restaurant because I can smell them from surrounding tables.
This plant is common in a lot of household gardens, and even more so on council medium strips and round abouts.
Easily propagated, you can start with one or two and end up with a bed full.
Despite its name, society garlic isn’t actually a part of the allium family, so can be enjoyed by those who have intolerances.
Pot Marigold – Calendula officinalis
Technically not a marigold as they are from a different family (other marigolds being from the Tagetes family – some of which are edible, some of which are not), pot marigolds are a nice safe bet, and look brilliant both on food and in the garden.
With a citrus and delicate spice flavour, I love using the individual petals as garnishes to snacks and dishes at the Hentley Farm Restaurant.
At home, the petals make a bright addition to salads, plus coating a soft goat’s cheese in them and finishing it with honey provides a more interesting flavour pairing.
If you have the time, the petals too can be dried and stored in the pantry, and added as a garnish to sweets.
Find Hentley Farm Restaurant at Corner Gerald Roberts Road & Jenke Roads, Seppeltsfield SA. Book online at www.hentleyfarm.com.au/reservations or phone (08) 8562 8427.