The following has been excerpted from Urban Flowers: Creating abundance in a small city garden, in which professional gardener and florist Carolyn Dunster imparts her knowledge to readers in regard to growing and using flowers and plants effectively in small urban spaces.

Cupcakes decorated with flowers - Edible floral treatsReal flowers can be used to flavour food, but you’re more likely to get a distinct aromatic taste if you use distilled culinary waters and essences. These are generally available in the baking areas of large supermarkets and also in Middle Eastern stores, where rosewater and orange blossom essence, in particular, are used widely in both sweet and savoury dishes. You can also buy flower syrups and cordials or make your own by boiling petals with water and sugar and then straining them well before bottling and sealing. These are perfect for making ice creams and sorbets and adding to cakes, desserts and cocktails.

Crystallizing edible blooms


For some extra floral zing, embellish your home baking with freshly picked edible flowers. You can crystallize the petals of roses, violas and pinks by painting them with egg white and dusting them with icing sugar. Leave them to dry overnight before applying another coat or two, and then put them aside to harden. Use them to decorate home-made chocolates, truffles, biscuits, cupcakes, macaroons or meringues. Serve with a flower-flavoured infusion or a sparkling floral cocktail as a toast to celebrate all that’s truly wonderful about a flower-filled life.

Simple flower and plant recipes


If you want to eat your homegrown flowers, ensure they’re organically grown and not treated with any chemicals, and don’t use foraged flowers or florist-bought blooms for cooking.
 

Flower meringues

Flower meringues - Edible floral treatsIngredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • 250 g (9 oz) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) rose essence/syrup
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) red food colouring
  • crystallized rose petals

Method

  • Beat the egg whites until they’re stiff. Gradually add the sugar spoon by spoon until the mixture takes on a sheen.
  • Fold in the rose essence gently. Add the food colouring and swirl through the mixture.
  • Spoon out small portions evenly on parchment paper.
  • Bake at 150°C (300°F) for about one hour. Leave to cool, then decorate with rose petals.

 

Flavoured sugar

Jar of lavender sugar - Edible floral treatsIngredients

  • 1 tsp (5 g) previously dried lavender flowers, or 1 tbsp (15 g) fresh but dry lavender flowers
  • 225 g (8 oz) caster sugar
  • airtight spice jar or jam jar

Method

  • Add a layer of sugar to the bottom of a jar and then add a layer of lavender flowers. Continue to layer to the top of the jar, seal with a screw lid or cork and give it a good shake.
  • The sugar soon takes on a lavender flavour, becoming stronger over time as the flower oils disperse. Keep for six months.
  • Use it to add flavour to muffin, shortbread or cookie recipes.

 

Sparkling floral cordial

Floral cordial in wine glass - Edible floral treatsIngredients

  • 20 scented pink rose heads
  • 900 g (32 oz) granulated sugar
  • 2 litres (68 fluid oz) still mineral water
  • half a lemon, sliced
  • sparkling mineral water
  • clean bottles

Method

  • Remove the rose petals and put them into a large bowl or pan with the sugar, still mineral water and lemon slices.
  • Cover and leave to infuse for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Strain the liquid and decant into clean bottles. Refrigerate and serve diluted with the sparkling water and crushed ice.

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Carolyn Dunster trained in floristry with Jane Packer and now works as a florist and planting designer, running her business, Urban Flowers, from her home in north London. She has written for several magazines, including House & Garden and Country Homes & Interiors. She exhibits regularly at garden shows and flower festivals in the U.K., and recently co-designed a small cutting garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on behalf of Katie’s Lymphoedema Fund, which won the People’s Choice Award. She designs planting schemes for small urban plots and grows as many flowers as possible in her own city garden to use in her floristry work.


Urban Flowers front cover - Edible floral treatsExcerpted from Urban Flowers: Creating abundance in a small city garden, © Carolyn Dunster and Frances Lincoln Limited 2017.
All pictures (c) Jason Ingram

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