Using edible flowers as garnishes has become more and more popular of late. Over the years I have tried crystallising rose petals and primroses, and our summer ice cubes frequently have a gloriously blue borage flower entombed in them to chill and decorate a gin and tonic.
But reading Frances Bissell’s fascinating and comprehensive book The Fragrant Pantry I am realising that I should be putting flowers to far more use.
Good sensible advice
Do start at the beginning of the book – in my excitement I had turned straight to the recipes – its opening pages are full of good and sensible advice, including pointing out that it is illegal to pick certain species of wildflowers.
Also, every section of the book is preceded by interesting and useful information – sometimes historical, sometimes about the ingredients, and also about foraging.
We would have appreciated some photograph or illustrations of the plants and finished dishes, but a minor detail.
I was a little concerned that several recipes require orange blossom. Our local shops don’t sell orange blossom, and I don’t have a tree in the garden!
But there is no problem, readily available orange flower water is perfectly acceptable. And when it comes to infusing flowers and fruit in gin or vodka I was delighted to learn that the use of the cheapest supermarket range (as we had been doing) is fine.
Recipes for many preserves
The exciting array of recipes includes sweet and savoury jams, pickles, chutneys, fruit and flower cheeses, pestos, vinegars and syrups.
Lavender is one of my favourite perfumes, but in all honesty I am not wildly keen on its use in cooking. However, with the guidance of this book I am most definitely going to experiment – the recipe for blackcurrant and lavender curd intrigues us.
We shall most certainly be growing nasturtiums this year so we can serve the nasturtium and chilli jelly. And we shall definitely be making gooseberry and elderflower jam, as well as the tangy sounding cranberry, kumquat and orange flower salsa.
We are now saving up all our jam jars and bottles and will be looking out the preserving pan. With the help of this excellent book it looks like it’s going to be a busy summer.
Serif Books are offering The Foody Traveller readers a 20% discount off the cover price of The Fragrant Pantry. To claim your 20% discount quote FRAGRANT on the Serif Books website at the point of purchase.