Photography: Dawn Langley
This week is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital will be turned into an enviable series of remarkable outdoor spaces awash with beautiful blooms. There is something quintessentially English about it, even though the gardens draw on inspiration from all over the world.
There is something about the Chelsea Flower Show that always symbolises to me the beginning of summer. So in many ways, true to British summer form, it was to be expected that during the opening day it was bucketing it down and the umbrellas were out in force.
I have always been interested in flowers not just from the standpoint of fragrance and aesthetics but also how they can be used for culinary purposes. I have always been surprised by which flowers can be eaten and how they taste. We may be used to having nasturtiums on our salads or making wine from elderflowers but you can also eat a whole host of other flowers too such as roses, tulips, snapdragons and even gladioli.
I will be running an online programme about using and growing edible flowers with Iris Huebler this summer. Called Blossom, we are showcasing the best of edible flowers, how you can grow them and use them so they are the star of the show rather than a scattered decoration. It is starting in late June.
Whenever you are using flowers for culinary purposes it is always important to be sure of what you are eating, as some flowers are very toxic and will make you quite ill. If you are gathering wild flowers, be sure of your source and avoid areas such as roadsides which have high levels of fuel residues and also avoid areas that are frequented by dogs!
If you are not growing your own edible flowers, when purchasing ensure you buy organic edible flowers from a reputable source. I buy mine from Maddocks Farm Organics which has a fabulous selection to choose from.
As a general rule, the flowers that you buy at a florist or in the supermarket won’t be organic and will have most likely been sprayed with pesticides, so don’t use these.
I’ve used pansies and violas for the tarts in this recipe, but this tart would be lovely with borage or cornflowers. I think the pansies have a lovely blowsy quality which is just right for afternoon tea with a pot of Earl Grey.
The tart crust uses a mixture of cashew nuts, coconut flour and oat flour. You can make oat flour quickly and easily by whizzing some dry porridge oats in a food processor so it forms a powder and then sieving to ensure that the flour is very fine.
The custard is made from Thai coconut meat but if you can’t get hold of it, you can substitute with coconut yoghurt or increase the amount of cashew nuts to 220g, soaked.
The recipe can be found on the Great British Chefs website by following this link.
I work in grams for their website so if you prefer to work in cup measures, please note the following measurements below:
70g cashew nuts, ground = ½ cup cashews
70g coconut flour = ½ cup cashews
140g cashews, soaked for two hours = 1 cup cashews
125g Thai coconut meat = ½ cup coconut meat
125 ml almond milk = ½ cup almond milk
100 ml strawberry puree = a little under ½ cup
30 ml agave syrup = 2 tbsp
120ml melted coconut oil = a little under half a cup
Please refer to the Great British Chefs website for the full recipe.