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Kathy Brown Talk 

(21 October 2008)

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We had been told that Kathy Brown would be coming to talk to us about various aspects of gardening, so it was a real surprise  when she told us that her talk this time was going to be on Edible Flowers. In fact Kathy had talked about using edible flowers the previous week on BBC Gardeners’ World. And had brought some copies of her book, “Edible Flowers”, for sale, which is now available in paperback and she did a mini book signing for people.


There was a minor glitch and panic at the beginning, as Kathy had gone for hi tech and had her talk on her laptop, but the laptop had decided not to work properly.  After some help from an IT guru, it leapt into action, which was a great relief to Kathy.


The talk included the most beautiful photography and the colours of the flowers greatly enhanced the look of the food. People were surprised to hear that such large flowers as day lilies could be used as edible decoration. Lavender was a popular addition and could be used as flavourings, as could elderflowers.


 Kathy showed a good idea where two different sized bowls had been fitted into each other with water in the larger bowl, which was then frozen with flowers in the water. This meant that when the two bowls were removed an ice bowl was left. Kathy said the important thing was to keep it frozen until needed, otherwise there would be a wet puddle. Flowers such as violets and borage flowers could be inserted into ice cubes as well.


Kathy said it was important if you had larger flowers, such as roses, to cut off the white base of the petals, so the petals were all separate, she pointed out that using the flowers from chives should also be broken up as using a whole flowerhead could be a bit overpowering. Flowers from herbs such as basil could be used and also from thyme rather than just the leaves.


Borage, which is a well known addition to Pimms No 1, can also be used in a recipe for Baked Tomatoes with Yogourt, while Hyssop flowers can be used with chicken livers. Some flowers such as pot marigolds can have their petals strewn across salads for colour also lavender flowers really added colour and interest to food. Nasturtiums, which are a popular addition to salads were mentioned along with evening primrose and even hollyhocks.


 Kathy also showed us how to make crystallised flowers with sugar and egg whites and had some photos of some violet fancies, which looked really attractive. She also mentioned Mallow, which used to be used for making the confectionary marsh mallow because of the sticky roots.


The whole talk was quite fascinating and introduced everyone to an area of gardening we never really think about. Flowers are usually there to look at not to eat, but they definitely added a level of sophistication and interest to all the dishes that Kathy showed us.