At this time of year my garden has a hard time keeping up with my appetite.
Everyday lush new growth emerges but it’s still not enough to keep up with my yearning for abundant edibles – they say necessity is the mother of invention but I think in my case it’s impatience.
It will be a while before anything other than salad leaves are ready for harvest so in my haste to pick fresh from the front door I strain the bounds of convention and start chomping flowers.
This year a salad of hastily sown pea tips, peas and pancetta scattered with primroses is having a big moment in my house. And this floral fancy was utterly borne out of a craving to eat something pretty and homegrown right NOW.
Pea Tip, Pancetta and Primrose Salad
Pea tips are about as instant as homegrown food gets. Seed sown is ready for eating in about two weeks – this spring I’ve been using up 4yr old pea seed and enjoying the delicious taste of fresh homegrown peas that knocks the socks of shop bought salad bags (note below on how to grow). The primroses (primula vulgaris) are really just there to keep it pretty and seasonal. They are quite simply the perfect spring flower, a pale, yellow announcement that good things lie ahead.
400g frozen petit pois
large bunch pea tips (rocket or baby leaves)
salt & fresh black pepper
12 primrose flowers
Boil the petit pois for a few minutes until tender. Meanwhile crisp your pancetta in a frying pan, there’s not really any need to add oil as the fat from the pancetta should do the job so long as you keep an eye on it to check it’s not sticking. Strain the petit pois and mix in a large bowl with the pea tips, rocket or salad leaves and pancetta. Dress with a little olive oil, lemon juice, season and serve decorated with the primrose flowers.
Cucumber, Mint and Borage
Now, I’m not even sure this one counts as a recipe – more of a flavour combination that will see you right through summer. Borage flowers pretty early – it’s out now – so I start by freezing a few borage flowers, mint leaves and chunks of cucumber in cubes of ice. Ready in the freezer to add to a long, quenching gin on a sunny spring evening.
By high summer when my homegrown crop of cucumbers becomes a glut I move on to cucumber and mint soup scattered with borage leaves. It’s a super easy soup and elegant summer supper starter.
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1 onion chopped
1 clove of garlic
bunch of mint leaves
1 litre vegetable stock, hot
500ml plain yogurt
12-20 borage flowers
Half the cucumbers, scoop out the seeds and discard. Chop into chunks, then mix thoroughly with the salt and leave for 20—30 minutes. The salt helps draw the water out of the cucumber intensifying the flavour.
Melt the butter, add the onion and cook until almost translucent. Add the garlic and cucumber, cook for another couple of minutes. Then using either a hand blender or food processor liquidise with the stock and the mint.
Allow to cool. Stir in the yoghurt and serve scattered with borage flowers.
Persian Jewelled Rice with Rose Petals
Of the recipes this month this is the most recipe-ish. It is also absolutely delicious and subject to alteration and whimsy.
In Iran it is associated with weddings and celebrations, the sort of dish that elicits strong feelings. I imagine every family and region has their own particular way of preparing it and that perhaps my rendering of it might be considered inauthentic, so I apologise in advance – but it’s still darn tasty.
½ tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp butter (or coconut oil)
¼ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp allspice
1 medium onion, fine
1 ½ cups basmati rice, rinsed well
2 bay leaves
zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp rose petals (they can be dried – extra to scatter)
¼ cup dried tart cherries
¼ cup dried apricots, diced
¼ cup dried figs, diced
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
¼ cup pistachios, toasted
Infuse the saffron in 250ml hot water.
Melt the butter in a large sauté or frying pan and add the fennel and cumin seeds, cook until they are fragrant, just a minute or two. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and allspice, stir to combine. Add the onion and cook over low heat for approximately 10mins until the onion is almost translucent.
Add the rice and cook for a minute, stirring to ensure the rice is well coated with the spices. Add the saffron infused water, the bay leaves and lemon rind. Stir to combine, season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
Next add in the rose petals, fruit and nuts, stir to combine. Cover and cook on low to medium heat for about 12 mins. Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for a further 10 mins.
Remove the bay leaves, fluff the rice with a fork and spoon onto a large platter. Scatter rose petals and serve. Fantastic with lamb.
Growing Pea Tips
You can buy pea seed at the supermarket. It doesn’t have to be anything special – any variety will do. I’ve even heard of people using dried peas – the sort my Gran used for soup. Then get any old pot or container, fill with compost, and scatter pea seed about 5cm apart. Cover with 7-10cm compost, water and leave on a windowsill or greenhouse. In a couple of weeks you can do this outside. For now seed will germinate more quickly indoors. Once the tips reach about 10-15cm tall, eat and enjoy. Keep sowing all summer!
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