Edible flowers are pretty, of course, and such a natural way to beautify your wedding day. But they can also be dangerous: not all flowers are edible, in fact some are even poisonous.
Maddocks Farm Organics produces edible flowers and salads in the Devon countryside, and has even won an award for its organic excellence. We turned to the owner of Maddocks Farm Organics and edible flower expert Jan Billington for her advice:
Why are edible flowers so popular at the moment?
Edible flowers have been very popular in the US and across Europe for years, and the UK is only just catching up; programmes such as the Great British Bake Off and Master Chef to bring recognition to flowers as an ingredient which is more than just a garnish. There has also been a real resurgence in natural and home-styled weddings. This may be partly due to the recession - certainly hand in hand with this we have seen an increase in foraging, allotments and growing your own vegetables and cut flowers.
What are the best ways to use edible flowers?
There are literally hundreds of ways of using edible flowers to bring an original and unique style to a wedding. In their simplest form they can simply be used fresh to decorate wedding cakes and are also lovely with grapes and figs as part of the layering garnish to the increasingly popular 'cheese' cakes made from tiered rounds of British cheese.
However, we have many brides that wish for a floral theme to run through their celebrations and they use edible flowers with every course.
At the start of a reception, edible flowers are lovely frozen into ice cubes to garnish drinks. Traditionally borage is used with Pimms but other flowers work beautifully as well. Crushed crystallised flowers also make a stunning replacement for sugar or salt around the rim of cocktail glasses.
Savoury flowers such as hot mustards, nasturtiums and rocket are lovely with spicy or beef dishes and herb flowers such as chervil, fennel or coriander really go well with fish and chicken dishes.
Flowers make a lovely garnish for many puddings and take them from the norm to something really special. Petals and ginger mint leaves strewn through a fruit salad make it really stunning and crystallised flowers make a sweet highlight for to many puddings. Floral Jellies are increasingly popular as a wedding dessert as are Jelly Shots. Gin & Tonic Jelly or Pimms Jellies look wonderful and are quintessentially summery.
Home made ice lollies for children are very popular. Made with fresh fruit juice and edible flower petals they are a great treat for the smaller guests.
How long do they last?
This depends on the type of flower and how it is used. Flowers crystallised using gum arabic will last many weeks if not months if kept in a dry airtight container - although they will fade if exposed to sunlight. Setting them in ice cubes or jellies also extends their life.
Fresh flowers last pretty well if kept in the fridge and used at the very last minute. For a Saturday wedding, we generally send our flowers out by overnight courier on the Thursday and they are absolutely perfect. Having said that any flower out of water will wilt if it gets too hot so thought needs to be given to how and where they are used. They are not a good choice if you want something to garnish a cake that is going to sit in a hot marquee for several hours. Also petals are very delicate and will absorb oil so again, they won't last for a long time if sitting on cupcakes with a greasy butter icing on top. On the other hand, petals of flowers in a salad will last for ages because they are kept refreshed by the moisture in the salad leaves.
Which flowers should be used then?
There are lots of stunning edible flowers, so it is not too hard to find something that will match the theme or colour scheme of your wedding but there are some things to think about. Firstly flowers are seasonal. If you have your heart set on pale yellow primroses or bright red tulip petals then you are going to need to choose a Spring Wedding. Secondly, most but not all flowers have unique fragrance and flavours - so don't choose something too strong like wild garlic or rocket to decorate a cake. Finally, as a rule of thumb the larger the bloom the longer it will hold. Therefore more robust flowers are better if something needs to sit for a while.
Maddocks Farm Organics; www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk