Sunday, 27 January 2013

Eat It with Flowers

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
Real World Gardener is funded by CBF, Community Broadcasting Foundation.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition.

Wildlife in Focus

with ecologist Sue Stevens
White-winged Chough's eye In Spanish, Chova De Alas Blancas, in Italian Gracchio Australiano Alibianche, in German Drosselkrähe.
What am I talking about? The White Winged Chough....

As Sue mentioned, white-winged choughs usually have four adults that are deployed to feed one young, because the beetle grubs they eat are so difficult to find. But they will also kidnap young from another family, enticing them away by spreading their wings like a toreador's cloak. The youngster is fed for the first season, then recruited into the feeding team in the next year. The result is a bigger "family", that can raise more young.
If you’ve seen this bird, perhaps in Callum Brae woodland around Canberra, or just around your neck of the woods, send in a photo, or mention where you’ve seen it, all info to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes:

  • Flowers belong to plants that have fruits and those that have vegetables. So can be classed as both, also because you can eat some flowers of both.
  • Edible flowers sounds like it could be good but is it?
  • Why would you eat flowers anyway?
  • Why are some of Australia’s top restaurants, demanding flowers of violas, fennel, coriander, peas, rocket and Borage?
  • Some explanation can be found from the history of edible flowers which can be traced back thousands of years.
  • Romans used edible flowers such as mallows, roses and violets in a lot of their dishes.
  • You’ve probably heard of and even eaten capers, but did you know capers (Capparis spinosa) are the flower buds of an Mediterranean evergreen shrub and have been used to flavour foods and sauces for over 2,000 years?
  • And believe it or not, but Dandelions were one of the bitter herbs referred to in the Old Testament of the bible.
  • Edible flowers such as daylilies and chrysanthemums have been used by the Chinese and Greeks for centuries.
  • In a fifteenth century book of recipes in a list of herbs considered necessary for the garden are borage flowers, daisies, violets to be used in soup, violets for sauce and gilly flowers (that’s clove pinks to you and me) for drinks."
  • Seems like eating flowers is nothing new.
  • Nobody says you should tuck into a plate of flowers, that would be too much.
  • If you suffer from hayfever, then give eating flowers a big miss as well.
  • Never eat flowers bought at a flower shop or nursery as these may have been treated with harmful chemical.
  • Another warning, not all flowers are edible, and some are poisonous if you can’t identify the flower, then don’t eat it.
  • Then there are some  that aren’t poisonous, but don’t taste nice.
  • Stick to the ones you can identify from the ones that are mentioned in this segment.
  • Which flowers are safe? Well, I’ll talk you through a number of flowers some you might know already.
  • Back to that question of why are restaurants adding flowers to their dishes?.. Is there something that you eat that’s a tad boring that needs an extra bit of zing and colour?
  • Ever thought of tossing Nasturtium and Calendula petals into a fresh garden salad, or top a parfait with a couple of violets or heartsease?
  • Everyone’s heard of stuffed zucchini flowers, and maybe Nasturtium flowers as well. They’re easy to identify. But what do they taste like?
  • Nasturtium flowers are sweet with a peppery flavour. Zucchini flowers taste sweet, with a honey nectar flavour.
  • What about any others?
  • Calendula or Pot Marigold tastes a bit like Saffron-spicy tangy and peppery.
  • Flowers of the herb Rocket are much less peppery than the leaves, but the propeller shaped flowers are delicate, so handle these carefully.
  • Violets and heartsease taste like sweet nectar and suit desert dishes.
  • Borage is another one that many people might know already-those bright blue flowers on the blue-green stalks with large leaves that are a bit rasp like to touch. Borage flowers tastes a little like mild cucumbers.
  • Pea flowers –guess what, they taste like peas.
  • What should you do when collecting the flowers and how do you use them in your dishes.
  • First of all, unless the flavour suits the dish, then there’s no point to adding the flower, so good chefs say. Take note all you budding Masterchefs.
  • Looking pretty isn’t enough, it has to enhance the food.
  • You might use pea flowers with other green flavours, and of course the flowers that taste of sweet nectar are used to lift the flavours of sweet dishes.
  • Those with peppery or spicey flavours go well in salads.
  • Pick your flowers just before you’re about to use them if at all possible.
  • Check them carefully for bugs, but don’t wash them, because the petals are fairly delicate.
  • Store them in the fridge in a plastic container covered with a damp paper towel while you’re preparing dinner, or lunch.
  • Just as you’re about to serve the meal, add the flowers as a final touch.
  • Sweet flowers can be combined with tea or frozen into ice cubes. Ground dried petals can be mixed into biscuit pastry or pancake batter for something different.
  • Some flowers in your vegetable garden you don’t want to pick because they’ll grow in veggies that you want. So just be selective.
  • There are others that you need to pick even if you’re not going to eat them because the leaves of these plants become bitter, these are -greens including spinach, kale, mustard, bok choi, broccoli, and lettuces, radish and for herbs, basil, coriander, thyme, and mint.
  • Why are edible flowers good for you?
  • The flowers contain a portion of the same nutrients that the plant they came from has. Simple as that.
  • Finally, remember if you’re not sure, to check with a reference book, your garden centre or nursery, before eating a flower to make sure it’s safe to eat.

Design Elements:

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid
Updating your garden with foliage:
Do flowers play the starring role in your garden, while the greenery gets relegated to backstage?The greenery, or foliage if you like, are the mainstay of gardens and garden design because they’re there all year when the flowers fade. Think of the delicate fronds of ferns or the fountain like effects of many types of ornamental grasses. The leaves of these plants don’t just serve as a lovely background for flowers, because they have their own attraction. There are some really beautiful foliaged plants that could be used as a dominant feature alongside your flowers. Remember, foliage will carry your garden through all seasons, long after the flowers have faded away. If doesn’t hurt the pocket to update your garden in this series, because we’re not doing the crazy make-over.

There should be plenty of ideas to get you thinking about updating the foliage in your garden.

Plant of the Week:

Agastache Plants, Varieties and Species
Would you like a mass of flowers to lift your garden after all relentless days of heat? How about Agastache? Sounds terrible, but it should be as familiar as say Salvia or Geranium because it’s so useful in the garden. Each one has a scent of it’s own and is attractive to bees and butterflies.Most species of Agastache grow upright from 50cm to 2 metres tall. Plants known as Korean Mint and Licorice Mint are actually members of the Agastache family, so you might know them already.
They all grow easily in a sunny or part shaded position with an occasional watering but can tough it out in dry conditions.
Being in the mint family, the leaf tips of quite a few can be used in teas, and Sweet Hyssop flowers can be eaten as well.
Agastache are a must buy for the dry garden, a clump forming perennial growing from rhizomes. Agastache will grow to 1m +
If you grow herbs, a lot of different herbs, you probably already grow Hyssop which is one of the common names of Agastache.
Perhaps you have a herb garden and hadn’t considered this particular herb because you’ve never seen it in your local nursery. It’s a must have for the herb garden, and you can order it from many plant catalogues in Victoria and NSW.
In the Lamiaceae of mint family, most Agastache have serrated oval scented leaves.
Some you can use to make herbal teas.
Purple Candle Agastache flowers from late spring and mainly in summer with masses of bottlebrush like flowers that are attractive to bees butterflies beneficial insects and perhaps even birds.
The best thing about this perennial is that it adds colour to the summer garden which quite often has started to wind down in the colour stakes.
 A drought tolerant perennial plant that have great flowers, agastache are originally from the United States as well as some species from China, most garden species are from the US. Great plants for attracting bees, butterflies, beneficial insects and even birds, all love the tall flower spikes of Agastache.
Species and cultivars including A mexicana or Mexican Giant Hysop can be cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush of flowers.
Some of the best species and cultivars include : Agastache rugosa (Korean Mint), Agastache Foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) or Licorice Mint and Agastache aurantiacus or 'Apricot Humming Bird Mint'.
Flowering from mid summer through to autumn Agastache mexicana is attractive to birds and bees and is an easy to care for plant. A humus rich moist but well drained soil is best, however Agastache mexicana comes into its own during dry spells when it will happily keep going with very little water.
Lots of new cultivars are becoming available including
 Agastache “Orange”A fabulous summer flowering Agastache with masses of apricot/orange flowers with highly fragrant silver foliage with sweet mint smell.
'Coming early 2012' A fabulous summer flowering Agastache with masses of apricot/orange flowers with highly fragrant silver foliage with sweet mint smell.
Agastache ‘Salmon Pink’:-Flowering prolifically in late spring, summer and autumn.
Both of these flower in late spring, summer and autumn. Grow 1m high x 1m wide
These Agastache quickly develops into a full bush. Ideal for sunny borders, clustered in perennial borders or combination patio containers. Is frost and drought resistant, tolerates hot dry or wet summers. Attract bees and other beneficial insects to your garden with this plant.
**Agastache ‘Sweet Lili’A lovely new Agastache with masses of rose/pink flowers over the warmer months with a lovely sweet mint smell. SIZE:-1m high x 50cm wide
Has upright spikes of tubular, 2 lipped flowers.
The scented leaves may be used to make herbal tea. Flowers in late spring, summer and autumn.
Looks beautiful in a mixed perennial planting with Salvia 'African Sky' and Gaura 'So White' as they all flower at the same time, have similar growth habits and enjoy similar growing conditions.
All of these types of Agastache  just need you to  remove spent flowers, fertilise when planting and you can cut back in early spring.
The also like a full sun position and well drained soil
 Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ Blue Fortune is a summer flowering perennial and a proven performer in gardens. It is easy to grow and drought tolerant after establishment. FLOWERING:-Masses of blue flower spires appear in Summer; Agastache' blue fortune' which will reach over 1m.x 50cm
Pruning:-Trim lightly after main flowering flush is finished for extended blooming. Cut back to approx 25cm in early spring to make way for new growth.
To sum up: In general Agastache like the same growing conditions; full to half day of sun, a lean (infertile soil) with fast drainage and not too much supplemental watering once established.
You can grow some varieties in pots-about 25-30cm in diameter.
Generally, these plants are very low care and flower without too much trouble.
Flowers won’t appear if the plants have been given too much nitrogen rich fertilizer or compost during the growing season. This causes lush, green growth with few flowers. Is it possible these plants were over fertilized?
Crowding are too much water doesn’t prevent flowering with these plants.
If you do grow Agastache and they haven’t flower for you, don’t cut down the stems of the non-bloomers; wait until mid-spring. Watch the plants carefully during the growing season. If they lack vigour and/or don’t set flowers by mid-summer, you may want to replace the plants with fresh plants or volunteer seedlings that will invariably show up in your garden next spring.

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