Flowers for nutrition

Posted on: 8th November, 2016

Category: Home, Garden & Environment

Contributor: Ruby Harte

Ruby Harte (a.k.a Mags Riordan) has been a professional florist for over 12 years. Ruby runs a family owned nursery, Bumble Bee Farm in Castledonovan, Drimoleague and is deeply concerned about the protection and cultivation of nature and its habitats.

What a year it’s been and it’s not over yet! I’m relishing the change in direction into edibles, although our love of and respect for nature and our environment is still paramount – it remains and always will be at the core of our beliefs and business.

While eco-friendly was sufficient when we were only growing our flowers for decoration we feel much happier now that we have started the conversion process to organic, it fits much better now that we are producing flowers to eat. The paperwork is a bit of a headache though but it will be worth it in the end.

We have just come back from a few days in Galway and were honoured to be representing West Cork in the Artisan Village for ‘Food on the Edge’. It was truly inspiring to see both local and international chefs, food writers and horticulturalists promoting sustainability and the importance of food provenance. It was wonderful to see so many producers valuing our rich and diverse food heritage.

We live and work at the foot of a mountain and while it is a rural idyll it can be a little isolated and sometime we forget there is a world out there. I’ve been known to go weeks without venturing beyond my own front gate being totally wrapped up in the day-to-day workings of the farm so it’s really important for us to get out there and be connected, and tell the world about our produce.

But for now it’s back to the grind stone getting ground prepared for the first of our new tunnels (very exciting), which will house our new spring edibles. I’m so excited and have so enjoyed researching these, there is so much scope – it really is a huge untapped resource. Less than 20 per cent of plant species provide 90 per cent of all our food, so I’ll probably never run out of new varieties.

We could all benefit from the inclusion of edible flowers in our diet – they are herbs after all. I know you probably grow some of our varieties like nasturtium and calendula as companion plants but they are so much more than that. The leaves and flowers of nasturtium are a rich source of vitamin C, iron, a little phosphorus and antioxidants. As they are naturally antibiotic, chewing the leaves at hourly intervals, can really ease the symptoms of a niggly sore throat and help ease cold and flu symptoms.

I eat them daily and attribute my good health to these bright beauties. Even if there were no health benefits, I just love their peppery taste.

Calendula is another commonly grown companion plant that really could be used as a culinary accompaniment. Again it has a tangy spicy flavour. A useful saffron substitute. The petals can be used to colour plain rice. We recommend using the petals only – they can be used fresh or dried to flavour soups, sauces and stews. They make a good accompaniment to cheese and egg dishes and look retty in a tossed salad. They are another herb that is a rich source of vitamin C and A and are high in antioxidants.

If you enjoy our little bits of information then please let us know and we will continue to share some of the things we are learning along the way.

Our new website bumblebeeflowerfarm.ie is almost ready and we hope you will pop over and take a look. We will be listing our flowers but we will be including their uses, flavours and a little note on their medicinal and nutritional values.

We hope you all have a fabulous bank holiday weekend and enjoy our amazing dry spell.

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