The Edible Flower-Cookbook review


Photograph by Sharon Cosgrove
Photograph by Sharon Cosgrove

It has been quite some time since I have reviewed a cookbook on this blog, not because I haven’t been offered cookbooks, publishers often send me press releases of their latest clutch of books….it is just none of the synopses have intrigued or piqued my interest.

The Edible Flower on the other hand did that in spades. It is not just a cook book which uses edible flowers it is also a story about the journey of its authors Erin Bunting and Jo Facer, from east London to a seven-acre small holding in County Down, Northern Ireland. Jo’s background is in organic gardening and Chef Erin is in charge of the cooking and creation of menus, as well as recipes for their supper club and fledgling growing school.

Using edible flowers in recipes is not a new concept, like many things in the world of food they get reinvented every so often. Indeed, I first used edible flowers whilst working in and around Washington D.C. back in the 1980’s.  That said, our use of them was nowhere near as widely incorporated into so many dishes or with such a great understanding of the flavour notes that edible flowers bring to a dish.    

With the authors kind permission I have included their recipe Vietnamese Summer Rolls (below) from the book to give my readers a sample of the wonderful recipes you will find inside the book.  You can also click on the front cover for more of a sneak view of the book.

Click on the book cover for an inside look!
Click on the book cover for an inside look!

The book is divided into two sections; the first being how to grow edible flowers in general, giving lots of of useful advice from getting rid of weeds, the importance of feeding the soil, how to make compost, observe your garden to get the best out of it and much more.  The second is a directory of the flowers,  herbs and shrubs they grow for ingredients, with lots of useful information about the flavour notes of each and how best to use them. This second section also includes over 50 recipes from small plates, mains, desserts, baking, snacks and drinks. Recipes that really caught my eye included: Ricotta Doughnuts with Lilac & Lemon, Chamomile Jellies, Spicy Thai Beef Tulip Cups, Slow Roast Lamb with Lavender, Lemon & Apricots, Vietnamese Summer Rolls and  Chocolate Mendiants. 

 The Edible Flower website and Supper Club

For anyone intrigued enough to make to trip to Northern Ireland you can check out the website and book tickers for one of their supper club events. I strongly recommend visiting their website to browse their interesting supper club menus and future events. The numbers of guests they can accomodate is 30, so plan ahead!

Besides writing a cookbook and holding supper clubs Erin and Jo also run a community-supported agriculture scheme (CSA) called Farm & Feast in which members share the risks, rewards and responsibilities of growing food.  If you sign up to the scheme you will be invited to the farm 5 Saturdays during the growing season. You’ll spend time gardening, growing, learning, cooking and feasting! People are not required to labour but most do, to learn and to share the experience.

After reading this book and browsing their website it is hard not to feel connected to their story. The honesty and passion is clear to see and makes this book a very enjoyable read. Perhaps not all of us will turn our lawns into vegetable patches and grow edible flowers, but I hope this book will give us a nudge towards being more connected with what we eat and the importance of the soil. 

Photograph by Sharon Cosgrove
Photograph by Sharon Cosgrove

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Edible Flowers

Vietnamese summer rolls are deliciously fresh and crisp, and with this zingy, spicy dipping sauce they make a perfect summer appetizer or lunch. You can even prepare the ingredients and encourage your guests to wrap their own rolls. Here we give the ‘classic’ recipe, with aromatic pork and sweet prawns (shrimp), but we’ve made all sorts of versions – try adding avocado, mango, pineapple, smoked salmon, roasted (bell) pepper or satay chicken, or using leftover roast chicken, beef or pork. Any pork leftovers are delicious in noodle soup or in a banh mi-style sandwich.

Adding edible flowers makes the rolls look gorgeous. We particularly love cheery violas because they look like sweet little faces, but calendula and dahlia petals also work well, and nasturtiums add bright colour and a little peppery flavour.

Makes 16 rolls

For the pork:
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) pork loin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp Chinese five spice
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
300 ml (10 fl. Oz) vegetable or chicken stock (broth)
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp oil

For the dipping sauce:
1½ tbsp fish sauce
1½ tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
a pinch of chilli flakes (or 1 red chilli, finely chopped)

For the summer rolls:
50 g (1¾ oz) vermicelli noodles
half a cucumber
3 spring onions (scallions)
a small handful each of mint and coriander (cilantro) leaves
16 × 16 cm (6 × 6 in) circular rice paper summer roll wrappers
100 g (3½ oz) lettuce, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
32 viola flowers
150 g (5½ oz) cooked prawns (shrimp), halved lengthways

1. Rub the pork loin with the salt, sugar, five spice and garlic and place in a large bowl or tray. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or refrigerate overnight.

2. When you are ready to cook the pork, put the soy sauce, stock and chilli sauce in a measuring jug (pitcher) or bowl. Scrape most of the garlic from the pork and add this too.

3. Put the oil in a deep pan (for which you have a lid) over a high heat, then sear the pork on all sides.

4. Pour the stock mixture into the pan, reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 30–45 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. It should feel quite firm when you push it, but if you are unsure just take it out and cut into the middle. If it is still pink, cook it for a little longer. You will be slicing it anyway.

5. Take the pork out of the pan and set it aside to rest. Increase the heat and simmer the sauce to reduce it to a thick glaze. Pour it over the pork, leave to cool completely and put it in the fridge. It will be much easier to slice thinly when it is cold.

6. Make the dipping sauce by combining the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and lime juice, stirring well to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the garlic and the chilli flakes or chopped chilli.

7. Put the noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for 5–10 minutes, until soft, then drain.

8. Now arrange all the other ingredients for the rolls so that you can easily reach them as you make the rolls. Slice the pork thinly and cut into rectangles approximately 5 × 3 cm (2 × 1 in). Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a small spoon and cut the flesh into matchsticks. Cut the spring onions into 5 cm (2 in) lengths and then slice into fine strips. Pick the coriander into little sprigs and the mint into individual leaves.

9. Dip one sheet of rice paper in a bowl of cold water for about 10 seconds, shake off the excess water and place it on a plate or board.

10. Place a small amount of sliced lettuce, mint, coriander and noodles on the rice paper, 1 cm (1/2 in) in from the edge closest to you.

11. Place a few batons of carrot, cucumber and spring onion next to the herbs and noodles.

12. Next, beside the vegetable batons – you should now be about halfway up the paper – put a couple of edible flowers face down so that you can see the back of the flower or petal. Put a couple of prawns on top, arranging them so that you can see the prawns between the flowers. On top of this, add a few pieces of the sliced pork.

13. Roll up from the edge nearest you until you reach the carrots, then fold in the sides and continue rolling to make a neat package. Serve as soon as possible, with the dipping sauce.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Edible Flowers reprinted here with
kind permission of Erin Bunting & Jo Facer 2023


20 thoughts on “The Edible Flower-Cookbook review

    1. Dear Mo,
      The most inexpensive approach would be to grow your own flowers from seeds or buy a few plants. You can buy freeze dried, or dried flowers on Amazon. Or you can buy them from a restaurant supplier like Westlands in Evesham though that maybe expensive. This selection is reasonable at £6.00 but I don’t know what the delivery charges are.
      Don’t buy bunches of flowers from a supermarket to use in food because they may have been sprayed with pesticides.
      Best Wishes


      1. Yes we are thanks, my wife and I are planning a trip to Wash D.C. in the next couple months, my first trip to the states for years. I chance to see a few old friends.


      2. I don’t mind the flying I just don’t like the waiting to board or queues (lines) to get through customs and pick up bags. Years ago flying was less stressful.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Chef, your review has piqued my interest because it sounds like this book is more than just a collection of recipes. Saying that, those spring rolls do look incredible!

    Liked by 1 person

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