At this time of year, flower stems feature on the forest garden menu in a big way. Flower stems have a number of advantages over other parts of the plant. A mature flower stem may be fibrous and tough, but while growing they are generally soft. They are usually quite chunky compared to other stems, which is handy in preparing them. And compared to the rest of the plant, they are often far less loaded with the defensive chemicals that make plants taste bitter or nasty to us. Finally, removing the flower stems can divert the plant’s resources from seeding and into vegetative growth, which is often what we want from it.
Here, from left to right, are a number of flower stems that I picked for an entirely flower-stem-based dinner recently:
Skirret: chunky, carroty and produced in abundance; best to strip the leaves off.
Radish: leaves, stem and flower heads are all good, not just the root.
Alexanders: less strong tasting than the rest of the plant at this stage.
Welsh onion and walking onion: stems becoming a little fibrous but dissolve into a sauce with a lovely sweet onion flavour if cut fine; flowers and bulbils still soft enough to use.
Salsify: abundantly produced, with an artichoke flavour’
Udo – disappearing out of the picture!
Leaf beet: chunky with an earthy, asparagus-like taste.
Celery: the leaf rather than the stem variety, but flower stems are soft enough to use.
Turkish rocket: soft and tasty.
There’s a patience dock in there too, with surprisingly sweet stems, but I can’t see it!