Broccoli bolting? Radishes running away? Don't let the flowers go to waste.

Petals are the new parsley and brassica flowers are particularly tasty, says Tamsin Wilson, chief grower and picker at The Secret Garden.

Wilson grows restaurant-quality flowers and unusual vegetables from a paddock in Patumahoe. Home cooks can buy her produce by the punnet from Farro Fresh and Moore Wilson's, but she says she'd love to see more people planting their own edible blooms.

Where to start? Along with those bolting brassicas, consider your humble herbs.


"As a rule, all of the herb flowers are edible," says Wilson, "It's another way to add herby flavour into your dishes."

She's a big fan of small, delicate flowers like the frilly "rainbow loveliness" dianthus, and verbena, which forms a whole head that can be separated into tiny florets.

Maybe you're familiar with nasturtium in a salad or borage in a cube of cocktail ice. But how about begonia? Wilson says the petals contain oxalic acid that lend a sour, sorrel-like flavour to fish dishes. Tall-stemmed society garlic flower is, apparently, fantastic with steak, and nothing says "coastal" like pretty pink iceplant flowers and their juicy, slightly salty leaves.

Wilson says research is crucial because many plants are poisonous. Tulip flowers, for example, can be eaten (they taste, reportedly, a bit like lettuce) but daffodils are toxic. Vegetable pea flowers are edible, but sweet pea flowers are not. Anything grown for a florist should be absolutely avoided because of the use of sprays.

Wilson, who used to be a microfinance consultant, says children in particular are drawn to floral garnishes. She understands the attraction.

"Some days in the packing shed, you're packing a punnet of flowers and you just stop to admire it and take photos, because it's just so beautiful. Flowers are just amazing."