It’s hard to miss Elsa and Damien Hughes’ farm in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley — it’s the pretty one.
- Edible flowers are in full bloom in Queensland’s Garden City
- The flowers have a visual impact and add aesthetic value to dishes
- Restaurants and cafes are using edible flowers in their dishes in the spirit of Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers
When tomatoes weren’t paying the bills at the start of the year, they knew it was time to diversify, and now they have Instagram-worthy crops of edible flowers.
“The impact of the crops is quite striking,” Mr Hughes said.
“It’s actually very nice to be able to grow something that looks as nice as that.”
Demand for edible flowers has grown as fast as the blooms.
Once, edible flowers were mainly considered a culinary treat only found in expensive restaurants, but the couple say they have found their flowers to be popular at food markets, and some end up at bakeries.
The varieties are similar to those found in gardens of old.
“We grow dianthus, violas, pansies, snap dragons, marigolds and fuchsias,” Mr Hughes said.
But he was quick to warn people to not go nibbling on just any colourful flower in the nearby park or garden.
“We’ve done a lot of research into edible flowers,” he explained.
“We’ve also started using biological pest controls as well … so we don’t have to use any sort of chemical.”
During Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers, it’s not only the vases that are full of blooms.
The display cabinets at the Baker’s Duck bakery are full of pansies and violas, sitting on top of pastries.
“I won’t put anything on our Danishes that aren’t edible,” pastry chef Katy Woods said.
“A lot of the flowers that we use are so light in taste they can’t overpower what we’re using them on anyway.
“We have a poll in the kitchen, for people who do eat flowers and people who don’t and it’s pretty well split 50-50.”
Locals keep business blooming despite COVID
When it’s time to pick the flowers, a comfortable stool is a must during harvest, Mrs Hughes said.
“All the flowers are hand picked and it needs to be done delicately and precisely because you need to select to make sure that the flower is in good condition and that there are no marks,” she said.
The couple has explored interstate and international markets for their flowers, and hope to fly punnets out of nearby Wellcamp airport.
But like many other agricultural producers, COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works with long wait times not being kind to fresh flowers at all.
“The market is apprehensive of COVID lockdowns and you will get a huge order that is cancelled. [But] in the meantime, we still need to pick the flowers because they need to remain fresh.”
During spring, however, the farmers are happy to see their blooms on local dishes.
“People are like, ‘Do we eat this bit, it’s too pretty to eat’,” Ms Woods laughed.