Nasturtium: Something borrowed, yet something new

Nasturtium: Something borrowed, yet something new

Edible flowers and garnishes in South Africa: All your questions answered.

It has been more than 10 years since I first dreamt about Edible Flowers as a category on the Woolworths fresh produce shelves. Walking through the Castle Walk Woollies isles it was easy to imagine how edible flowers and garnishes would embellish the exquisite Woollies range with colours, textures and contours that filled my head with its delightful potential.

Flowers were, however, intended to feast your eyes on. Suggestions to add them to your plate were met with puzzled stares and dismissive smiles. Cut flowers were cultivated worldwide and a massive industry existed simply to ensure readily available bunches of fresh flowers to decorate the homes of consumers around the globe. Flowers were intended to be beheld, to feast your eyes on. Only your eyes. The world was not ready.


The years passed. Worldwide, the use of flowers as garnish gained momentum. Edible Flowers became food.  Something fundamental changed in the way we look at food. (no pun intended) Appreciating food became a leisure activity in itself. Celebrity chefs and television cooking shows, Michelin stars and gastronomy, all contributed to a perfect storm that paved the way for flowers to become food. I am humbled to have been part of the exciting journey.

There is a place in Gauteng, South Africa called PicoGro, where flowers fill every corner and spill over every wall. Here a great many people make their living by growing and picking edible flowers and garnishes. Packing and refrigerating them in record time and flying them all over the world to be placed with perfect precision on plates to decorate the most beautiful food in the world.

As a South African home cook, you can also partake in these exceptional floral additions to your meals by foraging for them in the Woolworths fresh produce isle. No longer a dream, edible flowers and garnishes are a multicolour, joyful reality on the Woollies shelves.


PicoGro has recently opened its doors to the public. You are invited to visit our breath-taking flower farm in Midrand. Come and experience the colourful woven cloth of floral verdure that cover the hills, drip into the waterways and enrobe the road-sides of our picturesque, PicoGro.

Contact us and make an appointment to join one of our Pleasure Picking Forages. An unforgettable guided stroll through our Pico Paradise. Breathe easy and enjoy the most appealing floral landscapes imaginable. Forage for flowers and garnishes to take home and learn how to use them on your evening meal or platter.

Though it was not our intent to recreate the original garden of Eden, to those of us that work at PicoGro and have the privilege of spending our days gathering flowers, it often feels as if Entering Eden is our first order of business every morning.

“Edible flowers” is nothing new. People have been consuming flowers for at least as long as they have been eating grains and leaves. Focusing on them for their visual appeal on a plate rather than there nutritional or medicinal value is indeed new. Consuming them is not.

If the idea of beautifying your food with floral garnish appeal to you, you will be able to learn from these pages on a weekly basis as I discuss the flowers we grow for eating and how you can use them to individualize your meals, fire up your creativity and push lock-down blues and all the uncertainty it left in its wake, out of your field of vision.

Replaced by colourful flowers, the most unusual shapes and sizes of little know edible leaves, each telling a story of a time when life was so much simpler, right and wrong so much clearer and family meals at the centre of our lives.

I will discuss the use of new and unknown plants from around the world as well as the well-known edible flowers such as Nasturtium or Kappertjies as they are known in Afrikaans. Not only are the flowers decorative and edible in all opening stages, but large leaves can be used as a vegan wrap to be filled with any savoury filling you prefer. The tiny, round young leaves are ideal to decorate cocktails and mocktails. Young growth tips form a peppery addition to salads and starters, as does the green seed that can substitute for capers in any recipe that calls for them. The potential uses for this plain flower reminiscing of your childhood, is endless.

Allow me to take your hand and lead you through a weekly contemplation of the ways in which your garden can be your craft box. Let’s learn together how to paint your plates with petals, the purest and oldest art form of all.

PicoGro: crowning your culinary creations!