Book Review: Buds and Blossoms by Liz Knight

I recently wrote about my visit to Stockton Bury Gardens and I mentioned that one of the reasons for the visit was to have a tour of the gardens with Liz Knight, author of Buds and Blossoms.

I have not paid for this book nor am I expected to review it.  My words and opinions are my own.

This tour of the garden was not like any other garden tour I have been on, the purpose was to consider various ornamental plants as food that we might not usually consider to be food.  Here I have to make an immediate confesssion:  the thought of foraging does little to excite me; I might have mumbled a couple of times that I will wait until the supermarkets have closed in the apocalypse before I start nibbling pine needles; yes I am that person.  However, I am also not totally closed to suggestion so I took part happily in the tour.
Here is Liz explaining that hostas are related to asparagus and the young shoots are very tasty.  It is also where I realised my camera was playing up and not focussing properly, so apologies for the blur.  Liz explained that in some cuisines hostas play a vital part, often ceremonial, so eaten at certain times of the year.  I may have mumbled 'like christmas cake' at this point.  
We then moved on to magnolias.  Liz explained that the petals are spicy, a bit gingery/cardomy and this time dear reader, I nibbled.  Liz was of course right, they were exactly as described and can be used in salads or dried like a herb or pickled.  Recently a friend had asked me through social media if I had ever pickled a magnolia petal to which my response was a resounding no.  Dear reader, I recant.
Our journey around the garden continued and I am fairly sure that plants started to quake at the sight of us knowing there could well be nibbling.

This part of the day was informative and entertaining.  Liz explained how she researched all the plants that she talks about in her book.  Liz worked on a basis of plants used for centuries as food; it might be that the English cuisine did not use them but plenty of others did.  This reminded me of a talk I heard from Dan Pearson and Midori Shintani some years ago about the Hokkaido Millenium Forest project where one of the issues they encountered was visiters taking some of the plants for food.  This is not 'new' knowledge that that Liz is presenting and she does not pretend that it is; but it is new knowledge for people like me who have never thought of eating a hosta or understood what the addition of lilac can make to olive oil.
When the tour was completed we were treated to lunch in the Stockton Bury Cafe where we had 'hosta quiche'.  If you had not told me it was made from hostas I would have said it was asparagus quiche.  It was delicious and the recipe is in Liz's book.

We were all kindly given a copy of the book and by this point I was a convert.  I wanted to know how to make use of magnolia petals and what else might I explore in my garden.
Each section of the book is prefaced by Liz explaining the background to the plant and how it is has been used through history.  Liz also talks about safety - don't just munch everything you find growing, do your due diligence and check and double check it is actually safe to eat and how to prepare it.
The recipes are clear and enticing.  I am currently eyeing up my cherry blossoms.... and my peonies are looking more scared than usual too.
I really like this book, I am still not a converted forager, I think I am too cautious for that; but these recipes are accessible, doable and enticing.  You will notice that my confessions of mumbling ceased fairly quickly as I was soon fascinated and wondering what the possibilities could be.

I can happily recommend this book, available at all good book shops online and in reality.  Sadly the book does not come with a magnolia cake, but I can tell you the one I had was delicious.

Buds and Blossoms by Liz Knight is published by Hardie Grant

Liz also runs courses on foraging: see information on her website.

Take care and be kind.

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  1. I have a few magnolia near where I live. Had no idea you can eat the petals. I know the seeds of sweet pea are poisonous. You can take the petal and pour hot water over it and the color of the water will change to a dark purple.

  2. Interesting...I would never think to eat Hostas or Magnolias. Hmmmm...I'll have to do more research and/or look into Liz's book. Thanks for the information and the photos. :)


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