Blooming marvels

Categories: Reflections and opinions

Beca Lyne-Pirkis explains how working at the Chelsea Flower Show introduced her to the joys of edible flowers

My first proper job after graduating and moving to London was working for the Royal Horticultural Society. I worked in the corporate development team, which managed large corporate sponsorship accounts, especially for the RHS’s flagship show, Chelsea.

There is quite simply, no other show like Chelsea. As you can imagine, the show gardens and floral exhibitions are flawless and display a kaleidoscope of colour. The air in the main marquee is thick with sweet smelling flora and every petal, leaf and stem is displayed perfectly, with not a stamen out of place.

As soon as you step through the main ticket barriers at the Royal Hospital, you’re instantly transported elsewhere—I could never quite believe that we were on a relatively small patch of grass along the Embankment in London.

Meeting and greeting
As well as showcasing horticultural excellence, Chelsea’s social calendar was overfilled with events, from early morning VIP breakfast tours of the show ground, to corporate events that stretched late into the evening. This is where you’d find me, meeting and greeting guests in the morning—we had to be at Chelsea for 5am, suited and booted and ready to mingle. And although it was ridiculously early, I always felt it was a huge privilege to be allowed onto the showground, but also into the home of the Chelsea Pensioners.

We had to escort our guests through the main doors of the hospital and down into the showground, which would coincide with when the Chelsea Pensioners were queueing for their breakfast. I’d often happily chat away with them, hearing all about their stories from when they were in the forces—this was before I met my husband who is currently serving in the British Army. And don’t think that because they’re pensioners that they’re past it… they are very cheeky and always have a twinkle in their eye!

Once the breakfast tours were finished, it would be straight onto planning for the evening events—planning that had of course been going on for months in advance. My favourite part of the planning, which will come as no surprise, was the celebrated canape tasting day, an event that was written in capitals in my diary and highlighted to remind me not to eat breakfast that day.

Masterclass in canapes
The foods served during Chelsea at the restaurants and at the events are sublime. It was a masterclass in canapes and how they should be served, and an introduction to me of the high standard needed to organise and host corporate events in London. I think it may have been my first experience of using edible flowers in savoury dishes, with some canapes being as highly designed and detailed with flowers as the show gardens themselves.

I’d eaten the more common flowers before, like chive and garlic flowers, rose of course, and my favourite courgette flowers, but seeing the colour and life that using nasturtiums or pansies, for example, brought to dishes made me start to think more creatively about food, even in small bitesize canape form. Flowers are definitely much more than just a salad garnish or an extract for cake. Let the colours of Chelsea inspire you to explore more into the world of edible flowers.

Try Beca’s recipes for feta & herb stuffed courgette flowers and minted pea and edible flower ravioli