2 minutes with Jocelyn Cross
Occupation: Edible flower grower
Business: Petite Ingredient, Yarra Valley
How did you come to create your business Petite Ingredient?
After working for 15 years as an interior designer, I returned to my farming roots on a whim and began Petite Ingredient, an organic edible flower business. I had become tired of the somewhat superficial nature of my work and so I started growing edible flowers for a friend in the fruit and veg business who had seen a market for flowers in America and Europe. We started in a small outdoor garden plot but we couldn’t keep up with the demand (plus there was the seasonal challenges of growing outdoors) so in 2013 I moved to a large greenhouse in the Yarra Valley in regional Victoria. In the seven years since its inception, Petite Ingredient has grown to become the most sought-after edible flower brand, supplying Australia and Asia’s best chefs.
What are some of the challenges of running a business in a regional area like the Yarra Valley?
Logistics is always a big one for fresh produce. Fortunately, we have some fantastic local refrigerated carriers that get our produce around Victoria throughout the week and also deliver to our wholesalers at the Melbourne Market in Epping, to the airport for interstate deliveries, and also by road to Sydney where our biggest customer base is.
What are your favourite edible flowers and how do you use them?
I just love broad bean flowers, they are graphically beautiful and taste incredible. They’re only available through spring unfortunately. But for a flower that is a year-round hero it would have to be viola (viola cornuta). This is different to violets (viola oderata) that are only available through winter. Violas are our most popular flower and flower all year when freshly planted sequentially throughout the year. Through summer we have all my flavourful favourites; this is when our herbs and veggies go to flower. We have wild carrot flower, dill pollen, fennel pollen, mustard and brassica flowers, sage flowers, anise hyssop…the list goes on. These are all the most intensely flavoured and scented of our range and the chefs love working with this range for their incredible flavour profiles.
You have co-authored your first book, Root to Bloom, what's it all about?
Mat and I came up with the concept of root to bloom eating in 2015. Much like the nose to tail food movement, which is about using all parts of an animal not just the prime cuts, we are wanting to build understanding around not wasting our edible plants. Most parts of our edible plants are edible we just haven’t drawn any focus to these parts of the plant in our kitchen. For example, we may only think to eat the root of a carrot plant but the stalk, fronds (foliage), flowers and seeds are all edible. The coriander and broad bean plants are real heroes too where you can eat every single part of the plant. Most likely, we all have dried coriander seeds in our spice cabinet but wouldn’t think to cook with the roots of our coriander growing in the garden, or let them bolt to seed and pickle the green coriander seeds or use their heavily scented flowers for sweet and savoury dishes.
If we wanted to start a basic edible flower garden at home, what should we plant?
In the cooler months, pansy, viola and violets are super easy to grow and are great to have on hand to add colour to your dishes. As the weather warms up your herb and veggie garden are an unrealised edible flower garden. First up your broad beans, beans and peas will produce flowers in late winter/early spring before the seed pods arrive. Herbs will all flower through summer; from coriander, dill, fennel, thyme and oregano to mint, rosemary, chives and onions. All these flowers are scented and taste just like their greener parts.
Who are some of your favourite cooks to follow on Instagram for edible flower inspiration?
Katherine Sabbath (@katherine_sabbath) is incredible, she is a pastry chef creating the most amazing celebration cakes. But so many of our customers (both professional and recreational) are sharing their beautiful creations on social using our fresh and dried edible flowers.
Day trip to the Yarra Valley, where do we go to eat and drink?
I would head straight to Oakridge Estate to try some of Matt Stone (@chefmattstone) and Jo Barrett’s (@jobarrett) amazing regional food. They have their own beautiful kitchen garden and have a real focus on eating seasonally and sustainably, much like our Root to Bloom ethos. The food, atmosphere and wine at Oakridge are all fantastic, it’s a real day out.
Check out Jocelyn and her gorgeous edible blooms on Instagram @petiteingredient
We are also sharing a gorgeous recipe for Dandelion flower syrup from Jocelyn’s book Root to Bloom, you can see it here. Recipe extract courtesy of Hardie Grant Books.