Jo Facer And Erin Bunting Discuss Their First Cookbook, 'The Edible Flower'

By Emily Hourican
Jo Facer And Erin Bunting Discuss Their First Cookbook, 'The Edible Flower'

Irish chef and organic-gardener couple Jo Facer and Erin Bunting have published their first cookbook, The Edible Flower, encouraging readers to forage, feast, and celebrate organic cooking.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2023 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in July of 2023.

Together, Jo (an organic gardener and teacher) and Erin (a cook, recipe developer and food stylist) run the Edible Flower, a seven-acre organic small holding in Co. Down, with supper clubs, cooking and growing workshops, volunteer days, and a CSA (community-supported agriculture) scheme called Farm & Feast.

Tell us about the new book.

The Edible Flower: A Modern Guide to Growing, Cooking and Eating Edible Flowers was published by Laurence King on 9 March 2023. It’s a guide to both growing and cooking with edible flowers – the gardening sections were written by Jo, and the recipes and cooking sections were written by Erin. It’s all about how to grow your own edible flowers and then use them to transform your food, but it is also about connecting to the seasons and getting joy from growing your own food.

The book includes 26 edible-flower profiles and over 60 recipes for using them, as well as some in-depth how-to sections on gardening and cooking. The photos in the book – almost all taken on the Edible Flower farm and styled by the authors – were taken by the authors’ friend, Sharon Cosgrove.


Why did you decide to do this book?

We’d been thinking about writing a book, for a while, that combined both our love and expertise in cooking and growing food. I think that bringing both these things together is important – connecting the kitchen and the garden, showing growers what they can make with their edible bounty, and encouraging cooks to connect to where the produce they cook with comes from.

We’d originally thought we’d write a more general book about growing and cooking with vegetables – we grow all sorts of vegetables here – but in autumn 2020, we were approached by an editor from Laurence King who felt there was a niche for a book on cooking and growing edible flowers. She’d found us via our website, and it felt like a great opportunity and a good fit for us. It really helped having quite a narrow focus for the book, as I think it would have been really hard to stop writing otherwise. We were originally commissioned to write 30,000 words, but we ended up with 70,000 in our first draft. Luckily, the publishers agreed to make the book bigger!

Jo Facer and Erin Bunting and family.

Jo Facer and Erin Bunting and family

What do you hope to achieve with the book?

I hope we inspire our readers to grow even a couple of edible flowers. If you have never grown your own food before, then edible flowers are a great place to start. You don’t need much space – a couple of containers, or even a window box – and you can grow something that is both beautiful and edible. Then you can pick those flowers and scatter them over something as simple as a green salad and make it really very special and beautiful. By growing your own food, you are connecting to the land and the season, and slowing down, too. We also hope to encourage cooks to try something new – to consider how edible flowers can be used like herbs or spices, for their unique flavours.


Tell us about your farm.

We have a small holding in the drumlins of Co. Down. Our land is about seven acres, but only about an acre is in vegetable production. We have plans to expand the vegetablegrowing space a bit in the future, but we would also like to establish an edible forest – basically, a forager’s paradise – on the remaining land.

We run an organic farm that is all about leaving the land in better condition than when we received it. We want it to be a place where future generations can grow food in harmony with nature, to nourish themselves and the land forever. We’re all about promoting people eating local, delicious produce – we provide our produce direct to our members through our Farm & Feast CSA – cutting down food miles and providing a product that has been grown organically. Any excess produce we have isn’t wasted – it’s used in our kitchen at events, volunteer lunches, or made into chutneys and preserves that we sell in our farm shop.

On the farm, we host supper clubs – pop-up dining events with a set menu. We host them every month to six weeks, with multiple nights, and many are themed around the seasonal shifts on the farm and in the land around us. We use lots of the produce we grow at our events. The clubs are really popular, and if you want to come, you really need to be on our mailing list at TheEdibleFlower.com.

We run a CSA – community-supported agriculture – scheme called Farm & Feast, where our members essentially buy into a whole season on the farm and get a weekly share of the produce, so they are sharing the risks and rewards of farming. The scheme will run from May until December this year – 30 weeks of veg boxes! We also bring all our members together regularly throughout the season for a big day of farming activities and feasting, and we send out bespoke recipes for each veg box and provide some online cooking and growing content and classes, for people who want to delve in more deeply.

We also run regular classes and workshops, including some lovely ones on using edible flowers for cooking and baking. We run a volunteer scheme, where we bring people together once a week to work on a big project on the farm and then we all have lunch together.


A press image from The Edible Flower.

How has the Irish food scene changed in the last ten years or so?

We’ve only been back living in Ireland since 2016, so I can’t really comment beyond that. I do think there is more interest from people in where their food comes from – more appetite for sourcing locally grown food and food that is organic or more sustainable. I think the lockdowns of the last few years have accelerated that trend, which is great to see. I also think there are more people following a predominantly vegetarian diet – we have a veg-centric focus on our menus, though we do sometimes include meat. I feel like lots of people are flexitarian, and maybe happy to eat meat if it’s from a sustainable farm.

I also think there are lots of exciting things happening in the casual-dining stroke street food sector in Ireland. It’s fab to see a real diversity of cuisines being represented!

What do you see as the changing trends in people’s expectations, new elements, etc.?

From our perspective as supper club hosts, we love that our customers are seeing an evening with us at the Edible Flower as not just dinner, but a whole experience. I think our guests want to be taken on a journey – to hear stories about the food, the recipes, the seasons and what’s happening on the farm, and to spend time with us and our staff. They want to experience community, as well as delicious food. We seat everyone at long tables together, so they get to meet the other guests over dinner.

A press image from The Edible Flower.

What are the major challenges at the moment?

Getting the work-life balance right – both cooking and farming are timeintensive activities, and we run our business from our home, where we also have our four-year-old twins. It’s very hard to switch off from work and make time for fun and relaxation.

Also, sometimes I wonder if we’d known how difficult it is to make growing and hospitality add up – especially in today’s economic climate – whether we’d have made the leap. It’s probably better we didn’t know!


What are the main opportunities?

Having written a book has opened up lots of new opportunities to share our message and ethos with others, but it’s just sometimes tricky finding the time to make the most of all those opportunities.

Any other plans on the horizon for the next year or so?

We hope to grow our CSA scheme this year – a longer season of 30 weeks and having more members, so we can feed more families. We’ll also be continuing to run our supper clubs and workshops. Longer term, we would love to write another cooking and growing book and plant an edible forest on our land.

A press image from The Edible Flower.


How many covers (for lunch and dinner)? Thirty.

Number of staff members – front and back of house? For a supper club, we usually have five staff – two front-of-house, three back-ofhouse.

Percentage breakdown between food and beverage? One hundred per cent food – we are BYO [beverages].

Signature dishes? Dumplings of all kinds, seasonal flatbreads from our wood-fired pizza oven, the crispiest roast potatoes, gorgeous home-grown green salads, and almost everything with edible flowers.

The Edible Flower: A Modern Guide to Growing, Cooking and Eating Edible Flowers is published by Laurence King.

Read More: Hospitality Ireland Summer 2023: Read The Latest Issue Online!