Edible flowers have been used as garnish to add flare to fine meals for centuries and were a popular favorite among the Romans and Victorians. Recently, flowery cookery has made a comeback, with innovative chefs and cooks adding a variety of blossoms to provide a touch of elegance or enhance the flavor of their entrees. However, edible flowers can be much more than a garnish or spice. They have been used for medicinal purposes in China for many years and now Western medicine is taking advantage of their many potential health benefits.
According to a recent scientific study in the Journal of Food Science, certain edible flowers have been found to help fight and improve a variety of health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, nervous disorders, eye diseases and certain types of cancers. The research found that many edible flowers contain valuable nutrients, antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Here is a small sampling of some of the most common edible flowers that can improve your health and add a unique flavor to your favorite dishes.
Rose petals have been found to prevent diabetes and heart disease. They range in flavor; darker varieties tend to have a more pronounced taste. Roses are often sweet, with hints of mint, spice, green apples or strawberries.
Violets are strong source of rutin, a nutrient that can reduce inflammation and promotes healthy blood vessels. They have a slightly sweet, perfumery flavor that can be used to embellish teas and desserts. They were once a popular ingredient in candies and can still be found in some varieties today, such as Chowards Violet Mints.
According to a study by the University of Maryland’s Medical Center, marigolds are rich in flavonoids that help to protect one’s cells and lower the risk of cancer. They have also been found to contain more lutein and zeaxanthin than the popular super-vegetables kale, spinach and collards. Lutein and zeaxanthin are compounds that can help to prevent age-related eye diseases. Marigolds typically have a sharp taste that is similar to saffron.
Chrysanthemums are rich in potassium, a mineral that improves heart and muscle function. They are also a source of antioxidants, which prevent cell damage and lower the risk of cancer. Chrysanthemums range in taste just as they do in color. They can be peppery, bitter or tangy and some even taste a little like cauliflower.
While edible flowers can be a tasty and healthy treat, it’s important to follow some basic rules when choosing which ones to add to your dinner plate.
Edible Flower Don’ts
· Never use pesticide if you intend to eat the edible flowers in your garden.
· Do not eat flowers from garden centers, nurseries or florists as they often use pesticides and not meant for food.
· Make sure to properly identify the flower and check with a reputable source on which parts are edible.
· Use flowers sparingly, especially when you first begin to add them to your diet, as they can potentially cause digestive problems.