Friday, March 11, 2011

Flourish & Play: Delight in Beautifully Nutritious Edible Flowers this Spring

As we bound into spring, rejuvenate your health and palate with gorgeous edible flowers. The petals of these captivating plants host a variety of important nutrients while providing a burst of color and contrast to the diet. Growing edible flowers need not be saved for warm weather; create a lovely indoor garden in a sunlit spot beside a window and enjoy the many benefits of graceful edible blossoms during any season.

According to Marci Degman of Garden Guides:

Ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese herbalists recorded medicinal and culinary uses for flowers. Nearly every early civilization recognized calendula, whose petals were served as food and piled on alters. To preserve violets, medieval monks would make a sweet syrup from the petals. The Victorians, who associated edible flowers with elegance, candied the flowers of violet and borage to decorate cakes and desserts.

Several varieties of flowers are known to support emotional well-being along with health. Valerian flower helps to heal anxiety and insomnia as well as migraines and tension headaches. Rose water helps liver and digestive function while cooling anger. Chamomile calms stress and boosts immunity. Begonias supports liver health and eliminates toxins from the body. Chrysanthemums, which have a long history of use in Asia, are regarded as an excellent tonic for overcoming colds and fevers.

Ethnobotanist Dr Jim Duke recommends the following flowers for consumption:

Violets add a fresh, grass-like flavor to desserts and garnishes. These delicate flowers supply rutin which is believed to strengthen capillary structure.

Borage can be used as a tea or in salads and has a subtle cucumber taste. This beautiful blue beauty is useful in balancing the hormones and helps to combat colds and coughs.

Lavender calms the nervous system and can be found in Herb de Provence spice blend which lends a savory and complex flavor to soup and potatoes.

Roses are rich in antioxidants that help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. These classic flowers come in a variety of colors; each with its own distinct bioactive pigments with white having the least.

Nasturtiums, lemon gem marigold, and calendula petals provide a bright contrast in salads, lending an earthy, peppery flavor. The orange pigment contains the important anti-cancer compound lycopene while yellow varieties are rich in vision protecting lutein.

Edible flowers impart colorful inspiration for a variety of culinary creations. Sweet flowers can be combined with tea or frozen into ice cubes. Ground dried petals can be mixed into healthy cookie dough or pancake batter for a unique presentation. Wrap an assortment of edible flowers along with mint leaves, shredded purple cabbage and carrot in rice paper spring rolls to create a striking rainbow of color and nutrition. For an alluring salad, combine mache greens (lamb's ear lettuce), toasted pecans, organic and raw crumbled gorgonzola along with a selection of blossoms. Float chrysanthemum petals in consommé with soba noodles, tofu, and braised greens for a Japanese classic winter noodle soup.

Growing your own edible flowers can be an enjoyable indoor or outdoor project. Here are a few tips:

Select compact, non-trailing varieties of flowers such as Copper Sunset nasturtiums, calendulas, pansies, violets, and miniature roses

Use only organic seeds and compost rich soil while avoiding commercial flower fertilizers which are not designed to be consumed.

Do not use flower plants from a nursery as these are usually laden with chemicals and fungicides.

Harvest flowers in the early, cool part of the day and only eat the petals as other parts can be poisonous or extremely bitter.

Remember to always check before consuming a flower to make sure it is safe to eat: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/poison/poison.htm

Brighten your days with delightful and nourishing edible flowers. These lovely additions to the diet provide a bounty of beauty and healthy well-being.


Sources for this article:

"The History of Edible Flowers," Marci Degman, Garden Guides. Retrieved on December 11, 2010 from, http://www.gardenguides.com/85738-history-edible-flowers.html

"Health Benefits of Edible Flowers," July 23, 2010, Carolin K., Wellspere, Health knowledge made personal. Retrieved on December 13, 2010 from, http://www.wellsphere.com/complementary-alternative-medicine-article/health-benefits-of-edible-flowers/1177726

"Edible Flowers- A List of Flowers You Can Eat & Their Health Benefits," Steve Graham, February 24, 2010, Bright Hub. Retrieved on December 13, 2010 from, http://www.brighthub.com/health/diet-nutrition/articles/42063.aspx

"Chase away the winter blues with an indoor window garden," Marion Owen, Plant Tea Inc. Retrieved on December 13, 2010 from, http://www.plantea.com/window-garden.htm

"Growing Edible and Cut Flowers in the Home Garden," June 23, 2010, Chris, Gardening Channel. Retrieved on December 13, 2010 from, http://www.gardeningchannel.com/growing-edible-and-cut-flowers-in-the-home-garden/

"Vegetarian Table: Japan", 1998, Victoria Wise, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, pp 114