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Edible petals pack nutrients

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Source: The Seattle Times
By Barbara Quinn /The Monterey County Herald

No, I wasn’t attracted to this wine promotion just because it is the same name as my nephew, Josh. I was curious with this company’s idea that the scent of a spring flower is much like the aroma of a favorite glass of wine.

We can do more than just smell flowers this spring. Many of these pretties are edible, say plant experts. Add flower petals to salads, cheese spreads or salad dressings. Freeze them in ice cubes to dress up cold beverages. Some flowers can even be used to make wine.

The scientific name for people who eat flowers for food is floriphagia (flori-FA-gea). And it’s not a particularly new practice, say food historians. Native Americans for example, have long enjoyed eating blossoms from pumpkin and squash plants.

Edible flowers can also contribute to our nutritional health, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Although nutritional analyses of edible flowers is limited, researchers have identified several nutrients in the petals of flowers including vitamins A and C, riboflavin, niacin and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, iron and potassium.

Colorful flowers also signal the presence of phytochemicals (natural substances in plants) found to be beneficial to human health. Pigments that make roses red and nasturtiums orange for example, are rich in substances called polyphenols. These compounds are rich in antioxidant properties, which may help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

Be cautious before imbibing on any flower in the garden, however. Some plants and their flowers are poisonous, caution experts at the Oregon Poison Center:

Further, do not eat flowers purchased at a nursery or roadside stand unless it is labeled as edible. And avoid any flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides not approved for edible plants or grown in soil fertilized with untreated manure (that which has not been composted).

And if you suffer with allergies or hay fever this time of year, flower pollen might not be the best idea.

Here are a few edible flower offerings:

Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) is dark burgundy colored and has the aroma of dark chocolate … yum. Add the petals or young leaves to salads, say culinary experts. Enjoy with a glass of Cabernet Savignon, say experts at Josh Cellars.

Rose petals: Rose hips — the round part of the flower just below the petals — have been found to contain vitamin C, a potent antioxidant nutrient. And if roses smell good, they will probably taste good, say food experts. Use rose petals to garnish summer beverages and fruit dishes. Rose petals also make attractive cake decorations.

Lavender: Use lavender flowers in sweet as well as savory dishes, say garden experts Thompson & Morgan. Or check out the Lavender Harvest Celebration this summer at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley, Calif., with a sumptuous lunch buffet infused with lavender delicacies. (My favorite in years past was lavender lemonade.)

Nasturtium: If you can learn to spell these delightful garden climbers, you deserve to eat them. Nasturtiums are related to the cruciferous vegetable family known for their cancer-fighting abilities. Similar in taste to its close family member watercress, Nasturtium leaves and flowers have a peppery flavor that can spice up salads or sandwiches. Use the flowers to garnish steaks or casseroles, suggests Thompson & Morgan.

By the way Dandelion — the flower I love to hate — is also edible if it’s not soaked in pesticide. Some folks even make wine from it. I think I’ll stick to a nice chardonnay.Barbara Quinn /

Which flowers do you like best? What are the nutritional and dietary benefits? Which flowers will you grow?

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