As we become more conscious about the food we eat, we start to embrace the raw, the organic, and even the vegan. But we might be overlooking one key ingredient with its own host of health benefits: edible flowers.
There are some flowers that do more than look pretty in our garden, our homes or our plates. Not all flowers may be safe to eat, but the edible ones can bring an extra dose of not just colour, but also flavour and texture to our food while providing incredible health benefits.
All over the world, edible flowers are used in many different ways in food — in beverages, salads, and sauces.
Here are the 10 most common edible flowers and their health benefits.
Hibiscus plants and their huge, ornate blossoms typically grow in tropical and subtropical climates. There are hundreds of such species, but the most popular edible one is the roselle.
Hibiscus is known for its medicinal and culinary uses. People in many cultures drink hibiscus tea to reap the plant’s medicinal properties. Some studies have shown that it may help to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
You can eat the flower directly, but more popular ways of consuming it include, as mentioned, brewing it as tea, making it into jams and relishes, or tossing it into salads.
Dandelion blossoms may be small but their petals provide various plant compounds that may contain potent antioxidants. Dandelions, sometimes regarded as a weed more than a flower, act as a diuretic and can help to relieve inflammation, stomach issues, bloating, gallstones, joint pain, eczema, constipation and treat appetite loss.
Every part of the dandelion can be eaten — from the flower to the roots. The roots are often used to make tea, while the leaves may be added as a salad or sandwich topping. You can also make wine or jelly with it, or cook them like you would cook your regular greens, like in a stew.
This woody, floral herb is best known for its distinctive aroma and calming effects. Its colour and fragrance make it a popular choice for perfumes, teas, soaps, and essential oils, but it can also be added to a variety of foods, such as spice mixes, syrups, ice cream, baked goods and liqueurs.
Lavender offers vitamin A that is necessary for eye and skin health, as well as essential nutrients such as calcium and iron that our bodies require. Eating it can also help stave away osteoporosis and alleviate the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. And because of its natural calming properties, lavender may even help reduce anxiety and depression.
Lavender pairs well with sweet flavours such as citrus, chocolate and berries, and herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme.
That garnish you see on you chicken rice? It is not only edible, it also provides loads of micronutrients and antioxidants. And it’s not just the leaves that contain these benefits. Coriander flowers, too, help the body by maintaining blood sugar levels. They also contain minerals, fibre and K vitamins, which guard our heart and aid in blood clotting.
Coriander flowers have a particularly herbal taste, especially when brewed as tea, but they lend a cooling effect to spicy foods, which can prevent “heatiness”.
You probably already know that rose petals can be made into drinks if you’re a fan of bandung. But roses are not only good for flavoured beverages, they also offer health benefits because they are rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
In fact, this popular edible flower may help alleviate headaches, constipation, indigestion and even arthritis. It is also a good stress reliever as it helps to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, which is why it is commonly used in spas.
Not simply useful as a mouth freshener, mint — both leaves and flowers — add a refreshing flavour to tea, desserts, salads and even sauces. It also contains menthol, a natural decongestant that makes it easier to expel mucus and phlegm by breaking it up. (Menthol also helps to relieve a sore throat, thanks to its cooling effect.)
The common garden herb also helps with indigestion and bloating, and alleviates irritable bowel syndrome. Plus, it contains an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that can help to relieve seasonal allergies.
Chamomile is a floral herb that has been used in cooking and as a natural remedy for centuries. Medicinally, it is consumed to improve the quality of sleep and reduce anxiety because of its calming properties. Typically dried and brewed into tea, chamomile contains antioxidants and may be able to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and aid in digestion.
You can dry the flowers for tea or heat them to extract their flavours and bioactive compounds, as well as ingest it fresh. The flowers can also be used to make syrups, or add a soothing floral infusion to your smoothies, desserts or baked goods.
Did you know that there are close to 200 species of honeysuckle? These fragrant blossoms contain nectar that can be eaten from the flower, and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. The flower and its extract can be consumed or applied directly to the skin to treat different types of inflammation.
The sweet nectar found in honeysuckle is typically used in making tea or syrups, yoghurt, smoothies, and even lemonade and as sugar replacements in baked goods.
But note that even though the honeysuckle and its nectar are completely safe for consumption, the berries of certain varieties may be harmful, especially if consumed in large quantities.
These vibrant blooms possess antimicrobial properties that can help with a range of health issues including asthma, skin problems, arthritis, high blood pressure and even epilepsy.
They usually have a light floral flavour with a mild grass undertone, although the taste may vary depending on the species. Add a few pansies to add to your salad for a colourful touch to your plate, or to desserts such as cakes, pastries and cookies for a hint of sweetness.
A part of the chrysanthemum family, this edible flower is typically dried for brewing herbal teas. It is used to treat a range of maladies, including muscle tension, fever, arthritis and rheumatism, because of the anti-inflammatory leaves and flowering heads.
Applied externally as a tincture, it can even heal bruises. Plus, chewing a few leaves a day may treat migraines. Feverfew pairs especially well with mint and rosemary for a fragrant mix.
by Joyce Chua, October 2019 / Shutterstock