Edible Flowers and Why You Should Eat Them
When most people think of flowers on the table, they envision them in a vase and not on their plate, and if they are part of the meal, it’s only for decoration. Yet there are numerous edible flowers and some great reasons for making them a part of your diet.
Are all flowers edible?
This is an important question, and the answer is an emphatic “no.” In fact, some flowers are toxic to both humans and animals.
Among the verified edible flowers, however, are many varieties commonly found in backyard gardens. Once you know more about these flowers and their nutritional contributions, you may want to include a few of them in your own garden and menus.
What are some edible flowers?
Among the dozens of edible flowers you will probably recognize are mums (Chrysanthemum coronarium), dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis), lilacs (Syringa vulgaris), marigolds (Tagettes erecta), and roses (Rosa rugosa or R. gallica officinalis). In many cases, more than the flowers themselves are edible; that is, you can also consume the stems, leaves, and seed pods. (Here is a comprehensive list of edible flowers.)
How nutritious are some edible flowers?
A new study to appear in the April 2017 issue of Food Chemistry explored the bioactive ingredients and nutritional value in the petals and infusions of calendula (marigolds), centaurea, dahlia, and rose. Carbs were the most prominent macronutrients, followed by proteins.
Calendula infusions and rose petals provided the greatest amount of organic acids (e.g., malic acid, quinic acid), and calendula also had the highest content of tocopherols (vitamin E). Currently, calendula is already being used by the nutrition industry as a source of carotenoids.
In a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, an expert team analyzed monks cress (Tropaeolum maius), marigold, and paracress (Spilanthes oleracea) to evaluate their antioxidant capacity and other nutritional value. Compared with other plants, the edible flowers had a similar composition: high water and fiber content, low protein, and very low total fat.
Thirty-nine different phenolic compounds were identified, including flavonols, anthocyanins, and hydroxycynnamic acid. Phenolic compounds have been shown to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties.
Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that “edible plants can be consumed in a daily diet as a nutrient source, and could also be used to prepare infusions to be consumed worldwide.”
What you need to know about edible flowers
Eating flowers is an ancient practice, so it’s not new. What is new, however, is the practice of applying toxic chemicals to our gardens, lawns, parks, and roadside foliage. Therefore, it is critical that you never use herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, or other chemicals on or near any edible flowers you plan to eat.
A few other guidelines to consider about edible flowers:
- Never consume flowers you find along the road or in the wild
- Verify the flowers you plan to eat and eat only the edible parts of the flowering plant. For example, daisy leaves are edible but not the flower, and when choosing sunflowers, eat the buds.
- Avoid flowers purchased at a florist, nursery, or garden center unless they are labeled as edible
- Avoid flowers that have been exposed to animal manure during the previous four months
- Harvest flowers when they peak and use them immediately for best flavor and nutritional value
- Introduce new flowers into your diet gradually and one at a time so you can determine whether you have any allergic reactions
Are you ready to try some edible flower recipes? Here’s one for spring rolls to get you started. Search the internet for dozens more.
Navarro-Gonzalez I et al. Nutritional composition and antioxidant capacity in edible flowers: characterization of phenolic compounds by HPLC-DAD-ESI/MSn. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2014 Dec 31; 16(1): 805-22
Pires TCSP et al. Nutritional and chemical characterization of edible petals and corresponding infusions: valorization as new food ingredients. Food Chemistry 2017 Apr 1; 220:337-43
Image courtesy Pixabay