Flower Power

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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Many of those flowers that grace our gardens are more than just pretty faces. Some are not only edible, but also possess medicinal properties which make them good for us.

Flowers have been used for this purpose for hundreds of years. They can add nutrients to our diet, variety to our meals and beauty in the form of garnishes and decorations for desserts. The best part of this is that they provide food that does not have to be purchased.

Just be sure and know your flowers before adding them to your food sources. Keep in mind also that not all parts of a flower are edible; it may only be the leaves, the flowers, the stems or the roots. Also, be sure that no pesticides have been sprayed on them.

For this reason, refrain from gathering any flowers along roadsides where even automobile exhaust fumes can cause them to become toxic. Always wash the flowers under running water before consuming and try only a small amount initially until you see how your body reacts to them.

With that said, here are some edible flowers that are commonly grown in gardens:

  • Borage blossoms. These are beautiful, blue star-shaped flowers on the borage plant. They taste a little like cucumbers and have been used in salads since the Elizabethan age. They are also delicious in lemonade.
  • Also known as “poor man’s saffron,” calendula’s flavor resembles saffron when sautéed in olive oil to release its flavor. The petals of marigolds, calendula’s cousin, have a more subtle and a slightly spicy taste.
  • Zucchini blooms. These bright yellow flowers have a slightly sweet taste. Combined with herbs and goat cheese, they are great on a pizza.
  • Both tart and sweet, the petals have a cranberry-like flavor that makes them perfect for tea or cocktails. Drop fresh buds in glasses of bubbly and watch them bloom before your eyes.
  • With a slightly perfume-like taste, the buds make good accents on cakes and in cocktails.
  • These pretty flowers have a slight peppery taste similar to watercress.
  • These and their cousins, Johnny-jump-Ups and violas, have a grassy or minty flavor and add flavor to herb-flavored fruit salads. For pretty hors d’oeurves, spread cream cheese on crackers and top with a pansy.
  • Although they have a strong floral scent, the flower is subtle and fruity which is good in teas, jams and desserts.
  • Sage flowers. These are both sweet and savory.
  • Sweet and floral, these add flavor to salads and iced drinks. They add a nice touch to frosted desserts.
  • With a slightly spicy to strongly pungent flavor, a little bit of these petals goes a long way in spicing up salads and stir fries.
  • These flowers go from sweet and floral to vegetal and slightly metallic which makes them a savored addition to Asian cuisine, salads and desserts.
  • These have a delicate flavor with a hint of chives.
  • All squash, broccoli, cauliflower and artichoke blossoms are edible as well as all culinary herb flowers.

Now, for the medicinal properties. The following flowers offer an array of health benefits:

  • Chives, signet marigolds, nasturtiums, portulaca and roses are rich in vitamin C.
  • Calendula and elderberry blooms aid digestion, reduce fever and stimulate the immune system.
  • California poppies, chamomile and lavender ease stress and are gentle sleep aids.
  • Goldenrod relieves allergens, urinary tract infections and aids digestion.
  • Hibiscus is an antioxidant, helps prevent cholesterol build up and aids in liver disorders.
  • Honeysuckle and hyssop flowers relieve respiratory problems and soothe the stomach and colon.
  • Nasturtiums have natural antibiotic properties.
  • Red clove blooms make an excellent blood purifier.
  • Violas and violets have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Yarrow helps relax blood vessels and reduce fever and colds.
  • Many common herb flowers like basil, borage, rosemary, dill, oregano and thyme have the same flavor and medicinal values as their leaves, although not as intense. All varieties of mint such as chocolate and apple calm the stomach and aid digestion.

There is also a bright note when it comes to plants that we usually perceive as weeds. Although we have been trained to only see certain plants as food, those that we usually classify as nuisances do have some surprising medicinal properties. Among them are:

  • Please eat the dandelion, seriously, every part is edible rather eaten raw or cooked. The flowers can be breaded and fried, the leaves are eaten as greens and the roots make a nice coffee substitute when dried and roasted. They can also be added to any recipe that uses root vegetables. A tea made from the roots serves as a diuretic.
  • This common weed has recently come into the limelight as a nutritional powerhouse. It has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable. Its peppery flavor adds zing to stir fries, salads, soups and stews.
  • Lambs quarters or goosefoot have long been eaten as greens.
  • This plant is used topically to soothe burns, stings, rashes and wounds. Its seeds are related to psyllium seeds and are natural laxatives.
  • This lends itself to topical poultices for minor cuts and scrapes. Made into a tea, it is a mild diuretic.
  • Mallow and chickweed. Seed pods can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Wild amaranth or pigweed. This plant is a good source of protein.

Plants give us so much good. We must only learn their individual properties to benefit from them and to know which ones are toxic like foxglove and sweet peas, among others.

There are some that just plain don’t taste good. I do believe that God did not give us any condition for which He did not give us the cure; we just need to find the key. Plants, both cultivated varieties and those that we traditionally think of as weeds, are part of that key.

Photo by Getty Images/ThitareeSarmkasat.

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