"Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."—Hans Christian Andersen
Flowers. They are the earth’s purest model of natural beauty. They enhance our lives with color and splendor and remind us that life is continuously bursting forth anew. So the thought of eating them seems a little, well, unnatural. Edible flowers, however—which have been popular in China for thousands of years—are gaining popularity in the West.
A new study, published in the Journal of Food Science, has found that many edible flowers have a significant amount of phenolic compounds. These compounds are an essential part of the human diet, and they are considered valuable for their antioxidant properties—meaning they destroy dangerous free radicals before they can cause serious damage. Free radicals are atoms that have a single, unpaired electron (an odd number of electrons). Once formed, free radicals can start a chain reaction of chaos, including cancer.
The study findings reveal that edible flowers can be used to prevent chronic disease, promote health, and prevent food oxidation. Food oxidation is the breaking down of food when it is exposed to air. This causes the food to decay and lose nutritional value.
Edible flowers can be used as one of the main ingredients in a meal or simply placed on top as a beautiful garnish. Some of the tastiest edible flowers are the blossoms of herbs that we already eat, such as arugula, dill, and mint. Most edible flowers are extremely delicate and don’t preserve well, so it is best to eat them just after they are picked.
Some of the more popular edible flowers include the following: jasmine, dandelion, marigold, hibiscus, chamomile, basil, squash blossom, dill, and arugula. Some edible flowers can also be turned into delicious, health-promoting teas.
Do your research—be cautious as some flowers are poisonous, of course. Find one or two that appeal to you, and then grow them yourself! You can find lists of flower flavors online—they can be bitter, minty, sweet, nutty, tangy or even spicy. Grow a garden and be creative. Then surprise your guests with a tasty, flowery meal!