Ever tasted a tulip or munched a marigold? Try these edible flowers to broaden your palate and discover the health benefits of blooms.
Think you've missed out? You've actually already eaten flowers—you just don't realize it. Broccoli and artichokes are buds of flowers, as are cloves. Saffron comes from part of a crocus flower.
"Flowers have been a big part of the plant-based diets of a number of different cultures," says Christopher Bale, a herbalist and horticulturist at the University of British Columbia's Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research. Yet until recently, flower eating was out of, er, flavour with North Americans.
That's changing, thanks in part to globalization—we've become more curious about the foods of other cultures—plus a demand for novelty in dishes and flavours. "There's also been a movement back to the land, toward whole foods," Bale points out.
Flowers appeal to our senses because they're fragrant, and the colourful petals are esthetically pleasing on a plate. In many dishes, flowers aren't the main ingredient but are added as an attractive edible garnish or used as a herb for seasoning.
"There are really interesting floral flavours that people haven't experienced," notes Bale.
"Nasturtium has an interesting peppery finish. Lavender is quite clean and refreshing." Other fine-tasting flowers include day lilies, chrysanthemums, roses and violets. Edible flowers can come from trees, like magnolia and cherry, and from plants we traditionally think of as vegetables, like peas and zucchinis. We can even eat weed flowers—bitter dandelion, sweet red clover and chickweed."
Next: The health benefits of blooms
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