This may come as a surprise to some of you, but certain flowers can be consumed to reap their health benefits. That’s right, folks, you can stop to smell the roses and eat them too! Like plucking apples from apple trees, flowers can be taken from their stems, cleaned, and added to your salads, desserts, soups, teas, and more. Not only do they beautify your dishes with vibrant colors, but some flowers also have the potential to boost immune function, reduce blood pressure, and contribute to better sleep.
A Few Warnings
This may not need to be said, but we’re going to say it anyway: DO NOT PICK A RANDOM FLOWER AND JUST POP IT IN YOUR MOUTH. Not all flowers are edible, and some can negatively affect your body because they are dangerous to consume. Flowers you should avoid include potato flowers, sweet pea, and foxglove, to name a few. Make sure that you don’t pick roadside flowers because vehicle exhaust and other residues can collect on the petals. Fragrant flowers taste the best, but they can also have a more pungent flavor. Finally, avoid the white base of the petals because that area tends to have an off-putting taste.
Many flowers have a diverse mix of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and flavonoids, all of which you need for a healthier body. Most flowers offer a lot of vitamin C, which works to boost the immune system and fight off infections, while other flowers support heart function with the potassium and magnesium content. Because flowers are vividly colored, they have diverse phytonutrients and antioxidants, which help to encourage healthier cells by fighting off oxidative stress. For more benefits of edible flowers, read about six of them below.
This is a highly used flower in the culinary world because of the beautiful blossoms and unique peppery flavor profile. The leaves of the nasturtium flower are rich in vitamin C and contain a sulfur compound, which has historically been used for its antibacterial properties. Indigenous Peruvians used nasturtium in traditional medicinal practices to help reduce inflammation and replenish the body with vitamin C. Nasturtium flowers contain ten times more vitamin C than lettuce and offer small amounts of vitamin A.
There are over 200 varieties of honeysuckle in existence, but the most common ones are woodbine and Japanese honeysuckle. The fragrant blossoms have been applied to the skin in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help remedy inflammatory skin conditions. When it comes to the culinary world, honeysuckle is commonly brewed into a tea or made into syrups to naturally sweeten beverages. The flowers are safe to eat, but the berries can be toxic when consumed in excess.
Pansies are as pleasant to eat as they are to look at. The blue, purple, and yellow blossoms are quite dazzling and offer a floral flavor that can be refreshing. These blossoms are commonly added to desserts to enhance the presentation, but they can also be chopped up and added to salads for added color and texture. While they are visually stunning, most people fail to recognize the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
You may be shocked to discover that the vibrant blue borage blossom tastes similar to a cucumber. These flowers can be wonderful additions to salads, dips, sorbets, or tangy lemonades. Historically, people have used borage blossoms to help remedy sore throat or minor coughs. The essential fatty acids have been known to balance hormones and regulate metabolic rate, but more research needs to be done in this field.
Many people are familiar with hibiscus tea, which is a known vasodilator that has demonstrated anti-hypertensive effects. Several studies have shown that hibiscus tea helps to relax aortic rings by inhibiting calcium influx into vascular smooth muscle cells. This means that it has potential blood pressure-lowering properties. Hibiscus flowers come in deep red, white, yellow, orange, and various pinks. While sometimes used strictly for ornamental purposes, hibiscus blossoms offer unique flavor and make great additions to jams, salads, relishes, or teas.
This beautiful orange or yellow flower has a long history of being made into topical oils and salves to help remedy wounds and burns. One study, which involved cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, found that calendula ointment demonstrated superior properties to prescription products for reducing radiation burns. The University of Maryland Medical Center found that these flowers contain more lutein and zeaxanthin, two important flavonoids, than kale, spinach, or collard greens. Calendula flowers can actually be substituted for saffron in any recipes and they offer a unique flavor to a leafy green salad.