Annie and LJ are a fictional couple introduced to the readers of the Healthy Healing Eats blog in January 2020. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.
LJ walked into the study and handed Annie a big hydrangea flower. “I thought you might like to see how well the plant is doing.”
“Thanks, babes, it’s beautiful. I remember when hydrangea flowers decorated our wedding cake. Did you know their roots make a healthy tea?”
“Are we out of food? Why would we eat flowers?”
Annie laughed “We are not out of food. You know many fruits and veggies reach their best quality when they ripen on the plant, but for some, their blossoms are equally and, in some cases, more nutritious.”
“That makes sense; we eat broccoli and cauliflower, which are the flowers of the plants from the cabbage family. For thousands of years, pumpkin and squash blossoms have been a part of the diet of Native Americans, and the Ancient Romans used violets, lavender, and roses in their recipes.”
“LJ, what do you think about the idea of growing some edible flowers in our garden? I have read that edible flowers supply essential nutrients, many have medicinal properties, do not contain caffeine. and there’s ongoing research that shows as an additive in the food they provide additional vitamins such as A and C and the minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium (heart and muscle function) and iron, which can help prevent chronic disease.”
“Sounds interesting. What do you have in mind, and what are the drawbacks to growing edible flowers?”
“Well, you’re right about drawbacks because all flowers are not meant to be eaten such as flowers from the florist, or wholesale flower mart because of their likely contamination from pesticides. And, some flowers are not edible but are poisonous. Also, pollen can cause an allergic reaction in some people who experience hay fever or asthma, so the first step is to review a list of edible flowers, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_edible_flowers, and consult with our local nursery.
Recently I watched Xavier Brown https://soilfulcity.com/ talk about why we should buy heirloom seeds or plants because they are organic (pesticide-free) and breed true, meaning their characteristics, including nutritional value, get passed on from generation to generation. Heirlooms are also known for their better flavor and taste. And, heirlooms are less expensive over the long haul.”
A short while later, LJ came in from the backyard, “Annie It looks like we have room for about 8 to 10 plants. What are your top 10 choices?”
“Thanks, sweetheart. Ok, I would like to plant flowers that will do well in our plant hardiness zone. Let us plant:
Pansies — white or yellow because they have a higher protein content than blue or red. Pansies plant compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Chamomile — There is no high-quality clinical evidence that proves chamomile is useful in preventing insomnia, however, there is promising ongoing research to determine its anti-anxiety properties.
Marigolds — aka Calendula or pot marigold — one of the first cultivated flowers and the first time ellagic acid (removes toxins from your body) has been detected in edible flowers. Marigold oil is rich in carotenoids (an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A).
Violets — leaves and flowers are high in vitamin C, and A. Its leaves contain soluble fiber, helpful in lowering cholesterol levels. The roots of most violet species can cause nausea and vomiting and should not be eaten.
Nasturtium — Both the leaves and petals of the nasturtium are packed with nutrition, containing high levels of vitamin C. They have 10 times more vitamin C than lettuce. The leaves have antibiotic properties.
Chrysanthemums — are a rich source of choline (regulates memory, mood, and muscle). Chrysanthemums also contains potassium, manganese, calcium, vitamins A, B9 (folate — eye health), and B6. As a tea, it acts as a coolant helping to contain minor heat and skin rashes.
Lavender is known for its calming effect. It contains over 100 known compounds. The most well-known of these compounds is limonene, which stimulates digestive enzymes in the liver and may help to detoxify the body of carcinogens. Lavender’s oil on the skin helps fight off mosquitoes.
Rhododendrons — are loaded with numerous essential minerals such as manganese, iron, zinc, copper, and sodium. Sodium produced by plants is vital in maintaining the osmotic balance between cells and interstitial fluid. Historically, Rhododendrons have been used to treat diarrhea, inflammations, bacterial and fungal infections.
Roses — The pigment that makes roses red is rich in polyphenols, compounds that contain antioxidant properties, which may help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Rose hips — the round part of the flower just below the petals contain vitamin C. Rose petals have vitamin E.
Hibiscus — has anti-inflammatory properties that help lower high blood pressure and improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels in diabetics. Hibiscus tea appears to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The high level of manganese in hibiscus tea may interfere with the effectiveness of prescription medication, so a consultation with a physician is recommended before consuming.
That is my list, babes. There are other considerations worth noting before we embark on our edible flower garden.
- The flowers should be picked in the morning when they are at their peak of freshness.
- The pistils and stamen should be removed.
- Only use the petals for cooking.
- A nutrient-rich soil will improve the nutritional value of the flowers.
- The petals can be preserved in oil and/or vinegar.
LJ, we could become floriphagians; people who eat flowers for food. Another healthy healing eating habit, right?” “I’d rather stop and smell the roses than eat them.” Annie thoughtfully paused and…
Andrea Breaux is the Founder of Healthy Healing Eats. She writes about food-as-medicine and earth-friendly lifestyle practices. Find her weekly blog, recipes, and products at healthyhealingeats.com