Edible Flower's Health and Garden Benefits
The fresh expectation of Spring is a beautiful feeling, flowers coming out and the sun slowly starting to creep across the sky. Our lawn turns into a field of onion flowers; these lovely little flowers have a delicate onion flavour similar to chives. The whole plant can be eaten, including the bulb. Edible flowers in my spring garden fill me with inspiration for fresh salads covered in nasturtiums, borage and calendula flowers. My kids delight in picking edible flowers out of the garden for meal times, as do I.
As well as being totally beautiful and nutritious edible flowers play a really important part in the home garden for attracting bees and other beneficial insects, companion planting with edible flowers and herbs also helps to deter pests. Listed below are ways to use the most common varieties in the kitchen and natural medicine cabinet.
"Borage brings courage to the heart and drives away sadness"
Borage also known as star flower is great in salads or added to fresh rice rolls with its delicate cucumber taste makes it perfect to add into vegetable and fruit salads, or use to garnish soups or to decorate desserts. An excellent choice for freezing in ice cubes and floating on iced tea. Petals have a cucumber taste and the stamens add a hint of sweetness. The young leaves are also nice to use in salads, pesto etc but as they get larger can be a little spiky.
Medicinal and health benefits - High in Vitamins C and A as well as minerals including Iron, Calcium and Potassium. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid borage flowers, as more than eight to ten flowers can cause milk to flow (unless you are having trouble with flow, then they would be helpful). They can also have a diuretic effect, so should not be eaten in great quantity.
Garden notes - Loves to be planted with tomatoes, strawberries, cabbage and pumpkin.
Violet flowers can be added to fresh fruit or vegetable salads, smoothies, mocktails, sandwiches, cakes and desserts. Sugar brings out the flavour and they are perfect for crystallizing or sticking onto biscuits. Their fragrance and colour transfers into liquids and vinegar easily.
Medicinal and health benefits - Violets are widely used for treatment of coughs, bronchitis and catarrh in the form of infusions or as a syrup. Violets can also be used for bruises as either a strong infusion or poultice. A traditional natural therapy for cancer, especially after surgery to help prevent secondary tumours. Leaves can be used as a poultice on skin cancers in conjunction with taking them internally. The leaves of violets are high in flavonoids and vitamins which act as anti-oxidants to fight the free radicals in the body known to be cancer triggers. To ingest fresh leaves can be added to salads, but use the leaves in moderation.
Nasturtium leaves and flowers are great chopped up into salads for a peppery note similar to cress or wild rocket. They can be used as a parcel wrap in place of cabbage or vine leaves or added to a pesto or as a garnish to pretty much any dish. I often add a handful of chopped nasturtium leaves to my toast in the morning.
Medicinal and health benefits - They are high in Vitamin C and a natural antibiotic, immune boosting, antibacterial and anti-fungal. High in minerals and a tea made from nasturtium can be used as a skin toner, eating a couple of the leaves at the beginning of a cold can stop it in its tracks but avoid if pregnant.
Garden notes - Nasturtiums planted near broccoli will keep the aphids away and benefit radish and potatoes when planted with them. Nasturtium makes an excellent herb tea both for spraying and watering onto plants.
Calendula flowers come in a vibrant orange and this sunny yellow. You can sprinkle the pretty petals over salads and to top baked dishes or over pasta. They can also be dried and used as a natural dye to colour baking and icings, they also use them as a saffron 'cheat' for colouring rice dishes, custards and ice creams.
Medicinal and health benefits - They make a lovely tea which is beneficial for stomach disorders, liver issues and is an immune and lymphatic stimulant. The dried petals can also be used to infuse oil which a remarkable healer of skin, scars, cuts, bruises and bites. In fact, there are countless uses internally and externally for calendula.
Garden notes - They are a great garden tonic, nutrient accumulator and love to be companion planted with silverbeet, radish, carrots, tomatoes, thyme and parsley
Pansy's and Viola's
Pansy's and Viola's are so pretty to top sweet baking and desserts and brighten the garden as well as attracting, and feeding the bee's. Pansies larger flowers and leaves, are mild and fresh-tasting, they have a lettuce-like flavour and make a decorative addition to a green salad or garnish. Where as violas have a sweet flavour that I can't quite pin point. It's almost aniseed but reminds me of a cough syrup I used to have as a child. This sweetness makes them ideal to crystalise and used to decorate cakes, cookies or creamy desserts.
Medicinal and health benefits - Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties for the skin. Made into a tea or poultice they can help with a wide range of skin conditions including psoriasis, acne, eczema, itchy skin, impetigo and cradle cap. It is well known for treating respiratory conditions such as asthma, whooping could, and bronchitis. Also an anti-inflammatory it soothes irritations in the mucus membranes of the throat and loosens and eliminates phlegm and helps with rheumatism and arthritis. Regular consumption of pansy can also reduce blood pressure. The best way to treat such ailments is by gargling with pansy tea or a pansy infusion. You could also drink the tea made with dried pansy flowers and leaves steeped in hot water. Add honey or lemon juice to taste. It is also great for your hair, so boil the kettle or run yourself a bath and reap the benefits of this beautiful spring time flower.
Rosemary flowers are edible, delicious and make a beautiful garnish. Rosemary’s culinary uses are somewhat endless, my favourite ways to use rosemary are as a topping for focaccia, in roast vegetables or The Veggie Tree Roast, to flavour crackers, in a stew, casseroles, soups and gravy.
They have a beautiful strong rosemary flavour along with an impressive list of health benefits:
Great for hair growth
Improves oral health
Good for skin conditions
Improves cognitive function (helps the brain)
Boosts the immune system
Removes bad odour
Treats respiratory problems
Plus it is a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin b-6.
Garden notes - As for companion planting sage and rosemary are the best of friends and will flourish together as will beans, broccoli, cabbage and chilli.
Pink jasmine is going absolutely nuts at the moment and yes, it is ridiculously invasive, but the fragrance is beautiful and it makes a stunning table decoration and fills the house with its heady scent. You can eat the pink variety of jasmine flowers, they taste like they smell and can be used as a garnish, salad ingredient, infused in a tea. Ideal for pickling, preserving, tinctures and baking (sugar brings out the flavour). The flowers are intensely fragrant, naturally sweet and traditionally used for scenting tea and they also make a great water kefir flavouring.
Medicinal and health benefits - Uplifting natural remedy for anxiety, stress and insomnia. Digestive and gastrointestinal health. Aphrodisiac and libido enhancer also reproductive, menstrual and menopause symptoms.
Wild fennel grows wild on the road sides all over New Zealand and has a fresh aniseed flavour, and although the bulbs are small than Florence fennel they are still edible juicy and tender before they shoot up to flower. The seeds feature in many traditional cultural cuisines including India, the Middle East, England, Iran to China. Fennel seeds have a cooling effect on the body and are chokka with nutrients making them a must have in the kitchen. The most flavourful when green, the seeds can be gathered and dried easily. To harvest the pollen, shake harvested flower heads onto a sheet of baking paper or into a paper bag. Use the paper bag method for the seeds also. Add pollen and seeds to shortbread, biscotti, or top savoury dishes like pastas, soups and bakes or it would be a perfect garnish for my Ratatouille dish (please find in the recipe blog tags). Dried fennel seeds are used in many spice mixes and are delicious whole as well as ground. I like to use them whole in pakoras and slightly crushed in dukkah.
Medicinal and health benefits - A concentrated source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, zinc, manganese, vitamin C, iron, selenium and magnesium. It also regulates blood pressure, reduces asthma symptoms, helps with water retention, constipation, indigestion, IBS and bloating.
Last but not least we finally come to my favourite wild edible flower onion weed. Equally a pest and invasive weed to many as jasmine is. The super food allium family has many benefits to enjoy including being a prebiotic which provide food for friendly bacteria in the large intestine. They help with memory and Alzheimer’s due to the high levels of lutein and folate. Helps reduce blood cholesterol levels, stimulates the circulatory blood system and is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Plus it contains chlorophyll, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Its juicy stalks and pretty little white flowers are a perfect alternative to chives and spring onions with its delicate onion flavour. The entire plant is edible including the bulbs that can be harvested in late summer. Use the flowers to garnish salads, egg dishes, soups, dips, they pretty much make anything look impressive! You can enjoy them dipped in tempura batter or make them into batter fritters