October 14, 2011

Edible Flowers

First, I would like to say "Thank You" to our family and friends who have helped us during these past two weeks.  We have been very grateful for every meal, load of laundry and chore you have helped us with!!  We have been lucky enough to have every dinner for the past two weeks prepared and brought to us so that we could relax and spend time adoring our baby, and not have to worry about shopping, cooking and cleaning... it has really been a lifesaver.

The other night, my mother-in-law made a large pot of soup, and my friend Jennie made a salad... not just any salad, however... It was the most beautiful salad I think I have ever seen, all thanks to the edible flowers tossed in the mix.

I know that edible flowers aren't a new phenomenon, by any means... but it was the first time in a long time that I had seen and eaten them... and the first time that I had ever been able to enjoy them at home! The flowers she used in the salad, (which was made up of greens and goodies that she had grown herself), were begonias and nasturtium.  The begonias were my flower of choice, their lemony/citrus flavor added something bright and summery to the salad, whereas the nasturtium added more of a spicy/peppery flavor.

The flowers prompted me to do some research into edible flowers, and I learned quite a bit.  There are many different edible flowers out there, many of which I never even thought of as flowers.  For example; cauliflower, broccoli, chives, garlic, capers and artichokes- what I would consider normal vegetables, all qualify as edible blossoms.  So, I guess I've been dining on flowers more than I thought...  Other blossoms are a little less likely to show up at the grocery store- who knew you could eat pansies and chrysanthemums??

Other cultures have been using blossoms in food and in medicines for many years, while it seems like here in the United States, edible flowers are most typically used as garnish or in teas- chamomile being a common example.  Hibiscus tea, a little less common, was studied by the USDA in 2008.  The study found that volunteers who drank hibiscus tea while maintaining their usual diet and exercise level achieved a 7.2 point drop in their blood pressure.  While further research is needed, this study points to the fact that drinking hibiscus tea may help some people manage their hypertension!  Pretty exciting stuff.*

Even though I am perhaps the worst gardener ever, (I've even killed mint...), those begonias have me thinking of trying to grow some edible flowers next year, and experimenting with some new flavors.  We'll see.  I will definitely be seeking out menus that feature blossoms- I'm dying to try a stuffed zucchini blossom!!

A report on the USDA study can be found here.

*I am not offering this study as medical advice in any way.  This study merely interested me, and I thought it worth sharing.  Any type of medical treatments or regimens should be discussed between yourself and your doctor before beginning. 

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