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Edible petals pack a punch

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Kiwis across the country are preparing to embrace their colourful side as National Gardening Week returns this month - and this year’s spotlight is on flower power.

Horticulturist and flower expert, Kate Hillier says edible flowers are becoming more popular, not just as a garnish in restaurants but as a valuable addition to our diet.

"Flowers are not just decorative. People seeking a healthy diet are turning to petal power for important nutrients," says Kate.

"Daily consumption of edible flowers could be considered along with the 5+ A Day as they can provide valuable nutrients. We know that flowers have been used across many cultures for centuries to treat disease and restore health. It is great to see their value once again being recognized."

A recent study [1] of two popular edible flowers - borage and centaurea - carried out by researchers from the Portuguese Polytechnic Institute of Braganca found them to be a source of healthy fatty-acids, carotenoids and Vitamin E.

This National Gardening Week the call is out to spread some flower power and flower-bomb your garden or a patch in your neighbourhood that needs a splash of colour.

To get you started with flower-bombing your patch, Yates is lending a helping hand. Just register online at https://www.yates.co.nz/nationalgardening/ between 1st and 14th October to receive a free packet of seeds from Yates flower range including flowers for colour and helping to stay healthy, flowers for the bees and butterflies and flowers that are perfect for picking.

Top 10 edible flowers for health

Hibiscus - The flower can be eaten straight from the plant, but many cultures drink it as tea for its medicinal properties. Hibiscus tea is rich in powerful antioxidants thought to slow the harmful activity of ‘free radicals’ which are responsible for a major part of the ageing process, as well as the beginnings of health problems. The flower can also be used in relishes, jam or salads.

Dandelion - all parts of this highly nutritious plant can be used - the flower, roots, stem and leaves. The flowers can be eaten raw in salads or made into jelly or wine. The roots can be steeped for tea or dried for coffee. The stems and leaves can be used in salads or stews. Dandelion is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins as well as iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Lavender can be used in baked goods, infused syrups, liqueurs, herbal teas, dry spice rubs and herb mixtures. Lavender is known for its calming effects. When steeped as tea, lavender blossoms may have a relaxing effect and help alleviate stress. Adding the fresh blossoms to your bathwater can help relax and ease tired muscles.

Nasturtium - the flower and leaves - is a popular addition to salads with its slightly peppery flavour, similar to watercress. They can also be blended into pesto, taken as a tea and these flowers make beautiful garnishes for cakes. The bright orange, red and yellow flowers contain iron and Vitamin C. The leaves or petals can be ground up to make a paste which may help with treating minor cuts and scrapes and some skin irritations.

Borage is used in herbal medicine to treat minor ailments, such as sore throat or cough. It contains vitamins C and A, calcium, iron, magnesium and B complex vitamins thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. The blue, delicate, star-shaped flowers, which are loved by bees, are cooked and eaten like spinach and borage seeds are used to make oil which contains essential fatty acids.

Roses - all varieties of rose petals are edible but the most fragrant are likely to have the best flavour - a very aromatic, floral and slightly sweet flavour. They can be eaten raw, mixed into salads, made into beverages, jams and jellies or dried and added to muesli or mixed herbs.

Some research suggests that certain compounds in roses may play a role in reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.

Pansy - Typically, pansies have a mild, fresh and lightly floral flavor and with the huge variety of colours, they make an excellent decorative addition to salads, desserts and cakes. Aside from being a wonderful pop of colour, pansies are a rich source of several potent plant compounds known to have antioxidant andanti microbial properties.

Marigold/Calendula - the petals have a slight sweet buttery taste with a hint of pepper. Ideal in sandwiches or asparagus rolls. Calendula is used to make herbal ointments, teas, tinctures and topical treatments that have been in existence for almost 1,000 years. Calendula contains a high amount of flavonoids and antioxidants that slow cell damage caused by free radicals. With its antiseptic properties, calendula can assist with wounds and skin inflammation.

Chrysanthemums: Tangy and slightly bitter - they can taste like mildly peppery cauliflower. Most commonly consumed as tea (which is naturally caffeine free). Petals can be used in salads or to flavor vinegars. Chrysanthemum has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese medicine to soothe respiratory problems

Carnations: Can be used in candy, wine, or as cake decorations. The petals are sweet. These petals are one of the secret ingredients used to make Chartreuse (a French Liquor). In ancient China, carnation flower tea was widely used to help the body to relax and restore energy. The oil is also used in soothing skin balms.

Only eat the petals of an edible flower unless you have verified the rest of the plant is safe to eat. Make sure the flowers are washed before eating.

About National Gardening Week

National Gardening Week aims to foster a love of gardening with a focus on growing not only plants but friendships, good health, strong communities and closer connections with nature. Whether it’s a few pots on the balcony, a small patch or an extensive garden, everyone can experience the joy of gardening.

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