“All the flowers would have very extra special powers” This is a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Flowers have been a symbol of peace and love throughout the ages. From the “Flower Power” movement of the 1960’s, when activist and young pacifist Jane Rose Kasmir was photographed planting a flower on the bayonets of guards at the Pentagon during a protest against the Vietnam War on October 21, 1967. A Moment in time that would go on in American culture and heritage to reflect a moment of peace in a time of war, symbolizing a new type of passive resistance, coined by Ginsberg’s 1965 essay titled How to Make a March/Spectacle. During the late 1800’s a woman rejecting a suitor might send him yellow roses. During world war one a man leaving for a battle overseas might give his girlfriend forget-me-nots. Most people remember that red roses mean “I love you,” but floriography itself has been largely forgotten, a Victorian practice where particular types of flowers meant different things.
In some cases flowers may have a more grim representation such as calla lilies at a funeral. Recently evidence of flowers dating back to the prehistoric period have been discovered through ‘Flower Fossils’. Archaeologists uncovered skeletons of a man, two women and an infant buried together in soil containing pollen of flowers in a cave in Iraq. This association of flowers with the cave dwelling Neanderthals of the Pleistocene epoch is indicative of the role of flowers in burial rituals. Analysis of the sediment pollen concentrated in batches, implied that possible bunches of flowers had been placed on the grave. Closer examination of the flower pollen enabled scientists to identify many flowers that were present, all of which had some therapeutic properties.
That’s right, before we had the local drugstore pharmacy with it’s many colorful cough syrups to aid our aliments we relied on flowers. Flowers like calendula for aches and pains or hyssop for a sore throat. Today you might be able to find Ecanechia at your local pharmacy. Although most of the immunity boosting qualities of this flower comes form it’s roots, it is a healing flower all the same. For the most part healing flowers are a thing of the past. That is of course if you are excluding one of today’s most controversial flowers, the cannabis or marijuana flower. This highly debated flower is said to aid in a number of ailments such as chronic pain, depression and stomach upset, just to name a few. Although some states have legalized cannabis for medical use, it’s distributors and the patients that have come to rely on it’s healing properties are under the constant scrutiny of not only our federal government but the state elected officials whom continue to argue the validity of this flowers power.
Some flowers are just plan good to eat. Take the Squash flower. This bright and brilliant flower carries a buttery flavor of summer. Simply saute lightly and sprinkle a little salt and there you have it. A delicious snack that’s also beautiful. And you you have never had dried blueberries and dark chocolate with fresh and fragrant lavender, then you just don’t know what you’re missing. Dandelions which are commonly referred to as weeds are sweetest with a honey like flavor when they are picked young. Next time you make a salad or rice pilaf try adding some dandelion flowers and greens.
Creating an eye catching edible flower garden is rewarding to all the senses. Flowers as an edible addition, bring lively flavors, colors, and textures to salads, soups, casseroles, and other dishes. Eating flowers is not as exotic as it may sound. The use of flowers as food dates back to the Stone Age with archaeological evidence that early man ate such flowers as roses. You may not want to eat flowers if you have asthma, allergies, or hay fever. You’ll want to be sure to only eat flowers that have been grown organically so they have no pesticide residue. I find that it is best to collect flowers in the cooler part of the day like in the early morning after the dew has evaporated, or late afternoon. Some common edible, annual flowers that are easy to grow as well as tasty, include a number of herbs and vegetables that have edible flowers in addition to other edible parts. Calendula/pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) comes in yellow, gold, or orange flowers with a tangy, peppery taste. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) has flowers in shades of white to red, with a watercress and peppery flavor. These flowers are also used for their ability to help protect other plants in your garden from pests. Tuberous begonias (Begonia x tuberhybrida) have white, pink, yellow, red, orange or multicolor flowers with a citrus flavor. Radish (Raphanus sativus) has yellow, spicy-hot flowers very similar to the yellow flowers of bolted mustard greens. If you love the bitterness of arugula then I suggest you try the flowers that pop out at the end of the growing season. These white and brown flowers are a beautiful addition to salads. one of my favorite uses is sprinkled with fresh parsley over roasted mushrooms. Flowers of perennials and herbs offer a broad range of flavors too. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) have white, lavender, or purple flowers with a strong onion flavor perfect for floating on soups. Red clover (Trifolium pretense) has sweet-tasting, pink or red flowers.
Violets (Viola odorata) have violet, pink, and white flowers with a sweet to slightly sour flavor which in my opinion makes them a perfect candidate for candying. Here’s how:
In a bowl, beat two egg whites with a wire whisk just until frothy. Place sugar in another bowl. Taking one violet at a time, pick it up by the stem and dip into egg whites, covering all surfaces. Gently dip into the sugar, again being sure all of the petals, top and bottom, are covered. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; snip off stems. Using a toothpick, open petals to original shape. Sprinkle sugar on any uncoated areas. Dry in a 200° oven for 30-40 minutes or until sugar crystallizes. Gently remove violets to wire racks with a spatula. I like to use an ultra thin fish spatula for this. Sprinkle again with sugar if violets appear syrupy. Cool. Store in airtight containers with waxed paper between layers.
Even trees and shrubs produce edible flowers. In the spring as weather starts to get warmer I love to open my bedroom window and fill my room with the sweet smell of orange blossoms. This citrus honey smell can be captured by throwing some fresh flower buds in a jar of sugar. The longer the flowers sit in the sugar the better flavor you will get. Apple trees have these cute little white and/or pink flowers with a floral to slightly sour taste. While plum trees have somewhat similar pink to white flowers but with a mild flavor, like flower nectar. A personal favorite of mine is Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) which features white, yellow, pink, or red flowers with a honey-like flavor. I have only ever seen them red. When I was younger we lived in Arizona for a time. This is where I first discovered these sweet treats. Although I generally wasn’t allowed sweets, these little hidden ruby treasures were a sweet secret worth keeping.