Perfumed and velvety, and boasting vibrant hues of orange, red, violet, pink and yellow; flowers are a treat to the senses. But they do much more than merely uplift the spirits. Plucked fresh and blended in recipes, flowers as ingredients transform the texture, flavour, taste and appearance of cuisines.
For millennia, the Chinese and the Japanese liberally plucked chrysanthemum petals and stirred them into oriental soups to enhance the taste. The Victorians candied violets with crystallised sugar and used it to decorate desserts like cakes, while French monks blended carnation petals into an exotic liquor called chartreuse. The sweet-smelling rose was sumptuously used by the Indians and Persians to create an array of delights which stretched from a sugary rose petal jam called gulkand to chilled rose drinks called sherbet.
Today, with the quest for wellness on the rise, chefs, food connoisseurs, vegans and those on gluten-free diets scout for ‘floral recipes’, keeping an eye on the multiple health benefits that they bring.
Rich in carotenoids for healthy eyes and skin, nasturtium also carries cancer fighting agents like lutein, and natural antibiotics. The bright orange, red, and yellow flowers exude a sweet and peppery flavour. Amongst the various recipes, nasturtium petals, when mixed and blended with feta cheese, pine nuts, garlic pods and olive oil can turn into a creamy chutney.
It packs an antioxidant punch. Known for its tart, cranberry like flavour, hibiscus boosts liver health, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, controls weight, and promotes hair growth. For a quick repast, the bright red petals of hibiscus can be combined with tomatoes, beets, carrots and spices, and pureed to a delightful soup.
Brimming with vitamin A, calcium and traces of iron, lavender works to enhance skin radiance. The perfumed lavender blossoms have a sweet and spicy flavour profile and are liberally used in teas and essential oils. The dried lavender flowers, when combined with cream, chocolate, vanilla extract, butter and sugar can turn into a rich lavender fudge!
Borage blossoms taste like cucumber and contain vitamin A, B and C; as also calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The blue petals can be added to cocktails and lemonades, blended with fruits and cheese for salads, and pureed with herbs and vegetables into soups.
Used extensively in homeopathic medicine, calendula enhances immunity, is heralded as an antiseptic, and is used to treat ulcers, cramps and inflammation. The vibrant golden hued calendula emits a tangy and peppery flavour. The petals can be added to pasta, pizzas, salads and cakes to bring out the flavours and benefits.
It indeed does some good to have flowers on the plate!