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This Valentine’s day: Have your roses and eat them too

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Valentine’s day is filled with the smell of roses and the taste of chocolate. But what about the smell of roses and the taste of … roses?

If your date plays it cheap today and says your roses are to smell and eat, you wouldn’t be the first one to eat a flower. A number of flowers are edible, and they’ve been used in cooking for many years, especially in Roman, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine.

Some flowers are included in recipes for their flavor or aroma, while others simply make pretty decorations. Researchers in the Czech Republic even suggest that edible flowers could be good for your health. Several species they tested contained the same amount of phenols —  chemicals touted for their antioxidant properties ­­— as fruits such as plums and blueberries.

Several well-known flowers that can be eaten include chrysanthemums, daylilies, roses, pansies, tulips and violets, according to specialists from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Culinary uses for these popular flowers range from salads to sauces.

Daylilies and violets both have a sweet flavor, making the flowers perfect as a floating decoration for punch, according to extension horticulturists from Iowa State University. Pale yellow and orange daylily blooms can be used in salads or paired with soft cheeses as an appetizer. Violet petals are good additions to fruit salads or to add a bit of color to butter. Roses have more of a “perfumed” taste but are good in salads or jelly.

Even if you’ve never cooked with flowers, you might eaten one without knowing it.

For example, the taste of chamomile tea comes from the sweet, apple-like Matricaria recutita flower, which looks similar to a daisy. In addition, the sweet and sour soup at your favorite Chinese eatery likely contains dry daylily buds.

Edible flowers can also be found on the same plants that provide commonly-used vegetables and herbs. For example, broccoli has edible yellow blooms. The herb basil has white or pale pink flowers, which taste milder than the leaves, according experts from Colorado State University Extension.

For the best-tasting flowers, specialists suggest picking them early in the day. The anthers and pistils in the middle of the flower are bitter, so experts also say to remove them along with the stems. Then, the flowers can be rinsed and refrigerated until ready for a recipe.

Nevertheless, think twice before taking a bite out of any roses you receive today.

Flowers used in food should be grown without pesticides, which means flowers from the local florist are likely a no-go. Some poisonous flowers can be confused with edible varieties, so it’s wise to be cautious before chowing down. Experts also suggest adding flowers into the diet slowly, in case of allergic reaction.

If you’re ready to combine flowers and food on this holiday, check out this rose cake recipe by Ali Ebright of the blog “Gimme Some Oven.” Not only is the white cake flavored with rose water, it’s also covered in edible rose petals. So have your roses, and eat them too.

Julianne Wyrick About the Author: Julianne Wyrick has a bachelor’s in biochemistry and is currently a master’s student in the health and medical journalism program at the University of Georgia, where she also writes about science for the Office of Research Communications. Find her on the web at juliannewyrick.com. Follow on Twitter @juliannewyrick.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






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