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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Edible flowers: the funky

Our exploration of edible flowers is about to get weird, folks.

From left: cornflower, red clover top, and calendula.

Today we'll learn about a few lesser-known varieties of budding plants: calendula, chrysanthemum, cornflower, and red clover tops.

Sharp calendula

First, calendula: These bright yellow strands have a sharp, almost bitter taste often compared to saffron. Native to Southern Europe, calendula has long been widely used in Western herbal medicine to detoxify the body and in skin-care regimens. Actually, its list of uses is quite long: anti-inflammatory, relieves muscle spasms, helps with digestive issues, antiseptic, helps reduce menstrual pain, is useful in many skin irritations from acne to athlete's foot...you get the idea. Pick some up today, and try mixing up a curing potion for yourself.

Next, chrysanthemum: Native to China, these flat, mellow buds are widely used in Chinese herbal medicine. With a mild, honey-like flavor, chrysanthemum makes a tasty hot or cold tea, and is often taken for its cooling properties. Studies have also shown that the flowers are useful in treating high blood pressure.

Cheery cornflower

On to the brighter flowers! Cornflowers, native to the Near East, are bright blue flowers that were long thought to be good for eye-sight (jury is still out on that one) and also used as a bitter tonic and liver cleanser. We add it to teas for its bright blue punch and mild flavor, but the pretty hue is a welcome addition in any number of foods (I'm thinking cakes and frostings, in particular).

Red clover, red clover, send flowers right over!

And finally, red clover tops. Native to Europe and Asia, red clover tops have long been used to treat breast cancer and menopausal symptoms, but current research is not conclusive in its effectiveness. In tea, red clovers add a bright, floral flavor without overwhelming.

(Source: Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier)

This post is part of our series on Edible Flowers. For others in the series check out:
Edible flowers: The Basics
Edible flowers: The Funky
Hibiscus Jasmine Cooler

Kara Elder grew up playing in the kitchen cupboards and reading cookbooks for fun while watching her mom cook tasty Mexican meals. After graduating with a degree in Russian, she found herself increasingly interested in reading food blogs and planning menus. Kara has worked for Bazaar Spices since 2014 and also keeps busy working a few other food-related jobs. You'll most likely find her haunting the aisles of various grocery stores and farmers markets in search of inspiration.

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