This is a *living blog* and I will be adding to it regularly. If I have already written a blog about a particular flower, I will link it in the table. Joyous eating, April!
When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.
Flowers hold a special place in my heart. I grew up on my grandparent’s farm among vegetable gardens, vineyards, berry patches, orchards and flower gardens. Something was always growing and blooming. It was common to see my grandfather snacking on violets or snatching and eating dandelions from a wreath I was braiding. Now it is hard for me to walk through the North End and not notice all the lovely blooming flowers, their shape, color, fragrance and their energetics automatically flow through my mind. I plant my gardens and pots both for pleasure, the bees and my palate.
Before we dive into a bowl of blossoms, let’s talk about the energetics of flowers. Like any food or drink that we ingest, flowers will have an energetic impact on the body. Asian medicine practitioners categorize this post metabolic function in the following ways.
Temperature – does the food heat or cool the body, or is it neutral in temperature?
Direction – does it move the energy up, down, in or out?
Organ influenced – which channel and organ system does the food directly influence?
Functions – does it drain damp, clear heat, moisten dryness, nourish Yin, strengthen Yang?
Flavor – is the food sweet, sour, pungent, bitter or salty? Each flavor has its own energetic nature and influence. We can look at plant’s energetics by the part of the plant and the temperature and direction each plant has by nature. For example: roots anchor and ground and create warmth and correspond to the deep center of the body, stalks and stems circulate the Qi and correspond to the limbs.
There’s more but this is a good start when learning food energetics.
The general energetics of flowers
Overall, our lovely flowers move the Qi upward and affect the head and open the orifices. They influence the Heart and the Shen (spirit). Of course they do – flowers bring us joy and make us happy. From there each flower will have very similar taste and temperature to the plant it belongs to. For example squash blossoms taste very similar to the squash plant, just lighter and more fragrant.
Although we tend to use flowers in oils, soaps and cosmetics, many regional cultures use flowers regularly in their diets. Consider trying flowers in teas, vinegars, oils, marinades, added to cheese, sauces or used as garnishes.
|Flower||Flavor & Energetics||Uses|
|America elderberry (Sambucus canadenis)||Very strong immune stimulant to fight against “infirmities.” Elderberry has been used for centuries as a food, tonic and medicine. Check out my blog on the use of its berries for colds and flu.||Classically made into wine, vinegars and syrups for the winter months. Blossoms can be pickled in salt or dried.|
|Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)||Licorice like. Opens the Lungs, Heart and chest. Use for asthma, heart problems and immunity. Avoid if you have high blood pressure.||Desserts and teas.|
|Apple blossom (Malus)||Sweet and floral. Apple itself enters Stomach, Spleen and Heart, so I imagine apple blossom has similar properties.||Add to tea, berry desserts, honey and summer wines.|
|Arugula (Eruca satvia)||Spicy, slightly sweet and warming. Has a peppery, nut like flavor.||Add to salads or grain salad dishes.|
|Basil (Ocimum basilicum)||Spicy, sweet and bitter. Astringes and restores. Useful in Lung and Qi deficiencies.||Add to cucumber and tomato salads or serve with the leaves in pesto and sauces.|
|Bergamot (Monarda didyma)||Bold orange flavor, however, this is not the plant that is used to flavor Earl Grey – that’s Bergamot orange. Strong tea and citrus flavor.||Use in jams, jellies, over summer fruits.|
|Borage (Borago officinalis)||Cucumber like flavor. Borage has been used throughout history to increase courage and boldness.||Salad and dressings, pickles, iced beverages, blends with mint and dill well. Add to herbed dips.|
|Calendula & Marigold (Calendula officinalis)||Bitter, salty, sweet and spicy. Stimulates, tonifies Heart Qi, clears toxins, reduces inflammation, promotes bile flow, moves blood, regulates menses, removes infection.||Add to salads or try it in marigold muffins, or on a saute of summer vegetables.|
|Caraway (Carum Carvi)||The famous flavoring for rye bread. Pungent, warming and aids digestion.||Add to soups, salads and stews. Pairs well with beef, cheese and savory flavors.|
|Chamomile (Chamemelum nobile)||Light apple and fruity flavor. Calming, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory. Eases cramps, spasm and indigestion. Chamomile’s gentle nature works well with young and old.||Lovely in teas.|
|Chervil (Anthriscus cerfolium)||Warming, increases yang and Qi. Subtle and delicate mix of parsley and anise.||Add to steamed or scrambled eggs, serve on fish.|
|Chicory (Cichorium intybus)||Warm, spicy and pungent. Chicory root often appears roasted in coffee substitutes that are beautiful for Liver nourishing and cleansing.||Gorgeous delicate blue flowers that close at mid-day. Add to salads.|
|Chive (Allium schoenoprasum)||Warm, pungent, astringing and draining. It has a light garlicky flavor and can be used as gentler substitute for garlic for those who can’t handle garlic’s intense nature.||Add to salads, garnish grilled meats and vegetables and pea soup!|
|Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coranarium)||Bitter, pungent, clears the orifices of head – that means it clears the sinuses, the eyes, ears and throat. Have a headache? Consider chrysanthemum.||Use as a garnish on sweet and light dishes. It’s flavor isn’t the greatest.|
|Citrus blossoms (Citrus lemon or orange)||Light, citrus flavor. Sweet and sour. Moves qi, drains dampness, stimulates the Liver and lifts spirits.||Use in teas, wines , sauces , jams and jellies. Pairs well with vegetables, chicken and fish.|
|Cornflower (Centauria cyanus)||Bachelor’s buttons. Sweet and spicy, they actually taste a little of cloves||Sweet dishes.|
|Coriander (Coriander sativum)||Spicy, warming, moves qi, blood and builds yang.||Add to salsa and use in Middle Eastern and Mexican dishes.|
|Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)||Sweet, spicy and earthy. Have a faint mushroom like flavor. Drains excess fluids and heat from Bladder and Kidney. Strong Liver stimulant.||Use in wine, teas, or make into fritters.|
|Daylily (Hemerocallis spp.)||Sweet, light and crisp. Reminiscent of lettuce to floral. They vary greatly depending on the soil.||Dried blossoms are added to Asian soups, rice, and stir fry. Add fresh blossoms to pasta , or serve as fritters or tempura.|
|Dianthus (Dianthus spp.)||Strong floral flavor.||Add to salads, or garnish cakes and desserts.|
|Dill (Anthum graveolens)||Sour, spicy, salty and slightly sweet. Stimulates digestion and settles the stomach. Useful for colicky babies.||Wonderful in savory foods. Eggs, potatoes, dips, roots and squash, fish, soups, stews|
|English Daisy (Bellis perennis)||Spicy, peppery and tangy. Reminds me of arugula.||Salads, garnish for grilled foods or add to grain dishes.|
|Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)||Sweet and spicy. Tastes like licorice, nourishes Kidney yang, warming. Aids in digestion, relaxes and relieves spasms.||Middle Eastern dishes, stew, lentils, and grains. Also great in desserts. Gorgeous in potato salad with artichokes.|
|Forsythia (Forsythia Japanica)||There are a dozen or so species of forsythia and their berries are used in many herbal formulas to help relieve lung congestion and bronchial conditions. Sweet, spicy and slightly bitter, they taste a little like bright bright lettuce leaves.||Use in salads or toss on teas.|
|Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)||Light, sweet and very strong floral scent and flavor.||Teas, sweet wines and desserts.|
|Gladiolus (Gladdiolus sppl)||Light, like leaf lettuce. Use quickly as they will wilt quickly after they are removed from their stock.||Very delicate texture, use in fresh vegetable dishes.|
|Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)||Sweet and light. Make cute little fritters for Easter.||Garnish for desserts.|
|Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)||Fruity; nourishes Yin and fluids, treats excess heat conditions. I use it regularly in the warmer months to fight off heat exhaustion and agitation caused by heat in the Heart.||Gorgeous in teas and light desserts like berries.|
|Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)||Bland. Pretty boring really.||Blech..|
|Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)||Honeysuckle berries are poisonous. The flowers have a sweet, floral flavor and open the sinuses and help relieve infection in the eyes and nose.||Salads, grain dishes or light pastas.|
|Jasmine (Jasminum sambac)||Very sweet, delicate and floral.||Wines, waters, syrups and desserts.|
|Lavender (Lavendula spp.)||Floral, sweet, slightly spicy. Lavender is a nervine an relaxes smooth muscles. Use to treat anxiety, and relieve pain. It’s a regulatory herb and can be used with excess or deficiency patterns.||Wines, teas, syrups and dessert. Check out the Berries in Lavender.|
|Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla)||Sweet and sour. Stimulates and soothes the Liver, aids digestion. Calms the nerves. The English use it as a mild sedative similar to a weak form of of valium.||Tea and sweet desserts.|
|Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)||Sweet, very floral and lightly lemony flavor||Gorgeous crystalized and on cake or added to teas and wines.|
|Lovage (Levisticum officinale)||Used for Stomach and headaches and to improve Kidney functioning.||Lovage loves roots, chicken and stuffings and creamy soups.|
|Marjoram (Origanum marjora)||Warming, savory and spicy. Moves Qi and blood, stimulates Yang and builds strength.||Salads, roasts, stews, marinades and dressings. use with all meats, vegetables and savory foods.|
|Mint (Mentha species)
Catnip, peppermint, spearmint, etc.
|All mints aid the Liver. Sweet, spicy and usually in the cool category, the move Qi and blood, aid digestion and lift the spirit.||Use in teas, jams, jellies, desserts and to accompany strong savory flavors like lamb.|
|Mustard (Brassica spp)||Very spicy and warm. Waring and stimulating. Use with caution as some people may break out with rashes.||Garnish savory dishes and meats.|
|Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)||Peppery, bright and spicy flavor.||Try filling blossoms with guacamole and serving on slices of jicama|
|Pea blossoms (Pisum ssp)||These are from the edible pea varieties. Flowering peas are poisonous. Taste pretty much just like peas. Sweet and very yin nourishing.||Add to salads and grain pilafs.|
|Plum blossoms (Prunus mume)||Sour and sweet. Stimulates digestion.||Use in vinegars, wines and teas.|
|Radish (Raphanus sativus)||Spicy, clearing and decongesting. Useful for aiding in digestion and clearing out phlegm.||Use in salads, with roots, squash and soups.|
|Red clover (Trifolium paratense)||Tastes like clover. Maybe useful in asthma and hot flashes. Blood thinner and cleanser. Used in cancer treatments.||Made into teas, infusions and tinctures.|
|Rose (Rosa rugosa)||Sweet and very floral. Clears congestion around the Heart and in the chest. Helps regulate the heart rate . The stronger the fragrance the stronger the flavor. Remove the white tip of the petals that are bitter.||Teas, wines, syrups, and sweet meals. Make into sweet, savory marinades and sauces.|
|Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)||Spicy, sweet and savory. Has a pine-like flavor. Aids digestion, clears phlegm and mucus.||Mediterranean dishes, wines, marinades, vinegars, oils. What isn’t lovely with rosemary?|
|Runner beans (Phaseolus coccineous)||Sweet, bean and nectar flavor.||Great on salads.|
|Sage (Salvia officinalis)||Earthy and musty flavor. Taste like the variety of sage that it comes from. Eat only in small amounts.||Garnish for savory or Mediterranean style dishes.|
|Scented geranium (Pelargonium spp)||Avoid citronella variety. Variety flavors vary from mint to lemon.||Garnish desserts and teas.|
|Squash blossoms (Cucurbita pepo–zuccini blossoms)||Sweet like nectar.||Add to light soups just before serving. Fritter or add to grains and pastas|
|Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum)||Sweet and very delicate||Delish on fresh berries and cream.|
|Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)||Sweet, lemony and slightly pine-like. Warming, stimulating and relaxing. Read more about thyme here.||Mediterranean dishes, savory foods, meats, fishes, marinades, oils.|
|Violet (Viola)||Light, sweet and nectar like. Enters the Heart and regulates blood. Read more here.||Desserts and wines., oiles and waters.|
|Yucca||Petals only edible. Bright, fresh flavor.||Try them braised with vegetables.|