Edible flowers both tasty and healthy

The increasing need of new nutraceutical food sparked the interest for edible flowers. Researchers at the University of Pisa carried out a series of tests to assess the anti-oxidant properties and anthocyaning content of twelve species of flowers.

(1) Ageratum houstonianum,(2) Antirrhinum majus,(3) Begonia semperflorens, (4) Borago officinalis, (5) Calendula officinalis, (6) Dianthus × barbatus, (7) Fuchsia hybrida, (8) Pelargonium peltatum, (9) Petunia × hybrida, (10) Tagetes erecta, (11) Tropaeolum majus, (12) Viola × wittrockiana.

The antioxidant power of flowers resulted significantly higher than that of common leafy vegetables. Except for the low levels analysed in startflowers (only 0.05 mmol FeSO4/100g), the antioxidant power ranged from 3.6 of calendulas to 70.4 of tagetes.  

Researchers explained that "it is due to their high anthocyanin content, at least for what concerns highly pigmented flowers (red or blue)."

For example, in the red Viola × wittrockiana, Dianthus x barbatus, Pelargonium peltatum varieties, a high anthocyanin content (12.4 - 13.3 - 12.5 mg Cyn-3-Glu eq./100 g respectively) was associated with a high antioxidant power. In fact, highly pigmented flowers have the best nutraceutical properties. 

In addition, a panel test was carried out to assess the palatability of the various flowers, which showed a high biodiversity of sensory profiles and therefore a greater appreciation for Trapaeolum majus, Ageratum houstonianum and Viola × wittrockiana.

Panel test results.

The researchers concluded that the overlap between nutraceutical and organoleptic aspects showed that things are looking good for a potential new market of foods that are both tasty and healthy!

Source: Stefano Benvenuti, Elisa Bortolotti, Rita Maggini, 'Antioxidant power, anthocyanin content and organoleptic performance of edible flowers', 2016, Scientia Horticulturae, Vol. 199, pagg. 170–177.

Stefano Benvenuti
Dipartimento di Agricoltura, Alimentazione e Ambiente dell'Università di Pisa
Email: stefano.benvenuti@unipi.it

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