CAN: Growing and eating edible flowers: 'One of the hottest trends making a comeback'

One of the hottest trends making a comeback is the growing and eating of edible flowers. From savoury to sweet, baking to beverages, floral foods and essences are once again popular in the kitchen. After having fallen out of favour in the 1920s, edible flowers are experiencing a revival with upscale restaurants adding them to their culinary creations and modern pastry chefs showcasing them on cakes and pastries.

Flower cookery, as it was coined by the British, dates its first recorded history to 140 BC. Popular in Roman times it can also be seen in Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures. During the Renaissance, people enjoyed using rose-petal water, eating stewed Primroses and using Gillyflower fondant on cakes. Carnation petals were a key ingredient in the liqueur Chartreuse made by French monks in the 1600s and it was Monks who renamed Calendula as Pot Marigold due to their popular use in soup pots. In China and Japan Chrysanthemum petals were stirred into soup or tea and while daylilies buds were eaten daily and dried as a special out-of-season treat. And American colonists made jellies from flowers to brighten the difficult days of winter.

Herbalists worldwide have known for centuries the health benefits of herbs and flowers and developed the art of preparing infusions from flower blossoms to heal the body and mind. Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer and naturalist reported borage as a remedy for melancholy and recommended its use for increasing man’s courage with Celtic warriors drinking a glass or two of borage wine before engaging in battle. Floral drinks such as cordials, wines, liqueurs and brandy were given as health-giving drinks for their medicinal properties. Ancient Romans used Calendula to treat scorpion bites while soldiers in the Civil War used Calendula to help stop wounds from bleeding.

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