Flowers are more than pretty petals. Edible flowers have been used in cooking for centuries around the world – not just for texture and color but also for their nutritive value. In India, we have been bringing in the garden in many of our traditional dishes to make them palatable, presentable and packed with health benefits. Here’s a look at the flowers used in Indian cooking and also their healing properties.
Gulkand or rose petal jam is a powerful antioxidant and coolant. In Ayurveda, it is used to bring down burning sensation in the stomach due to high acidity. It is a tonic for treating ulcers and intestinal swelling. This is due to the high phenolic content which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. The cooling effect also makes roses the perfect pick for summer. Have one tablespoon of gulkand before stepping outdoors to prevent heatstroke and nosebleeds. It can also control excessive sweating and keep your body smelling fresh.
Rosewater is used to add a fresh flavor to everything from biryani to sweetmeats. It is loaded with vitamins that nourish the skin, digestive tract and uterine system in women. The soothing aroma of roses is used to calm the nervous system and thus, helps in reducing stress. Candied rose petals can be used for decorating cakes and sweetmeats. Rose petal tea is very effective in cleansing the gall bladder and liver, and it helps improve bile secretion.
Drumstick blossoms or moringa flowers are used throughout the country in culinary preparations because of their miraculous health benefits. These blossoms contain a compound called terigospermin which have earned them the reputation of being ‘Indian Viagra’ which helps with erectile dysfunction and infertility. Boil a handful of fresh flowers in a cup of milk. Crush a cardamom pod and add to the boiling milk. Cool and sweeten with jaggery. This tea is excellent for indelibility.
Moringa flowers contain essential amino acids and powerhouses of calcium and potassium, which makes them a prized supplement for lactating mothers. Diabetics especially benefit from this flower’s healthful properties. The diuretic effects of drumstick flowers can reduce edema and inflammation and help the body heal more effectively after an injury or illness.
Drumstick flowers and leaves apart from the pods are a very good source of protein for vegetarians as they are said to have the highest protein amount of any other plant on Earth. Eat these delicate blossoms in vegetarian dishes or make them into crispy cutlets by making a batter with moringa flowers, Bengal gram flour, fresh coriander leaves, onions, grated coconut, tamarind pulp and rice flour. Fry to make crunchy sides. In southern India, drumstick flowers are used in preparing fresh chutney and also added to dals (lentil), gravies and sambhar.
The quintessential flower for weddings is actually gold for good health. These edible flowers are often used in the cosmetic industry for their anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. They contain glycoproteins and nucleoproteins which can soothe sunburnt skin, and heal breakouts and blisters. Due to its antifungal properties, marigold can also be used to treat vaginal infections and jock itch. Calendula cream is a staple in medicine cabinets the world over.
Drink a steaming cup of marigold tea if you are suffering from stomach ulcers or need relief from gastritis or acidity. A boon for women suffering from menstrual cramps or painful PMS conditions, this flower’s antispasmodic actions are valuable for relieving muscle spasms. Its high lutein content is why it is used to treat diseases of the eye.
Squash or Pumpkin blossom
A true blessing for women, these blossoms are rich in calcium and phosphorus which makes them great options for those suffering from bone health issues like osteoporosis. While they might not contain as much Vitamin A as the vegetable, the flowers are full of Vitamin C which act as immune boosters in our body. According to Linus Pauling Institute, the iron found in pumpkin flower is highly useful for enhancing immune functions.
Pumpkin flower is plentiful in Vitamin A which means that regular consumption can boost eye health and prevent conditions like dry eyes. The high folic acid (Vitamin B9) content is beneficial for men with low sperm count.
These aromatic blossoms are used to add a fragrant touch to rice. According to Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, the soothing scent of this flower makes it an aphrodisiac or sexual stimulant. Judy Griffin talks about the antidepressant qualities of the jasmine flower in her book Flowers That Heal: Aromas, Herbs, Essences and Other Secrets of the Fairies.
The Queen of Flowers is rightly called so because of the high amount of natural immune-enhancing compounds found in it – linalool, benzoic acetate, indole, jasmon, salicylic acid and alkaloids. The catechins in jasmine inhibit the oxidization of bad cholesterol and protect heart health. Besides, cardiovascular health the beautiful blossom also has fever-fighting properties.