Please, Do Eat the Flowers
What would happen to this world if there are no flowers? Simply boring, perhaps meaningless, without color, and seems barren. Think of weddings without roses and chrysanthemum, Christmas without poinsettias, graduations without orchids, and burials without wreaths made of various flowers.
“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into,” noted Henry Beecher. “Earth laughs in flowers,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in Hamatreya. And Emma Goldman declared, “I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.”
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants. The biological function of a flower is to mediate the union of male sperm with female ovum in order to produce seeds. The process begins with pollination, followed by fertilization, leading to the formation and dispersal of the seeds. For the higher plants, seeds are the next generation and serve as the primary means by which individuals of a species are dispersed across the landscape.
The great variety of delicate and beautiful flowers has inspired the works of numerous poets, especially from the 18th to 19th century romantic era. Famous examples include William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and William Blake’s “Ah! Sun-Flower.”
Because of their varied and colorful appearance, flowers have long been a favorite subject of visual artists as well. Some of the most celebrated paintings from well-known painters are of flowers, such as Van Gogh’s sunflower series or Monet’s water lilies. Flowers are also dried, freeze-dried, and pressed in order to create permanent, three-dimensional pieces of flower art.
In Hindu mythology, flowers have a significant status. Vishnu, one of the three major gods, is often depicted standing straight on a lotus flower. Apart from the association with Vishnu, the Hindu tradition also considers the lours to have spiritual significance. For instance, it figures in the Hindu stories of creation.
Early Christians identified the five petals of the rose with the five wounds of Christ. Despite this interpretation, their leaders were hesitant to adopt it because of its association with Roman excesses and pagan ritual. The red rose was eventually adopted as a symbol of the blood of the Christian martyrs. Roses also later came to be associated with the Virgin Mary.
In modern times, people have sought ways to cultivate, buy, wear, or otherwise be around flowers and blooming plants, partly because of their agreeable appearance and smell. Around the world, people use flowers for a wide range of events and functions that, cumulatively, encompass one’s lifetime: for new births, as a corsage to be worn at social functions or for holidays, as tokens of love or esteem, for wedding flowers for the bridal party and decorations for the hall, as brightening decorations within the home, and as a gift of remembrance for bon voyage parties, welcome home parties, and “thinking of you” gifts.
Flowers are also used during funerals as expressions of sympathy for the grieving family. In countries such as Belgium and Austria, the chrysanthemum is used almost exclusively as a memorial on graves.
For all the times you’ve sent your loved ones flowers, how often have they been tempted to taste their distinctive, delicate flavors? Probably never. Unknowingly, hundreds of fresh flowers aye edible but only few are widely marketed as food.
As one chef puts it: “One of the best things about edible flowers is that they transform ordinary food into a dazzling creation. Their colors add vibrancy, and the flavors add zest to any dish.”
Oftentimes, flowers are used to add color and flavor to salads. Squash flowers, for instance, are dipped in breadcrumbs and fried. Edible flowers include chrysanthemum, carnation, chicory, and sunflower. Some edible flowers are sometimes candied such as daisy.
Some flowers are made into herbal teas. Dried flowers such as chrysanthemum, jasmine, and chamomile are infused into tea both for their fragrance and medical properties. Sometimes, they are also mixed with tea leaves for the added fragrance. In China and Japan, chrysanthemum petals, a symbol of future joy, are ladled into soup or poured into tea pitchers as they have been for more than a millennium.
Most people might not know this, but roses are edible and as with many edible flowers, they actually are quite tasty! Some claim they taste like a sweet apple fruit and others fail to describe the taste of a rose. There are many recipes for the use of roses, but a favorite is always candied rose petals, which are a great confection to decorate cookies, cakes, and puddings.
Do you know that you can make omelet out of gumamela leaves? This has been discovered in a study on ornamental plants conducted by researchers from the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB).
“Most ornamental plants are also rich in vitamins and minerals,” said Prof. Gregorio Lugod and Dr. Ludivina de Padua of the UPLB Department of Botany, who conducted the laudable study.
Gumamela is very common in many gardens, but it is mostly used to adorn table tops or a girl’s hair. Unknown to many, the shrub’s flowers and leaves can now be eaten as food. The UPLB researchers said that gumamela can provide the body with starch, glycogen, calcium oxalate, sulfur and peptic substances to prevent colds, cancer, and ulcer.
The petals of gumamela flower can be pickled or even made as jelly. The flower buds and leaves can also be prepared into a vegetable salad as an omelet (fried with scrambled egg) or as sautéed vegetable dish. In Mexico, gumamela flowers are used to make jamaico, a cool drink infusion perfect for refreshment on a hot summer day and flavor ice cream and sorbet.
Roselle, a relative of the gumamela, can supply the body with vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid. Lack of these substances in the body, especially niacin, causes loss of appetite, nervousness, redness of the tongue, skin discoloration, and mental depression.
The red and fleshy calyces (outer petals) of roselle flowers can be made into wine and jellies. In addition, the young leaves can be used as substitute for spinach, or may be cooked with fish or meat in making sinigang.
On the other hand, the young leaves of alibangbang can be eaten raw or cooked in soups, stews and meat or fish dishes. Its flowers and buds can also be pickled. The leaves, flowers, and buds contain starch, glycogen, hydrocellulose, fats, tannin, saponin, protein, and calcium oxalate needed to make the human body fit and strong.
Yes, flowers are not only for appreciation but consumption as well!
By Henrylito D. Tacio