Edible Flowers of India

Ali Haidar Shah, Sabhya Pathania
Flowers are symbolic of many things around the world: abundance, purity, beauty, divinity, romance, riches, fertility, enlightenment, and even knowledge in some civilizations.
Like fruits, vegetables, spices, leaves and nuts, flowers too are part of nature’s roster of nutrition providers to us. India’s culinary history shows us that flowers have been used for therapeutic purposes, for balancing of tastes, fragrance and even improve aesthetic appeal of a dish. Indian flowers that are affordable and easy enough to get at any local market, leaving you with no reason to not store them in your kitchen.
It can be found in gulkhand, a thick sweet jam-like substance used in paan; kewra water, which functions as a natural cooler; candied dried rose petals as a fragrant garnish on mithai; and ittar, or native scents. Tea blends might also benefit from the petals.
Benefits: Rose petals aid in the maintenance of good cholesterol levels, while rosewater relieves inflammation, pain, and acts as a natural cooler. It’s a mild sedative that boosts the body’s natural immunity and keeps the heart in good shape.
Is it true that chameli and mogra (as the jasmine types are known locally) smell better than they taste? The flower’s aroma is used to scent teas and sweet meals such as cakes, cookies, and other baked goods, and it’s a favourite choice for perfumes and oils. You may dry and combine them with a bag of green tea leaves at home, then watch them bloom in a cup of hot water. These can also be used in salads and rice dishes in their dried form for added flavour and health benefits.
Benefits: Jasmine tea lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity, and slows down the ageing process. It is an energy booster and mood enhancer that is known to reduce sleeplessness, promote weight loss, and control cholesterol levels.
This bell-shaped, scarlet red bloom is the STATE FLOWER OF SIKKIM, and it blooms from January to March in the Himalayan belt’s hills. The flowers are known as BURANS OR BURANSHin Uttarakhand, Tibet, and Himachal Pradesh, where they are widely used. Because the young leaves are poisonous, these blossoms are used in everything from sweet jams, honey, and juice cordials to sweet-savoury parathas, chutneys, pakoras, and even wine. Locals consume them with the knowledge that using the wrong parts (such as the stamen) can result in a bottle of SWEET’MAD HONEY’that is intoxicating and can induce discomfort.
Benefits: To treat headaches, make a paste out of the blossoms. Calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamin C are all rich in the juice. . It’s an excellent antioxidant and anti-diabetic, as well as a calming agent for anyone suffering from stomach pains. Eating the petals of this flower, it turns out, aids in the removal of fish bones trapped in the throat. For those who live at a high altitude and suffer from seasonal sickness, a chutney made with tamarind, garlic, coriander, and chilies can be consumed.
The lotus, our national flower, is also the most ‘human’ plant, as it can adjust temperatures like any warm-blooded organism. The root of this plant is the most extensively used portion in India; in the south, the root is sliced and simply seasoned to produce a pleasant side dish, while in Kashmir-where it is known as nadru-and other North Indian regions, it is used in richer gravies such as rogan jhosh and yakhni. The seed of this cherished flower-commonly seen in Sindhi and Punjabi household pantries-is known as phool patasha or makhana and is fast becoming the’modern popcorn.’ When made in tea, it has various medicinal effects and can help reduce bleeding and heart issues. The seeds are good for your kidneys, spleen, and heart, and they can help you get rid of restlessness, palpitations, and insomnia. It’s also high in potassium and protein, so it’s a great pre- or post-workout snack.
Depending on where it’s cultivated, this flower has a variety of names. It is known as Roselle in West Africa and Australia, and Ambadi in Maharashtra, Gongura in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and Chukor in Bengal in India. It has a distinct citrus flavour with a tinge of bitterness as its major flavour profile. Sorrel leaves (as they’re known in the culinary world) are used in salads and soups. Gongura is used in Andhra cooking to add flavour to lentil curries and to make gongura pachadi, a famous meal of leaves and spices. You may use it at home to impart a sweet-sour flavour to fruity desserts, chutneys, and even rum-based beverages, as some of the country’s newest mixologists are doing.
Benefits: Winter superfoods are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as being low in calories, high in fibre, and weight-loss friendly. Its high vitamin C content benefits both skin and hair, improving suppleness and collagen synthesis, smoothing the skin and reducing wrinkles when used in face packs. It strengthens the immune system, prevents anaemia, and maintains a healthy acid-alkaline balance in the body.
The cockscomb flower, also known as mawal or amaranth flower, is widely used as a spice in Kashmiri cuisine. It isn’t entirely untrue; its flaming red powder incarnation is inextricably linked to a KASHMIRI WAZWAN, particularly rogan josh and aloo bukhara. It can be used in salad dressings and curries. It’s gluten-free, which means it can easily be added to your diet as a new grain source.
Benefits: It’s a great supplement to a vegetarian diet because of its high protein content. Mawal is also strong in calcium, which helps to prevent osteoporosis, and it has a lot of fibre and minerals, which helps with digestion. Mawal is high in potassium and vitamin K, which helps to lower blood pressure, eliminate varicose veins, and strengthen blood vessel walls. Skin seems soft due to the antioxidant content.
The Heron Flower, also known as Flamingo Bill in Maharashtra, Bokful in Bengal, and Agati in Tamil Nadu, is one of the lesser-known edible Indian flower types. Treat it as if it were a banana blossom, and you’ll be commended for a tasty plate of fritters. If you can get your hands on some-ask your local vegetable vendor-use it to make tea, add it to veggies and curries, and even substitute bottled bitter with a dab of this bitter flower’s cordial in your cocktail.
Benefits: According to AYURVEDA, this flower balances the kapha and pitta doshas and is an effective cure for constipation, inflammation, and the prevention of stomach infections. It also helps treat headaches.
Using such flowers in your kitchen on daily basis adds more flavour to your food.
(The authors are PhD scholars of Department of Floriculture at DrYSPUHF Nauni-Solan HP)