What could be more beautiful than a salad made of bright, colourful flowers? Edible flowers are both good for your body and a feast for the eyes. Flowers tend to be high in vitamins such as vitamin C and A, and contain a variety of medicinal properties. Many flowers are great for your skin - giving you a summer glow - and provide antioxidant protection which reduces the visibility of age spots, wrinkles and scars.
Foraging does not need to be limited to the backcountry woods and wilderness. A large portion of our foraged food comes from the city because that is where we live. Foraging in an urban setting can be a wonderful way to get to know your neighbours and create community. Community is an essential buffer against many of the challenges we deal with in today's culture. Isolation is one of the key contributing factors to most mental illness including addiction and depression, and poses a serious health risk to human beings. As a therapist, I encourage clients to foster community in as many ways as they can. Having a strong and diverse community creates a basket that can support us in times of need. It also offers us a way of creating meaning and connection throughout the many seasons of our lives.
In this video we wandered around the streets of Peterborough and knocked on neighbours’ doors to get permission to harvest some of their plants for this flower salad. These are some of the flowers we included in our salad:
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
All mallow flowers are edible, often referred to as “the green cheeses” because the fruits resemble tiny green cheese wheels. Mallows are used as food all over the world. Marshmallow are particularly high in mucilage and emollient properties which are great for soothing, softening and healing. I was first drawn to this plant when I was pregnant and had an overwhelming feeling that mallow would be a key medicinal plant for me after my baby was born. I later learned that mallow helps to heal and sooth internal and external wounds and irritation.
My friend and herbalist Nicole Cameron brought me a lovely batch of mallow root and flower cookies and a beautiful sitz bath mixture after the birth of my daughter. I went on to use mallow root to help my teething baby’s sore mouth and dry coughs, and I used mallow flowers to soothe my irritated nerves. Ever since, I have had a strong affinity for this plant and use it in as many ways as possible. Here we used both the leaves and flowers for our salad.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is well known for its medicinal properties and is used both externally and internally. It is high in antioxidants such as beta-carotene and makes a wonderful anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral, among many other things. Calendula can be used externally for skin conditions such as acne and eczema, and used internally it can soothe the gastrointestinal tract in people with conditions such as colitis, Crohn's disease and both gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Pansies (Viola tricolor var. hortensis)
These sweet little flowers are a hybrid of the genus Viola. They have anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and expectorant properties and can be used for pain relief from gout, rheumatism and arthritis, can ease coughs, and have a calming, sedative effect. (A note of caution: this plant can cause vomiting when used in high amounts. Do not use in combination with prescription diuretics or asthma medication).
A fragrant and spicy flower - akin to a radish, but in flower form - nasturtiums are antibacterial, antibiotic, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, expectorant and diuretic in medicinal action. They can help ward off colds and decrease candida albicans overgrowth in the body.
Bergamot or bee balm (Monarda)
Loved by bees, this is one of Courtney’s daughter’s favourite flowers to eat. Sweet, with a little spice, it gets its name because its flavour is reminiscent of bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia).
And of course roses. We love roses and use them in our food whenever and wherever we can. See our post on rose petal popsicles. Roses are cooling and calming - as the saying goes, “Roses are good for the skin and good for the soul.” There are so many species and cultivars of roses and the flavours vary from plant to plant - try a few and find your favourite (but never eat store-bought roses as they are usually sprayed with pesticides and fragrance).
In this video, we harvested a basket full of edible flowers. We picked some greens and herbs from our garden and whipped up a simple salad dressing.
edible flowers (some of the flowers we used include daisy petals, evening primrose, marshmallow, calendula, pansies, nasturtium, bergamot, lavender, daylilies, queen anne's lace, thimbleberry flowers, dame's rocket, and roses)
garden greens (we used kale, nasturtium leaves, lamb's quarters, wood sorrel and other garden "weeds")
garden herbs (daisy leaves, plantain, queen anne’s lace, bergamot leaves, marshmallow leaves)
dressing (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and sea salt)
gather flowers and garden greens. Inspect them for dirt and bugs - you might want to give them a quick rinse.
coarsely chop the greens and chop up the herbs a bit more finely
mix together your dressing ingredients
toss salad and enjoy!