Floral flavours in full bloom
Turn your meal into a sensory experience with these edible flowers
India’s plant biodiversity has shaped Indian culinary culture. Industry projections like the Godrej Food Trends Report 2022 also confirm the growing trend of plant-based eating. “Today vegetarian and plant-based are buzzwords globally but have been a very ancient tradition in India,” says Chef Vikas Khanna.
Fueling such conversations are people like Chef Thomas Zacharias who began travelling in 2013 to document India’s culinary heritage, and has been at the forefront of evangelising consumption of native produce via his menus and social media, using the hashtag #KnowYourDesiVegetables. He reflects, “I noticed strong movements aiming to motivate people to become more conscious about what they eat, traditional wisdom, and go back to their roots and make better food choices. For us, our communities, and our environment.”
The movement towards plant forward diet means an unparalleled diversity of edible plants in various regional cuisines. While leafy greens, gourds, and root vegetables are most popular, meanwhile, flowers from pumpkin, onion and banana are known for their nutritive properties.
Floral centrepieces are a classic and timeless tradition on the dinner table, but flowers can sometimes show up on your dinner plate, too.
–Here’s a quick guide to dishes that have aesthetically pleased our eyes, palates and plates.
Identified as a superfood by the World Health Organization (WHO), moringa is now being included in desserts, protein bars, chocolates, lentil curries, and even grain blends. Its leaves can be used as a substitute for spinach or methi leaves, and the dried leaf powder can be sprinkled on smoothies and juices.
In tea, in rasam or as a mouth-watering thoran (stir-fry), the hibiscus flower has made its presence felt on dining menus. Some research suggests that hibiscus may have a positive impact on cholesterol and blood pressure.
Mostly as served batter fried or sometimes with a stuffing of prawns in Bengal and Bihar, the flowers are also used in various dishes like soups, as dressings in cold salads, and as stir-fried dry vegetable (Mathapoo thoran, which is popular in the south).
Traditionally used as a colouring agent, the flowers are briefly simmered in a little water to extract a deep red hue, which imparts a fiery hot taste to your food curries. Dried mawal powder is used to enhance the flavour of soups and salads.
Have you come across other edible flowers? Tell us in the comment section.