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Publication #HS1321

Production of Edible Flowers in Florida1

Caroline de Favari Tardivo and Geoffrey Meru2

Edible flowers are an emerging category of food items. Contemporary chefs are showing a renewed interest in edible flowers and new cookbooks, along with popular articles in the United States highlight this interest (Bradley 2014; Bradshaw 2018; Breyer 2017; Sandborn 2015). Consumers appreciate edible flowers’ flavor, color, and texture, and typically use them to garnish main dishes, entrees, desserts, salads, soups, and drinks (Barash 1993; Barash 1998a, b; Belsinger 1991; McVicar 1997; Rusnak 1999). Although their popularity in the US is recent, edible flowers have been part of European, East Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian culinary traditions for at least a thousand years (Cichiwecz et al. 2004). There are more than 55 known genera of edible flowers (Badertscher and Newman 1996; Barash 1993; Belsinger 1991; Mcvicar 1997), some of which are commonly grown in Florida (Table 1).

In many edible flower varieties, flowers, flower buds, and leaves can be edible and contain high concentrations of bioactive metabolites, which provide medicinal benefits. In addition to being beautiful in any dish, edible flowers contain many minerals and nutrients such as vitamins A, C, riboflavin, and niacin (Arya et al. 2014; Petrova et al. 2016). They also possess anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic (neutralize mutation-inducing agents), anti-nociceptive (offer relief from nerve pain), and anti-tumorigenic (counteract the formation of tumors) properties (Ratnasooriya et al. 2005; Ukiya et al. 2002, 2006; Wongwattanasathien et al. 2010). Edible flowers are thus valuable because of their visual appeal, taste, nutritional content, and medicinal properties; therefore, they are considered “functional foods”.

Small-scale growers have been successfully producing edible flowers in Florida. They target local outlets such as farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and high-end restaurants and bars. The success of these growers is dependent upon producing sufficient edible flowers weekly, because the flowers generally have a limited shelf life (Hochmuth and Cantliffe 1990).

To maintain shelf life of edible flowers, they are packaged and distributed in small, rigid, and clear plastic containers (Whitman 1991) that are placed for sale in refrigerated displays. In general, refrigerated cases in grocery stores are maintained at 8ºC and 9ºC in the winter and summer, respectively (Le Blanc et al. 1996). Kelley et al. (2003) recommend a storage temperature of around to 10ºC for some species of edible flowers to ensure a median one-week shelf life and maintain marketability.

Although growers and distributors are mainly concerned with lengthening the shelf life of edible flowers, they should also consider the food safety hazards of these products, which are intended to be eaten raw. Doyle and Erickson (2008) highlight the increasing concern about possible contamination of fresh produce. Therefore, producers should further scrutinize possible sources of contamination and consider implementing practices that reduce risks before the product reaches the consumer. When considering edible flowers and food safety, producers should advise consumers to store all fresh, edible flowers in a refrigerated space until ready to eat and, immediately prior to consumption, they should rinse in fresh water to remove potential contaminants (Wetzel et al. 2010) and also remove the styles and stamens from the flowers, as the pollen may cause an allergic reaction (Mlcek and Rop 2011). The production and commercialization of edible flowers can be successful with good food safety practices and solutions for the possible problems.

References

Arya, V., D. Kumar, and M. Gautam. 2014. “Phytopharmacological review on flowers: Source of inspiration for drug discovery.” Biomedicine & Preventive Nutr. 4: 45‒51.

Badertscher, K. B., and S. E. Newman. 1996. Flowers. Ext. Bul. 7-237. Colorado State Univ.

Barash, C. W. 1993. Edible flowers: From garden to palate. Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum Publ.

Barash, C. W. 1998a. “The flavors of flowers.” The Herb. Companion 10: 32‒37.

Barash, C. W. 1998b. “Please eat the flowers.” Hort. 95: 36‒40.

Belsinger, S. 1991. Flowers in the kitchen: A bouquet of tasty recipes. Loveland, Colo.: Interweave Press.

Bradley, L. 2014. “Choosing and using edible flowers.” https://gardening.ces.ncsu.edu/2014/10/choosing-and-using-edible-flowers/

Bradshaw, A. 2018. “Edible flowers list with edible flower names and pictures.” https://commonsensehome.com/edible-flowers/

Breyer, M. 2017. “42 flowers you can eat.” https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/42-flowers-you-can-eat.html

Cichewicz, R. H., K. C. Lim, J. H. McKerrow, and M. G. Nair. 2004. “Kwanzoquinones A-G and other constituents of Hemerocallis fulva ‘Kwanzo’ roots and their activity against the human pathogenic trematode Schistosoma mansoni.” Tetrahedron. 58: 8597‒8606.

Doyle, M. P., and M. C. Erickson. 2008. “Summer meeting 2007 — the problems with fresh produce: an overview.” J. Appl. Microbiol. 105: 317‒330.

Hochmuth, R., and D. Cantliffe. 1990. Alternative Greenhouse Crops—Florida Greenhouse Vegetable Production Handbook, Vol 3. HS791. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/cv272.

LeBlanc, D.I., R. Stark, B. MacNeil, B. Goguen, C. Beraulieu. 1996. “Perishable food temperature in retail stores.” New Development in Refrigeration for Food Safety and Quality Intl. Inst. Refrigeration Commission. 6: 42‒57.

Kelley, K. M., A. C. Cameron, J. A. Biernbaum, and K. L. Poff. 2003. “Effect of storage temperature on the quality of edible flowers.” Postharvest Biol. and Technol. 27: 341‒344.

McVicar, J. 1992. Good enough to eat: Growing and cooking edible flowers. London: Kyle Cathie.

Mlcek J., and O. Rop. 2011. “Fresh edible flowers of ornamental plants - a new source of neutraceutical foods.” Trends in Food Sci. & Technol. 22: 561‒569.

Petrova, I., N. Petkova, and I. Ivanov. 2016. “Five edible flowers–Valuable source of antioxidants in human nutrition.” Intl. J. of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Res. 8: 604–610.

Ratnasooriya, W. D., S. A. Deraniyagala, S. D. N. K. Bathige, C. L. Goonasekara, and J. R. A. C. Jayakody. 2005. “Antinociceptive action of aqueous extract of the leaves of Ixora coccinea.” Acta Biologica Hungarica. 56: 21‒34.

Rusnak, J. 1999. “Edible flowers, fresh herbs, baby vegetables: still room for growth.” Produce Business. 15: 33‒37.

Sandborn, D. 2015. “Edible flowers: Adding color, flavor and fun to your dinner plate.” http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/edible_flowers_adding_color_flavor_and_fun_to_your_dinner_plate

Ukiya, M., T. Akihisa, H. Tokuda, H. Suzuki., T. Mukainaka, E. Ichiishi, and H. Nishino. 2002. “Constituents of compositae plants: III. Anti-tumor promoting effects and cytotoxic activity against human cancer cell lines of triterpene diols and triols from edible chrysanthemum flowers.” Cancer Lett. 177: 7‒12.

Wetzel, Kaedra., J. Lee, C. S. Lee, and M. Binkley. “Comparison of microbial diversity of edible flowers and basil grown with organic versus conventional methods.” Canadian J. of Microbiol. 11: 943‒951.

Whitman, A. T. 1991. “Edible flowers and culinary herbs: new uses for traditional crops, new crops for traditional growers.” Grower Talks. 54: 22‒33.

Wongwattanasathien, O., K. Kangsadalampai, and L. Tongyonk. 2010. “Antimutagenicity of some flowers grown in Thailand.” Food and Chem. Toxicology. 48: 1045‒1051.

Tables

Table 1. 

Edible flowers grown in Florida. Common herbal medicinal uses, colors, varieties, and seed sources are listed.

Common name (Scientific name)

Common uses

Color

Variety

Company

Alysum (Lobularia maritima)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Antiscorbutic

Astringent

Diuretic

Peach, pink, purple, white, and yellow

Sweet alyssum

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Eden Brothers, American Meadows, Bulk Seed Store, Harris Seeds, Swallowtail Garden Seeds, Lowes, and Amazon

Amaranthus (Amaranthus spp.)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Astringent

Carminative

Depurative

Diuretic

Laxative

Stomachic

Deep purple, pink, and red

Coral Fountain, Emerald Tassels, Love-Lies-Bleeding, Hot Biscuits

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Eden Brothers, Amazon, True Leaf Market, Sustainable Seed Company, Rare Seeds, Seeds Now, and Grow Organic

Amazon Neon (Dianthus spp.)

Credits: Monica Ozores-Hampton

Anthelmintic Antibacterial Diaphoretic

Diuretic

Pink, purple, and purple with white

Cherry, Purple, Rose magic

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Eden Brothers, Bulk Seed Store, Harris Seeds, Swallowtail Garden Seeds, and Amazon. Organic seeds available.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Antimicrobial Antioxidant Antimicrobial

Purple

Aromato

Johnny's Seeds, Eden Brothers, Bulk Seed Store, Harris Seeds, Amazon, Seeds Now, Seeds of Change, and Park Seed. Organic seeds available.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Credits: Monica Ozores-Hampton

Anticonvulsant

Bronchodilator

Vasodilator

Blue

Borage

Burpee. Organic seeds available.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Credits: Monica Ozores-Hampton

Antiseptic

Anti-inflammatory

Bactericide

Orange and yellow

Alpha, Resina

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee. Organic seeds available.

Centaurea (Centaurea cyanus)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Anti-complementary

Anti-coagulant

Anti-inflammatory

Anti-viral

Hypoglycemic

Immunological

Blue, pink, purple

Classic magic

Johnny's Seeds, Eden Brothers, Park Seed, True Leaf Market, Amazon, Harris Seeds, American Meadows, and Swallowtail Garden Seeds. Organic seeds available.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Credits: Caroline Tardivo

Antioxidant

Anti-inflammatory

White

Chamomile, Roman chamomile

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee

Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Flavor additive

Pink and purple

Ruby moon

Johnny's Seeds, Eden Brothers, True Leaf Market, Park Seed, Amazon, Grow Organic, and Swallowtail Garden Seeds.

Lavender (Lavandula)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Anti-inflammatory

Antiseptic

Purple

Elegance purple and Munstead-type

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Eden Brothers, Bulk Seed Store, Sustainable Seed, Park Seed, and Grow Organic. Organic seeds available.

Monarda (Monarda didyma)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Carminative Diuretic Expectorant Febrifuge Stimulant

Pink, red, and white

Panorama

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Eden Brothers, Amazon, Swallowtail Garden Seeds, and American Meadows.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum spp.)

Credits: Monica Ozores-Hampton

Antibiotic

Antiscorbutic

Expectorant

Disinfectant

Cream, orange, red, and yellow

Night and day, Empress of India

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee. Organic seeds available.

Salvia (Salvia spp.)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Antioxidant Anti-inflammatory

Blue, red, purple, orange, pink, yellow, white, green, and brown

Victoria blue

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Park Seed, Swallowtail Garden Seeds, and Eden Brothers

Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)

Credits: Monica Ozores-Hampton

Flavor additive

Red

Scarlet runner bean

Johnny's Seeds.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Flavor additive

Pink, purple, lavender, orange, red, yellow, and white

Madame butterfly

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Eden Brothers, Harris Seeds, Park Seed, Swallow Garden Seeds, and True Leaf Market.

Snow Peas (Pisum sativum)

Credits: Monica Ozores-Hampton

Flavor additive

White, blue to purple, and green to brown

Avalanche, Golden sweet, Oregon giant, and Royal snow

Johnny's Seeds, Seedway

Stock (Matthiola incana)

Credits: Johnny’s Seeds

Flavor additive

Cream, pink, peach, lavender, purple, blue, and white

Quartet yellow, White, Marine, Red, Purple, Fantasy and Iron pink, blue, purple, white, etc.

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee, Swallowtail Garden Seeds, and Stokes Seeds

Viola (Viola spp.)

Credits: Monica Ozores-Hampton

Flavor additive

Yellow, blue, orange, and violet

Tricolor, Helen mount

Johnny's Seeds, Burpee

Footnotes

1.

This document is HS1321, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date July 2018. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Caroline de Favari Tardivo, UF/IFAS Southwest Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL 34142; and Geoffrey Mugambi Meru, assistant professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL 33031.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.