Before the days of grocery stores and takeout at your fingertips, most people used to grow their own food...
Humans began growing crops 11,500 years ago, and gradually, life shifted from nomadic hunting and gathering to village-based farming. Farming allowed people to have food surpluses... and that meant they had more time to spend doing non-food-related activities.
The industrial revolution created new opportunities for farmers who – by the late 1950s – could use electricity and gasoline to power machinery and boost crop productivity. Food began being produced for and sold to the masses in supermarkets. No longer did families need to grow food for themselves with the convenience of shopping for groceries.
Turns out, the coronavirus pandemic sparked an upward trend in growing your own food from home. This trend also happened during the Great Depression and World War II – another point in history where people feared food scarcity.
With this most recent pandemic, people were unsure of how long it would last. In the early days of shutdowns, food stocks at grocery stores were depleted. At the time, one member of my team told me her grocery store lacked everything from meat and bread to fruits and vegetables.
Many also found themselves with more time to devote to fun hobbies and used gardening as a great way to be outside. As a result, fruit- and vegetable-seed sales experienced a huge boost all around the world. I've long loved growing my own food, particularly tomatoes.
But fruits and vegetables are not the only things you can eat straight from your garden... Many flowers also offer delicious health benefits when consumed. People have been eating flowers since before 140 B.C., when the practice was first mentioned in written record. Eating flowers fell widely out of fashion during the 20th century when we began producing and selling food on an industrial scale.
Here's a list of six edible flowers and the benefits they have on our health:
Dandelion – Although it's generally regarded as simply a weed, dandelion consumption dates back to ancient Rome. According to record, they were used medicinally as early as the 10th century and appeared in Europe via the Welsh in the 13th century.
Dandelions contain antioxidants that fight off other harmful molecules – called free radicals – that can damage the cells in your body.
The flower contains a type of antioxidant called carotenoids – which also gives the bloom its yellow color. Carotenoids are known to reduce inflammation in the body and protect us from cancer.
The roots, leaves, and stems of a dandelion contain a type of antioxidant called polyphenols. The polyphenols in dandelions have been shown to influence insulin secretion and can play an important role in managing Type 2 diabetes.
The dandelion is versatile in the kitchen... You can eat the flower, stem, roots, and leaves of a dandelion. You can eat a dandelion raw or cooked, and people have been known to use it in any recipe that calls for a "hearty green." It can even be used to make jelly, honey, and wine.
Honeysuckle – The honeysuckle flower contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants and can help with health problems like digestive disorders, upper respiratory infections, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The common (Lonicera periclymenum) and Japanese (Lonicera japonica) species of honeysuckle flower are generally safe to eat, but other varieties have poisonous berries (only one variety has non-toxic berries). But the nectar is safe to eat.
The honeysuckle flower offers a sweet nectar that can be enjoyed when the flower is picked right from the stem and the pistil is gently removed from the base of the flower. Some people use the nectar to sweeten tea or create a syrup out of it.
Lavender – Doctors in ancient Greece and Rome used lavender to treat indigestion, headaches, and sore throats.
Lavender has a wide range of applications... It's commonly infused into baked goods, liqueur, tea, spice rubs, and herbal mixtures. It pairs well with both sweet and savory foods and can be eaten fresh or in dried form.
The smell of lavender calms the nervous system and is often used to promote relaxation, ease stress, anxiety, and depression, and induce sleep.
Purslane – Evidence suggests that people have grown purslane for consumption for 2,000 years, including the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. It was also a part of medieval Arab and 13th century European cuisine.
Purslane is nutrient dense – containing omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A.
Purslane is a fleshy succulent that has edible leaves and flowers. It's best to enjoy either raw or lightly sauteed and can be used as a substitute for spinach or watercress.
Rose – Turns out, one of my favorite smelling flowers is also edible. There was a time during the 17th century when roses were in such high demand that royalty throughout Europe used rose flowers and rose water as currency in Europe.
Rose water has anti-inflammatory benefits and can help ease a sore throat by relaxing the throat muscles. Drinking rose water can increase the flow of your digestive bile, which help with bloating and stomach upset. It may also be used as a mild laxative.
Dried or fresh, rose petals make a colorful and subtly sweet addition to salad, granola, herb mixtures, infused beverages, butter, or sugar. Rose petals can also be made into a jam.
Squash blossom – Squash blossoms can be eaten raw or cooked. You can stuff them with cheese and lightly fry or bake them until the petals become crispy. Or you can use them as a colorful addition to a salad or a garnish.
Squash blossoms have been enjoyed as food in Mexico since before 7,000 B.C. Researchers discovered its remnants at numerous ancient archaeological sites in the highlands of Mexico and Northern Peru.
Squash blossoms are rich in nutrients... They are great for your eyes (vitamin A), your immune system (iron and vitamin C), male fertility (folate), and they help build bones (phosphorus).
So, if you're feeling adventurous, give some of these flower dishes a try. Just remember to use flowers that have not been exposed to pesticides (like those you'd get in a flower shop). Also, don't assume that all flowers are edible... some are poisonous so always verify that a flower is safe to eat before trying it.
In tomorrow's issue of Retirement Millionaire, I detail even more incredible health benefits of flowers and some of my favorite ways to incorporate flowers into your daily life. Subscribers get immediate access when the issue publishes tomorrow evening. If you're not already subscribed, click here to get started now.
What We're Interneting...
- The history of agriculture.
- Expert tips on growing your own food during a pandemic.
- Tips for cooking with edible flowers.
- Something different: How yawning helps lions synchronize their groups' movements.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
April 13, 2021