Edible flowers are a bit old school these days. It’s long been established that plant blooms can and has in fact been used in various ancient cuisines worldwide. It’s also been gaining a lot of traction in present times, with more daring chefs and inventive kitchen superstars whipping up fresh and fancy edible flower dishes to entice the adventurous foodie in all of us.
What’s surprising is the growing list of edible flowers being revealed to us as we do our due diligence. In our previous articles, we’ve written about our favorite edible flowers, such as:
- Hibiscus – Added fresh in teas and on garden salads
- Roses – Used in salads, desserts, spreads, jam, butter, and fruit punches
- Peonies – Sought by the Chinese to infuse in teas and drinking water
- Marigolds – Tastes like saffron, it’s used as a food coloring and a spice
- Sunflower – Boiled or roasted like an artichoke
- Chrysanthemum – Featured as an ingredient in Asian dishes, such as Chop Suey or Shingiku
And the list goes on…
Are Orchids Edible?
If you adore orchids like we do, this has probably crossed your mind already. Can you actually eat orchid flowers?
The answer is yes. Orchid plants are not only sought by many because of their disarming beauty. They have been used by many cultures in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas for their medicinal values and edible quality.
The ancient Greeks have a strong belief that eating the bulb of orchid plants can boost their sexual vigor and fertility.
Orchids, particularly Dendrobium species, have been widely used in preparations of Japanese and Chinese herbal medicine for treatment of indigestion, headache, convulsions, and cancer.
Delicious Recipes Using Orchids
Orchids, specifically the flower petals, are reportedly gives off that fresh and crisp flavor similar to leafy vegetables, such as endive or watercress.
ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture has enumerated a variety yummy dishes orchids have been used in different parts of the world.
- Asian cuisine – Soft-cane dendrobium orchids, which are native to many countries in Asia. It’s used in stir-fry, sauce recipes, and boiled tea.
- Orchid Tempura – Thais roll dendrobium orchid flowers in egg and flour batter and then deep fry them in cooking oil.
- Orchid salad and orchid candy – In Hawaii, they use orchid flowers as a featured ingredient for fresh salads and coat them in sugar for dessert.
- Wild orchid drink – In Turkey, salep powder, which is made from dried tubers and Orchis, a genus of wild orchids. They mix salep powder with hot milk and other flavorful spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.
- Orchid ice cream – Otherwise known as dondurma, this chewy Turkish ice cream is another sweet concoction made of salep.
Like many edible flowers, orchids are also generally used as an appetizing garnish for drinks and salad dishes.
Vanilla from Orchids
Ari Novy, the deputy executive director of U.S. Botanic Gardens in Washington, says vanilla is the most popular edible orchid. These orchids are native to Central and South America. But today, Madagascar leads the production of vanilla beans.
Yes, the very vanilla, which flavors the delightful desserts we crave for, comes from orchids. They are extracted from vine-like orchids of the same name grows up to 30 feet long. The Vanilla planifolia orchid variety is the only orchid propagated for industrial food production.