Hibiscus, Mahua, Rose: Edible Flowers Used In Indian Cuisine
Image Credit: Mochar Ghonto is a popular Bengali preparation made out of Banana blossoms. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Since ancient times, Indian cuisine has made extensive use of edible flowers, a gastronomic secret treasure. These beautiful flowers have a unique place in our culinary traditions because of their brilliant colours and alluring scents. These flowers give distinctive flavours and aromatic qualities that take our recipes to new heights in addition to their eye-catching appearance. 

The custom of including these blooms in our dishes has been handed down through the decades and is evidence of our predecessors' inventiveness and originality. Join us as we investigate the intriguing anecdotes and culinary uses of these extraordinary blossoms.

Banana Blossom

Banana blossoms, also known as banana hearts or mocha in Bengali, are the fleshy and purple-skinned flowers that grow at the end of a banana fruit cluster. They are widely used in Indian cuisine, particularly in the eastern and southern regions. The tender inner petals of the banana blossom are used in various dishes, such as salads, curries, and stir-fries. In Bengali cuisine, mochar ghonto, a traditional dish made with banana blossoms, grated coconut, and spices, is a popular delicacy. Banana blossoms are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients, including dietary fibre, protein, and essential minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron.

Drumstick Flowers (Moringa Flowers)

The moringa, or drumstick flower, is a small, white bloom with a circular shape. These flowers are often stir-fried and used in Asian dishes such as curries or soups. They taste fantastic when used as a garnish or deep-fried as a crispy snack. You can also add them as a seasoning for that extra flavour. Moringa flowers are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients, making them a healthy addition to your diet.

Hibiscus Flowers

Hibiscus flowers, known as ambadi in Maharashtra, gongura in Andhra Pradesh, and chukor in Bengal, have a unique citric flavour with a hint of bitterness. These flowers are added to salads, soups, and even used in Andhra cooking to make gongura pachadi, a popular dish of leaves and spices. Hibiscus flowers can also be used to add a sweet-sour flavour to fruity cakes, chutneys, and rum-based drinks. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, hibiscus flowers are a healthy and delicious addition to your pantry. Tea aficionados are also known to indulge in a beautiful reddish tangy tea with hibiscus petals and swear by its health benefits. 

Rose Petals

Rose petals have a special place in Indian cuisine, offering a plethora of flavours and aromas to our dishes. Commonly found in the form of gulkand, a thick sweet jam-like paste used in paan, rose petals are also used to make kewra water, a natural cooler. They are used as a garnish and fragrance in Indian mithai, and their petals can be used to create delightful tea blends. Rose petals are not only pleasing to the palate but also come with numerous health benefits.

Rhododendron Flowers

Rhododendron, also known as burans or buransh, is a bell-shaped, scarlet red flower found in the Himalayan hills. These flowers are used in sweet jams, honey, juice cordials, sweet-savoury parathas, chutneys, pakoras, and even wine. Rhododendron flowers are not only beautiful but also come with numerous health benefits, such as being a fantastic antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and coolant for the stomach.

Mahua Flowers

The Mahua tree is considered one of the most versatile plants in India, with its flowers being highly coveted due to their limited seasonal availability. Mahua flowers are transformed into various forms, such as health tonics, jams, flower flour, juices, and even country liquor. Rich in free radicals, Mahua flower oil is more potent than extra virgin olive oil and offers numerous health benefits, including curing asthma, respiratory problems, and tonsillitis, improving eyesight, and enhancing heart function.

Pumpkin Flowers

Pumpkin flowers, with their sweet and mild pumpkin taste, are extensively used all over India. In South India, pumpkin flower thoran, a popular dish, is best served with rice and is made from fresh pumpkin flowers. Bengali cuisine, also embraces these flowers, using them to make delicious fritters and pakodas. You can enjoy pumpkin flowers fresh or cooked, and they are sure to add a touch of elegance to your meal.

Edible flowers form an integral part of many Indian cuisines. These blooms have been cherished for centuries for their ability to enhance flavours, add delightful aromas, and create visual appeal in our dishes. Beyond their aesthetic and culinary value, edible flowers also offer a range of health benefits. As you delve into the world of edible flowers, remember to prioritise responsible sourcing, ensuring that they are free from harmful substances like pesticides and chemicals. So, go ahead and embrace the floral magic in your meals. Experiment with different edible flowers to experience their delightful flavour/rs and aromas. Let them add a touch of vibrancy and uniqueness to your culinary creations.