Saturday, 22 October 2011

Drumstick and Other Edible Flowers

View from the Roof: Drumstick Tree in Bloom
The Drumstick tree is an incredible tree. Nearly every part of the tree is edible: leaves, flowers, pods, seeds, roots and even bark. Right now, one of the five drumstick trees in our common garden is in bloom. The flowers I discovered only recently, are not just edible; they're delicious. If you're lucky to have a drumstick tree, it wont hurt to occasionally sample a bunch or two. But since the flowers go on to produce pods, it's inadvisable to amass all the flowers.
Drumstick (Moringa) Flowers
With input from my mother, here's a simple Drumstick Flower recipe that I devised.
Ingredients for My Drumstick Flower Recipe
Drumstick flowers - 2 cups
Freshly grated coconut - 1 cup
Green chillies - 2
Cumin seeds - 2 tsps
Oil for frying
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp or as per taste
Salt - As per taste
Grind the coconut, chillies and cumin to a coarse paste. In a pan, fry the paste in oil for a few minutes. Pick and thoroughly wash the drumstick flowers. Add the flowers and a little water to the pan. Add salt and turmeric. Cover and cook till done. The dish should be ready in about 10 minutes.
Cooked Drumstick Flowers
The flowers taste a bit like mushrooms or banana flowers. Banana flowers are however quite laborious to prepare and can be astringent, if not cooked right.
Fennel Basking in the Sun
Another 100% edible plant, from flower to bulb is Fennel or Saunf. My Fennel plant on the rooftop is currently in full bloom. The flowers along with the seeds are delightfully sweet, which are food not just for humans but a variety of insects. Mid morning, when the sun is shining brightly, there's a swarm of insects hovering over the fennel flowers.

In India, fennel is most popular as an after-meal mouth freshener and digestive aid. It also features in several Kashmiri and Gujarati cuisines. Surprisingly, the spice doesn't figure very much in south Indian cooking, despite the fact that it grows very easily here. Just sprinkle a few store-bought seeds in the soil and you'll be rewarded with plenty of fragrant fennel. If you plan to grow them in containers on the rooftop like me, you may want to water them twice a day on very sunny days, lest they wilt. Otherwise, fennel appears to be hardy and well suited to Chennai's hot climate.
Golden Fennel Flowers
There are a few other flowers in our garden that fall into the edible category.
Aparajita or Butterfly Pea: I recently planted Aparajita in one of my containers. It's another easy-to-grow plant, which will add colour to a garden, perennially. The flowers are deep blue and have a unique shell shape. While I am attracted to the flowers, so are the neighbourhood squirrels. Every morning, there may be several aparajitas that have bloomed. But the squirrels tramp around and by evening they are reduced to shreds. These flowers are edible and are used to colour food. At Auroville, you may be able to buy yourself a bottle of Aparajita syrup, which has a refreshing, rather unique flavour.
Hibiscus: Another source of food colour and syrups are hibiscus flowers. They're also used to flavour tea. But I doubt the hibiscus flowers from our common garden have ever found their way into a kitchen. We mostly use it for worship.
Hibiscus rosa sinensis
Jasmine: The queen of fragrances, this flower is used to scent tea. Recently, I received a tin of Taiwanese Jasmine tea from my neighbour. The delicate fragrance and flavour of the tea was heavenly, almost intoxicating. Jasmine Tea is a specialty tea from China that is supposed to have health benefits. Having savored Jasmine tea, I wonder why we don't have other Jasmine flavoured food and drink.
Arabian Jasmine. Other Names: Moghra, Malli, Mallika, Mulla, Sambac,Yasmeen, Sampaguita
While there are over 200 species — both shrubs and vines — belonging to the Jasmine genus, our garden has just two varieties. We have two Arabian Jasmine bushes, which sadly rarely ever bloom. (Recorded just two blooms this year.)
Star Jasmine Vine
And then we have a Star Jasmine vine, which has climbed all four stories of our building. These flowers aren't as fragrant as most jasmine, but they're always around, dangling like pretty white stars.

There are so many edible flowers around us. But how does one really go about using them in the kitchen? I'm on the look out for flower recipes. If you have a flower recipe to share, please drop your comments.


  1. Anita; now YOU're educating ME! It's fascinating to read about plants and recipes from different parts of the world. I know several of the plants you describe - but mostly only as ornamentals rather than edibles. I have to say though that the Aparajita flower wins the prize in the beauty contest. I love the way you have presented your Drumstick flower recipe - you must post more things like that please. :)

  2. vasanti said:

    Your drumstick flowers recipe sounds and looks good! Would love to try it, but it is difficult to get the flowers here.

  3. Hi Anita,

    I hope you're having an awesome week! I thought you might like this infographic I helped build about the health, mental, and financial benefits of gardening (

    If you think your readers would like it too, please feel free to use it on the Red Ride Tomatoes blog. There's code at the bottom of our post that makes it super easy to post on your blog. It's all free (of course). If you have any questions about posting it, let me know and I'll try to help.

    I don't know where else to contact you so I just posted a comment here. :)


    ~ Janey

  4. very interesting post anita! i came across a recipie using the flowers of the neem tree a while back -

  5. Very interesting post about the drumstick flower tree. Love the striking blue color of the aparajita. I have had teas with hibiscus and jasmine in them. The jasmine tea was delicious.

  6. I'd like to try out your drumstick flower recipe. We usually saute them with chillies and onions. Your fennel blooms look gorgeous! Love the one where you've captured the insects. Now your post has got me thinking about edible flowers.....

  7. Arati and Kanak, thank you for your recipes. Janey, thank you for leading me to your site; the infographic has some interesting info.