The story appears on

Page C3

April 20, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Cooking with flowers for health

FLOWERS please our eye and our sense of smell, their oils are used in aromatherapy and many flowers themselves have medicinal benefits as dietary therapy.

Chinese were cooking with flowers thousands of years ago and flowers, such as the special Chinese rose, are important ingredients in the cuisine.

"Drink the dew of magnolia in the morning, and eat the falling petals of chrysanthemum at night," wrote Qu Yuan in his famous poem "Li Sao" ("The Lament") about a nobleman's life in the Warring States Period (476-221 BC). Magnolia and chrysanthemum symbolize nobility and integrity.

Chrysanthemum wine was routiely served in the imperial palace on Chongyang Festival (Double Nine Festival) in the reign of Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).

However, flower cuisine didn't become popular until the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). It first became popular among the nobility, especially women who used flowers to improve their complexion.

It is said that Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in Chinese history, ordered servants to collect hundres of flowers, mix them with mashed rice and make them into bai hua gao (hundred-flower cake).

Various flower cuisines were invented, including cakes, soups and dishes. Cookbooks such as "Shan Jia Qing Gong" by Lin Hong in the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279) gives 15 flower recipes.

Apart from adding scent and flavor, some flowers are rich in nutrition, including vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.

Some people believe that eating beautiful flowers will help make them beautiful.

Health is closely related to what we eat, says Steven Jiang, chief Western-style pastry chef of JW Marriot Hotel Shanghai, at the opening of Yu Fashion Garden IAM Eating.

"A Western saying goes that we are what we eat," says Jiang. "A good diet can help us not only gain health but perfect our appearance as well. Flowers, of course, can help make us beautiful."

Flowers can be part of dietary therapy.

For example, osmanthus flower can help relieve coughing and dissolve phlegm; chrysanthemum can help dispel pathogenic heat and improve eyesight; Chinese rose can help activate blood circulation and regulate menstrual periods.

Other popular medicinal flowers include plum blossom, lotus, lily, jasmine, magnolia, peony, Chinese redbud, evening primrose and Chinese cymbidium (orchid). Their buds and petals are widely used. They can be lightly fried, deep fried, steamed, dressed with sauce and made into soups, congees and snacks.

Cooking method doesn't affect medicinal value, says Jiang, but he recommends cooking dishes with a relatively plain flavor to set off the flower scent and flavor. Flowers should not be overpowered with other flavors and aromas.

Long cooking should be avoided.

Jiang recommends using flowers in sweet dishes, in contrast to those that are sour, bitter, spicy and salty. Sweetness also emphasizes the flower's fragrance.

Some DIY recipes

Chinese rose (yue ji)

Chinese rose is widely used not only because of its beautiful appearance and fragrance but also its high medical value. Chinese rose is a mildly "warm" (yang) energy herb that tastes sweet. It helps activate blood circulation, relieve edema and dispel toxins, according to the "Bencao Gangmu"("Compendium of Materia Medica") by famed herbalist Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Modern research proves rose promotes blood circulation and metabolism in connective tissue, which can help treat blood clots, heart disease, phlebitis and irregular menstrual periods. Better circulation often improves the complexion and color. Rose can trigger the respiratory center to breathe more deeply and quickly.Rose also aids digestion by promoting bile secretion and nourishing the intestines.

Chinese rose congee

Ingredients: Chinese roses (30g), rice (50g), millet (50g), honey (50g), longan (50g)


1. Chop longan.

2. Combine longang, rice and millet in saucepan, boil quickly, simmer 30 minutes.

3. Add rose, simmer five minutes.

4. Sweeten with honey.

Benefits: Activates blood circulation, relieves chronic stomach inflammation, improves appetite and relieves coughing.

Peony (shao yao)

The flower is a "cold" (yin) energy herb that tastes bitter. It nourishes the blood, soothes the liver, nourishes yin energy.

It's used to treat diarrhea, night sweating, irregular menstrual periods. It improves the complexion, relieves acne and discoloration due to endochrine imbalance. It is said to help lift depression and treat "bad temper."

Peony and red-cooked pork

Ingredients: pork (500g), peony (30g), rock sugar, salt, green onion, ginger slices, yellow wine


1. Chop pork into cubes, soak in cold water and yellow wine for five minutes.

2. Heat sugar with oil, stir until it turns brown.

3. Add pork, stir, add water until pork is covered.

4. Add peony, ginger, green onion. Quickly boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 munites.

5. Add sugar to sweeten, simmer 15-20 minutes.

Benefits: Nourishes blood, improves complexion.

Chrysanthemum (ju hua)

Chrysanthemum is a mildly "cold" herb that helps dispel pathogenic heat and toxins. It is used to treat high blood pressure and hardening of blood vessels, improve eyesight, ease red eyes, benefit the lungs and treat ulcers.

Modern research finds chrysanthemum effective in nourishing the nerves, improving the immunity of capillary vessels, improve strength and delaying conditions of aging.

Its aroma helps releve cold symptoms and headache.

Chrysanthemum and chicken slices

Ingredients: chicken breast (250g), fresh chrysanthemum (50g), one egg, green onion, ginger, salt, yellow wine, sugar, sesame oil


1. Chop chicken.

2. Make sauce with egg white, salt, yellow wine, ginger, green onion.

3. Spread sauce on chicken.

4. Make seasoning sauce with salt, sugar and sesame oil.

5. Pan-fry chicken.

6. Add seasoning and chrysanthemum and fry for a few minutes.

Benefits: Helps the spleen, reinforces energy, dispels pathogenic heat,improves eyesight.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend