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Everyone cooks with vegetables, seeds and leaves.Cooking with flowers is a rare thing in the Indian cuisine, nevertheless it might not be that rare too, there are 100’s of edible flowers that people across the world use in their dishes, most probably the flowers used in India are usually related to their counterparts of either vegetables or fruits and traditional flowers like jasmine too.
You may know moringa as ‘drumstick flower’, this trending super food has finally started getting its due. The drought-resistant tree is native to the foothills of the Himalayas, West Bengal and Orissa has a flower that can be enjoyed in many forms: brewed in tea, added to lentil curries, cooked as a vegetable, even deep fried and served as fritters.
Indigenous to Africa and long cultivated in India, tamarind’s most common use has been of its pulp to add a signature sourness to lentil curries, chutneys, Indian stews and to make cooling drinks. Interestingly, the iconic Worcestershire sauce has tamarind being an essential part of the even the copyrighted recipe.
Papaya trees are commonly seen across the country; they are accessible and affordable and provide many forms of nutrition and livelihood to those living in the north east of India, mainly Manipur. Their flowers are used extensively in salads, cooked with potatoes and simmered with fish heads.
Or banana blossom is exactly that–a flower that eventually blossoms into the equally delicious banana fruit. While it doesn’t taste anything like the fruit, it has a similar aroma profile and tastes similar to the exotic and pricey zucchini flower/blossom. Frequently found in south Indian cooking, a popular dish is the protein-rich Adai-Vazhaipoo. Just remember that the flower turns brown quickly so peel the outer magenta layer only when ready to use or soak in lemon water.
Natives of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu consider Mahua to be the most versatile tree. The entire plant—right from its root and bark to leaves and flowers serve a purpose. It’s one of the few seasonal flowers—hence more coveted—appearing in March and May, and then transformed various avatars to last across seasons. Think health tonics with ghee and honey, jams, flower flour to make breads, distilled into juices and even fermented to make country liquor.