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Are Orchids Edible?

Here’s What You Need To Know

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are orchid flowers safe to eat

Salads are as colorful as they get, with the green leaves, the red tomatoes, the orange carrots, the brown walnuts, the yellowish cheese, and the shreds of white meat. Sometimes, flowers are added for a whole new range of colors and flavors. You can pick from many edible flowers to add to your salads and other dishes, but does this include orchids?

The flowers of all orchids are considered edible, and some are even ingested as herbal medicine in certain cultures. However, some species do cause stomach irritation when you consume them. Meanwhile, vanilla orchids are the only edible fruit-bearing orchid species in the world.

This article will talk about how safe orchids are for consumption. It will also talk about how you can consume the blooms from certain species, the benefits of consuming them, and how they taste like.

Can you eat orchid flowers

Are Orchids Safe for Consumption?

Orchid blooms are edible and safe for consumption. In fact, the flower petals are said to have a fresh and crisp taste similar to leafy vegetables. As such, you can use them as ingredients for your salad. Some also recommend them in stir-fry dishes or to candy them as part of cake decorations.

You can ingest other parts, too. Certain cultures in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia have been eating different plant parts for centuries, mostly for their medicinal value. But you will have to do more research on which specific parts of which species of orchids these are.

Orchids as Medicine

Orchids have been widely used as traditional herbal remedies for various illnesses and wellness needs. Ancient Greeks, for one, believed that eating orchid tubers can increase a person’s fertility and sexual vigor. 

It was the Chinese who reportedly first discovered the therapeutic properties of orchids. In the 28th century BC, Emperor Shen Nung, who is known as the “Father of Chinese Medicine,” wrote about Bletilla striata and a dendrobium species in his medical journals. 

Traditional Chinese, and even Japanese, medicine use dried dendrobium to treat cancer, improve eyesight, relieve headache, ease convulsions, and boost the immune system. Until today, the Chinese still drink medicinal tea with orchids. 

Orchids are also used to make a traditional Turkish beverage known as salep. First made popular during the Ottoman Empire, salep is also a common fare in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Greece, England, Germany, India, and other parts of Asia. People drink it to treat gum disease, sore through, and digestive issues like diarrhea.

Salep uses a type of powder or flour produced by drying then grinding the ovoid tubers of orchids like orchis militaris and orchis mascula. This flour is also used to make bread and desserts. 

Other species or types of orchids like the eulophia campestris, orchis latifolia, vanda roxburghii, and vanda tessellate are also believed to have antibacterial properties and phytochemicals, which can help in the treatment of various medical problems.

Orchids As Food

Orchids can be eaten and enjoyed, too, and not just consumed for their medicinal benefits. 

Dendrobiums are at the top of the list again for this. Soft cane dendrobiums, for example, are used in sauce recipes and stir fry dishes. In Thailand, they dip dendrobium flowers in flour and egg batter and deep-fry them into crunchy snacks. 

Another type of orchid that is commonly used for culinary purposes is epidendrum. 

In Hawaii, fresh orchid flowers are added to salad dishes or are candied and coated in sugar. Meanwhile, European chefs love using orchid petals to garnish or decorate their cakes, cupcakes, and other desserts. Orchid tubers are also used by South Africans to flavor their meat sauces. In fact, due to this demand, African orchids are now threatened.

Orchid ice cream is also very popular in Turkey. It uses the same powder used in making salep, combined with sugar, milk, and mastic. This ice cream is unique in that it’s chewy and it doesn’t melt. The closest food item to orchid ice cream in terms of texture is saltwater taffy. Greece has similar ice cream, and it is called dudurmas or kaimaki.

Many restaurants are now using orchids as a garnish for drinks and cocktails, too. And some people add them as ingredients to marinades and salad dressings or place them in flavored jellies, oil, and vinegar.

How Does Orchid Taste Like?

Fresh orchid petals taste fresh, light, bland, and crisp, which some people say is similar to watercress, cucumber, endive, chicory, lettuce, and other leafy greens. Some say they taste light at the start but sweet or bitter towards the end. However, the exact flavor generally depends on the genus of the orchid you are using and which part of the plant it is. 

Nutritional Value of Orchids

Like most edible flowers, orchid blooms are rich in vitamin C, boosting your immune system and helping stave off infections. They are also rich in fiber and essential minerals like iron, calcium, and potassium. Moreover, they are an excellent source of antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Let’s Talk About Vanilla

No talk of edible orchids will ever be complete without talking about vanilla. 

Vanilla beans, which come from the seed pod of the vanilla orchid, are widely used to flavor all sorts of recipes, especially baked goodies, and ice cream. Sometimes, vanilla extract is used to flavor coffee and even cigars. Some also use the scent of vanilla to alleviate nausea or morning sickness. 

Vanilla orchids originated from South and Central America, but currently, Madagascar is considered to be the best vanilla producer.

 The extract is made with chopped vanilla beans and alcohol. This extraction process can take a few months. Once finished, the extract is finished you can use it to flavor your favorite desserts.

The taste of the vanilla extract depends on where the vanilla orchids were cultivated. Extracts from the Madagascar vanilla beans, for instance, have a traditional, full-bodied, and strong taste. Mexican vanilla bean extracts have a smooth flavor featuring a hint of spice. Meanwhile, Tahitian vanilla bean extracts are delicately flavored, with fruity and floral notes.

Things To Watch Out for When You Consume Orchids

When you eat orchids, you will have to be on the lookout for hazards like allergies. People who have allergies to pollen and those who have specific food allergies need to stay alert for unexpected reactions. So be on the safe side and have your antihistamines within reach. Moreover, people who have asthma may also react negatively to edible orchids. 

As such, if you are hosting dinner or an intimate party, you may want to ask your special guests about certain food restrictions first.

How To Store Orchids Flowers for Consumption

It is always best to use freshly cut or freshly picked orchid blooms in your food or drink and to use them right away. But if you have some extra flowers, you can still save them for another dish on another day.

A cut orchid flower can last up to 10 days if you keep it inside an airtight box or container and place it inside your refrigerator. Just maintain a temperature of 36 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (2.22 to 4.44 degrees Celsius) inside your fridge. Doing this would allow you to preserve its shape and freshness.

Final Thoughts

Orchid flowers are not known to be toxic to humans and are considered safe to eat. But the same can’t be said about the other parts of the plant. Sure, there are species with tubers that are edible, and there’s also the vanilla orchid whose pods make vanilla extract. But that’s it.

As for the flowers, they have been used as herbal remedies in many cultures for hundreds of years. So go ahead and try making some orchid tea. Flowers also make great ingredients for a wide variety of recipes. So be adventurous and give your food some extra twist.

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