Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Food and Drink

Here's to flower power!

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1967 - the summer of love, and flowers were never more powerful, at least not in modern times. If you were going to San Francisco, you had to be sure to have some flowers in your hair, plus a few in your hand to stuff down the gun barrels of police at anti-war protests.

It's not very much that shakes we humans of the opposing thumbs, big brains and bigger guns off our anthropocentric foundations. After all, other than a few sharks and big cats, if there are any left, aren't we the end of the food chain, the kings of the world?

But can a pretty little flower shake our sense of self?

In his best-selling book of a few years back, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan turned his curious mind to the "crazy" idea that we clever humans have been outwitted by plants, plants that have learned to manipulate us to their own ends.

He examines four plants - pot, potatoes, apples, and tulips - and how they've taken advantage of our human desires for pleasure, nourishment, sweetness and beauty, respectively, to get us to make them bigger, better, stronger and grow more of them.

The entire book is a great read, but it's the tale of the mighty tulip that takes the idea of flower power to another level.

In what was a precursor to the lurid futures markets of today, the seemingly innocent tulip was able to wreak havoc on 17th century Dutch finances. No spoiler here - you'll have to read the book to learn how, but it was an amazing case of flower power run rampant.

So in homage to the power of flowers in all their forms, and maybe as a pre-emptive strike to get them before they get us, let's take the idea of eating flowers out of the realm of the exotic or forbidden and put them right in the centre of the summer dinner table, plunk, where they belong, and I don't mean in a vase.

Eating flowers still remains a novelty, at least in contemporary North American kitchens. The very idea is usually relegated to the purview of fancy chefs in fancy restaurants - "they" do it; "we" don't.

But flowers are simply parts of plants, often ones we already eat, the sex organs, if you will, that have developed flashy attributes like scent and colour to attract pollinating insects and other animals.

Take a look at some flowers that you already use, or at least have nibbled at, and may not have realized they're flowers.

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