Edible flowers: Emerging components in the diet
BackgroundThe search for a healthier lifestyles and changing eating habits, have placed viable and safer alternatives products in the market. In particular, edible flowers are used to make dishes more attractive, by adding color, flavor and other sensory characteristics, thus also presenting in their composition bioactive compounds, such as polyphenols, that may provide beneficial health effects.
Scope and approachThis review deals with the production, harvesting and storage of wild edible flowers, as well as aspects concerning their processing, packaging and consumption. Moreover, the most abundant bioactive molecules, namely phenolic compounds and more particularly anthocyanins, are also reviewed. Some extraction techniques, such as Solid-Liquid extraction (SLE), Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE), Ultrasound Assisted Extraction (UAE), Pressurized Liquid Extraction (PLE) and Microwave Assisted Extraction (MAE) are discussed, as also the most convenient solvents used. Particular focus is employed on the anthocyanins present in edible flowers.
Key findings and conclusionsThe presence of phenolic compounds has attracted the interest not only of the consumers, but also of the food industry, due to their potential to be used as natural additives, namely as preservatives and colorants, that can be applied as an alternative to substitute their artificial counterparts. The major phenolic acids found in edible flowers are caffeoylquinic acids, while cyanidin-3-O-glucoside is the main anthocyanin. Methanol and acetone were the most common solvents to extract polyphenols and solid-liquid extractions are the most common methodology applied. Only a small part of edible flowers has been explored, being required more studies, so that they can be used with total efficiency.