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Today, let's talk about flowers we eat. How could it be that we eat flowers? We eat cauliflower. That word, in Latin, means "cabbage flower." The cauliflower plant is a kind of cabbage, in which the inflorescence (means flower, pronounced "in-flor-ESS-enss") becomes condensed, and forms a hard mass, which is edible.

Does it have all the characteristics of a flower? What are the characteristics of a flower? A flower has "a short stem, carrying leaves, some or all of which are sporophylls; or, in seed-bearing plants, a similar structure protected by a floral envelope." That's what Mr. Webster says. He also tells us that sporophylls (pronounced " SPORE-oh-fills") are "spore-bearing leaves." Okay. So the leaves on, for example, a fern frond, are sporophylls, and that means that the leaves that have spores are actually flowers. In elaborating on Mr. Webster's second definition, we are informed that in seed-bearing plants, the flower is the reproductive organs, surrounded by petals. This is the kind of flower we need to understand.

If we picked a cauliflower before it has become condensed, we would see that the very center of each floret has the stamen and pistil. If we allowed a cauliflower to go to seed, we wouldn't pick it when it got ripe for eating. We'd just wait, and the florets would separate and each would have some seeds. The cauliflower does have all the characteristics of a flower. Besides, it tastes good, either raw or cooked.

What other flowers do we eat? We already talked about artichoke, which is the flower of a certain kind of thistle. We eat broccoli, which is a flower related to cauliflower. The spice called "clove" is also a flower, which we use ground to a fine powder for flavoring baked items, and we use it whole (stem, petals, and seed) for decorating and flavoring baked ham, and other foods.

Here's a flower we can eat that may surprise you. Nasturtiums! Pick fresh nasturtium blossoms and wash them very carefully, then remove all green stem and leaf parts.
Break the petals off, and put them into tossed salad. They make a green salad look very colorful, and give it a peppery flavor. We can also eat squash blossoms. Pick fresh ones that are not all the way open, wash very carefully, remove all green stem and leaf parts. Then you can stuff them with cooked ground beef, put them in a baking dish, pour on some tomato sauce, add some grated cheese, and heat in the oven until the sauce is bubbly. What happens when we pick squash blossoms? We don't get a squash in that spot. It's only a good idea to pick them if they are so close together that good-sized squash won't have room to develop.

Can you think of any more flowers that we can eat?

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