It does sound a bit confusing. Aquilegia belongs to the same
plant family as the buttercups (Ranunculaceae) and most, if not all species in
this family contain substances that can be toxic to humans. The concentration of
these toxins is fairly low in the plant and are either extremely low or absent
from the flowers. Whilst I would not want to eat huge quantities of the flowers,
just to be on the safe side, certainly eating 20 - 30 of the flowers would
appear to be perfectly safe. As far as I know, however, no definitive study has
ever been carried out to confirm this.
To put it into perspective, many of the foods we eat contain
small quantities of substances that could prove harmful if eaten to excess. For
example, many members of the rose family (this includes pears, apples, plums,
peaches, apricots and almonds) contain the highly toxic prussic acid, but only
in minute doses. Almonds, however, are a case where toxicity is a real potential
problem. There are two main classes of almond - sweet varieties where the
content of prussic acid is very low and so they are fairly safe to eat in large
quantities, and bitter varieties (used to make marzipan and other
things) where only a few seeds could be toxic to a child.
Prussic acid is just one example of a toxin in foods that we
regularly consume, there are many many more! However, our bodies have evolved to
handle these substances in small quantities, and indeed can often make use of
these small quantities to improve health. Prussic acid, for example, greatly
improves breathing when consumed in small quantities and so is used
herbally to treat various breathing difficulties.
Going back to your search for edible flowers. I do not know
the soil type, degree of shade and other conditions you garden under, but
may I suggest the following raw edible flowers might be suitable for you to grow
- they will all succeed under a moderate to high degree of shade. You can visit
the PFAF site to find out more information on them.
Whilst most need moderate to good amounts of sunshine, many
will tolerate varying degrees of shade. Try A. ursinum, which should be bone
hardy and A. tricoccum (though this might not be hardy enough).
Campanula species Various of these species
have delicious flowers. Try in particular C. glomerata, C. latifolia, C.
persicifolia and C. takesimana.
Cardamine pratensis has lovely spicy flowers.
Cercis canadensis. A tree with acid-flavoured flowers that are
delicious in salads.
Hemerocallis fulva should succeed - experiment with other
members of this genus.
Hibiscus syriacus and H. sinosyriacus might not be hardy
enough, and they might not manage to flower unless you can give them moderate
sun, but worth experimenting with.
Malva species. Many of these are worth trying, particularly M.
alcea, M. moschata and M. sylvestris (look for the named forms of this one with
larger and more showy flowers).
Montia perfoliata and M. sibirica. More correctly these are
now known as Claytonia perfoliata and C. sibirica. They are bone hardy and very
Oxalis acetosella. Very shade tolerant, lovely lemon-flavoured
flowers. Look for other members of this genus that might be hardy with
Primula denticulata, P. veris. These might be on the edge of
hardyness. You could experiment with other members of this genus.
Ribes aureum, R. odoratum. The only times I have tried these
they have been bitter, but the books suggest that they can be sweet and
Rosa species. Several members of this genus might prove
Sambucus species. Several members of this genus should do
well with you. Try S. canadensis, S. caerulea and S. nigra.
Tussilago farfara. The flowers have a pleasant licorice-like
Viola species. Experiment with any species that will grow with
you. Look particularly at V. labradorica and V. odorata.
All the above are perennial plants and trees. Don't forget the
annual as well. There are very many species you could grow for summer flowers -
please contact me if you would like a list of possibilities.
I hope that is of some help.
-------- Original Message --------
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2004 19:29:39 -0600
I have a question. Under Known Hazards for Aquilegia
indicate "The plant is poisonous though the toxins are
destroyed by heat or
by drying[7, 19]. Although this plant contains
alkaloids, no cases of
poisoning to humans or other mammals have been
recorded." Under Edible
Uses you state "Flowers - raw. Rich in
nectar, they are sweet and
delightful, they make a very attractive
addition to mixed salads and
can also be used as a thirst-quenching munch in
the garden[K]," with no
mention of drying or heating the flowers. Are
the raw flowers of this or
most columbines actually safe to eat? I am
desperately looking for edible
flowers for my shade filled yard. I am
in USDA zone 4.