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Aquilegia vulgaris

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  • KenFern
    Dear Andrea 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 7 4:19 PM
      Dear Andrea
      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.
      Allium species            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 shade tolerant.
      Oxalis acetosella. Very shade tolerant, lovely lemon-flavoured flowers. Look for other members of this genus that might be hardy with you.
      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 tasty.
      Rosa species. Several members of this genus might prove useful.
      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 flavour.
      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.
      Ken Fern
      -------- Original Message --------
      Subject: Aquilegia vulgaris
      Date: Tue, 6 Jan 2004 19:29:39 -0600

      I have a question.  Under Known Hazards for Aquilegia vulgaris, you
      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[76]."  Under Edible
      Uses you state "Flowers - raw. Rich in nectar, they are sweet and
      delightful[172], 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.

      Thank you,
      Andrea Lampert

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