Begonias are well-known flowers in Albania, but mostly for their distinct beauty. But they have an additional benefit. The leaves flowers, and stems are edible. Begonia blossoms have a citrus-sour taste. The petals are used in salads and as a garnish. Stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb.
Begonias can be prepared in several different ways. An infusion made by soaking the flowers in hot water helps to eliminate headaches and rid the body of toxins. The crushed flowers and leaves can also be rubbed directly on the skin to help relieve pain and heal sores or burns.
The fleshy leaves and flowers are edible raw or cooked. They can have a slight bitter after taste and if in water most of the time, a hint of swamp in their flavor. There are two cautions, however: Begonias contain that overrated tart threat, oxalic acid, and since they are primarily only found under cultivation make sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides and the like.
The Journal of Economic Botany has mentioned edible Begonias several times since the 1940’s. Wherever they grow they have been important to people. They are a good source of food and medicine and vitamin C, long eaten to prevent scurvy. As just mentioned, Begonias have had numerous medicinal applications.
Begonia leaves as a tea for colds. Roots and tubers of Begonias have been a mainstay of folk medicine for centuries. They have been used as emetics, purgatives and cathartics. The sap has been put on wounds, and concoctions used for cough, consumption, and fever. Shoots have been used to treat upset stomachs and enlarged spleens. The acid-based sap has been used to treat toothaches and gum aliments. It is anti-bacterial. There are now some 1,600 species and at least as many cultivars.
Leaves and blossom raw, leaves cooked. The petals of the tuberous begonia are also edible, and the stems can be used like rhubarb. As always, identify your species, check with a local expert, and try sparingly.
Begonia Spread: Use one 8 oz package of soft cream cheese, 1/4 to 1/3 strawberry or other jelly or jam, some fruit juice or other liquid to soften more if needed. Wash and coarsely chop begonia flowers to make about 1/3 cup. This is a matter of taste so adjust to what you like. Mix the cream cheese and jelly in a food processor or mixer and add the chopped begonia petals.
The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism./AgroWeb.org