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  • Writer's pictureThe Wild Foodie

Magnolia Flower: Edibility, Uses and Recipes

Magnolias are well-known for their beautiful blooms and striking white, cream, pink, or purplish flowers. These popular decorative trees and shrubs bloom magnificently in spring or early summer, with their numerous blossoms displayed on bare branches for maximum impact. There are also evergreen varieties that produce huge fragrant blooms in late summer. They thrive in a warm location with wet soil and lots of sunlight, you’ll not be able to miss them in spring, when they adorn front and back gardens in the warmer parts of the UK.


Magnolia Flowers and uses UK
Magnolia Flowers

Interestingly, Magnolias are one of the most primordial plants in evolutionary history, with fossil evidence indicating that they existed in Europe, North America, and Asia over 100 million years ago. According to fossil records, the Magnolia genus has existed since the Cretaceous period (145 to 166 million years ago), making it the very first blooming plant. Pre-dating bees and working with flying beetles as pollinators instead.


In this post, we’ll go further than just this plants history. We’ll explore its culinary and medicinal uses and share some delicious recipes too. So firstly, let’s talk about how to identify the magnificent shrub.


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Magnolia Identification

Magnolias are evergreen or deciduous trees or shrubs with big fragrant blooms that can be bowl-shaped or star-shaped and come in white, pink, purple, green, or yellow. The blooms or flowers, frequently occur before the leaves appear in April. Cone-like fruits are frequently produced in the autumn.


Both evergreen and deciduous magnolia trees produce alternating leaves with smooth margins. The typically cup-shaped and fragrant blooms feature three sepals, six to twelve petals clustered in two to four series, and numerous spirally organised stamens. The flowers are found near the tips of the branches.


How long do magnolia flowers last?

Depending on the temperature, magnolia blossoms normally endure around two weeks before falling. A heavy rain, late frost, or unusually warm weather could cut that time in half. Blooms will turn brown and drop off if temps drop below freezing. We have a magnificent Magnolia tree in our front garden, the plant struggles every year to flower for long, managing a full lasting bloom rarely, usually damaged by frost.

Are all Magnolia flowers edible?

Magnolia flowers are adored for signalling the beginning of warmer weather, but they are also tasty and very edible – but not all varieties are so. To be clear, not all Magnolia flowers are edible, and you’ll have to determine what type of Magnolia it is before cooking or eating it. There is a great list to see here, which on top of telling you which ones are edible, also gives you flavour profiles of each type.


Flavour profiles include:

Dark pink = bitter, ginger-chilli

Pink/White = the gingery, cardamon flavours

White = lemony, subtle, sometimes floral



How to eat Magnolia flowers

You eat the petals, and the most delicious petals are those that are still in the bud stage or just about to open. Their flavour of the flowers becomes more bitter as they age. Although several species have distinctive flavours, the classic purple and pink saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana) is the one that is most frequently used in cooking. The petals can be consumed fresh, roasted, pickled, dried, and even used in tea. They can have a deliciously powerful clove and ginger flavour. They also go great with bitter salad leaves, soft cheeses, work great in a salad. They can be dried and processed into a powder to replace dried ginger, or they can be infused into a simple syrup for use in cocktails and dessert drizzles.


There are lots of edible flowers in your garden, check out our guide to discover more edible garden flowers.


Magnolia Flower Recipes

As we have already alluded to, there are a whole host of ways to use Magnolia flowers, from salads to sides, drizzles to desserts. However, here is a few more recipes that you might like to try, recipes which really pair those spicy notes with some delicious ingredients.


Quick Magnolia Flower Pickle

Ingredients

Magnolia petals washed (handful)

200 ml rice wine vinegar

1.5 tbsp white sugar

3/4 tsp Maldon salt

  1. Put your vinegar, sugar and salt into a saucepan and bring to the boil, making sure that everything is dissolved. Allow to cool.

  2. Arrange your petals in a sterilised jar, then pour in the pickling liquor. Seal.

  3. You can eat these the next day or it will last a week in the fridge.

Magnolia Flower Kimchi

400g small of Chinese leaf (shredded)

250g of washed Magnolia flower petals, stamens removed

1 tbsp sea salt

½ tsp chilli powder

50g fish sauce

50ml water

1 tbsp ginger, peeled & grated

1 tbsp garlic, finely minced

4 spring onions, finely sliced

  1. Place the Chinese leaf cabbage and Magnolia flower petals in a bowl with your salt. Mix. Then over two hours, toss the Magnolia and Chinese leaf. This process will draw out the water from both the petals and the cabbage leaves.

  2. After a couple of hours, drain and wash the leaves and petals, taking care to remove the salty solution.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix all your other ingredients to make a ‘dressing’, including your garlic, spring onion and ginger. Pour over the cabbage and magnolia flowers and mix thoroughly.

  4. In sterilised jars, spoon the solution, making sure that it is packed in. Close the lid and allow to sit at room temperature for 48 hours (every 12 hours or so, take off the lid to release any build-up of gases).

Great for gut health, or served as a side on most Korean dishes, once two days have passed, you have your own delicious magnolia petal kimchi. Store it in the fridge and you can enjoy it for the next two or three weeks.


Magnolia Flower and Ginger Beer

For the Ginger and Magnolia syrup:

200g Golden Caster Sugar

150ml Water

8 Large Magnolia Petals (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

For the Beer:

1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast or brewer's yeast

Ginger and Magnolia syrup

3 Tbsps.’ lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1.5 litres water

  1. To make the syrup – Place your magnolia petals, ginger, sugar, and water in a pan, bring to the boil and allow to cool completely. Strain and your syrup is made.

  2. To make the beer - Using a suitable funnel, in a clean 2 litre (sealable bottle) place your yeast, lemon juice and four Tbsps.’ of your syrup. Then top up with water. If your bottle has a wide enough neck, you can also put in some more petals for decorative value.

  3. Store at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) for two to three days, checking occasionally to release the gas. To stop the fermentation process (when the right fizz has been achieved), place your ginger and magnolia beer in the fridge.

Drink within a couple of weeks – try this with a shot of spiced rum over ice or simply as it is.

Magnolia Salicifolia flower buds
Magnolia Salicifolia flower buds

Magnolias medicinal benefits

The first literary mentions of magnolias often speak of their alleged therapeutic benefits. Anyone who has experienced the aroma of magnolia sap will know how seductive it is and how likely it was to appeal to individuals in the medical field. Magnolia Salicifolia flower buds are used to alleviate headaches and allergies in Asia. Previous studies have also alluded to the potential use of this medication in cancer treatment. Another more recent study discovered that tonics derived from the bark of Magnolia officinalis reduce tremor in Parkinson's disease patients. Magnolia is used to treat obesity, digestive disorders, constipation, inflammation, anxiety, stress, depression, fever, headache, stroke, and asthma. For toothaches, some people put magnolia flower buds straight to the gums.


Learn more natural remedies with our great selection of natural medicine books.


Summing up

This beautiful springtime flower has long been one of the first blooms to signal the coming warmer months. Its stunning displays admired by many, are more and more being noticed by the hungry wild foodie. Its medicinal and now culinary uses now becoming more widely known, meaning that this beautiful shrub’s springtime coming will be welcomed by more than just wide eyes and smiling faces, but also the gentle rumbling of hungry tummies too.



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