Food & Drinks

Szechuan Buttons: Electrifying Edible Flowers

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Szechuan Buttons: Electrifying Edible Flowers
Photo ©Matt Taylor-Gross

Electric daisy, buzz button, toothache plant ... the Szechuan Button is an edible flower that goes by many names, all of which point to its uniquely "electrifying" properties when chewed on.

It's probably fair to say, if you have tried it, you won't have forgotten about it, not for its flavour, but for its unusual sensory qualities:

"The flower ... tastes like a 9-volt battery. It’s electrifying and hits you on a molecular level. We’re talking nerve damage here, where your tongue and mouth actually go numb after an awkward salivating period. It’s absolutely horrible, but in a really terrific sort of way," explains Averill on his first experience in Paste Magazine.

What Are These Crazy Electrifying Flowers?

Native to tropical regions, the flowering herb of the Acmella Oleracea plant family is well known for its medicinal properties, aka the toothache plant, due to the numbing analgesic agent 'spilanthol' which is released when the bud is chewed. 

How to Use Szechuan Buttons?

The flower provokes a multi–sensory experience, including mouth tingling, numbness and increased salivation making it an unusual surprise in both food and drinks.

Kick up your cocktails

Mixologists have clocked on to the fun qualitites of the buzzy flower.

Marxfoods, an online retailer of the flower have a number of pointers on how to use them in drinks depending on the level of tingle you want to achieve. Find a number of recipes on their site, from the gin–based Electric GinGer Button to the vodka–based 'Lectric Carrot.

Add Fun to Your Food

Saveur report that Chef Ferran Adrià was one of the early experimenters, using the flowers in his “electric milk” –  a wafer made with dehydrated milk and topped with Szechuan flower.

The flowers are also ideal used as a garnish in salads, soups and desserts likes sorbets, where just the petals can be sprinkled for a milder reaction.

Or if you just want to have some fun, why not just try handing them out at a party. This is what these folks did below in their office...


Click here for 5 other edible flowers and how to use them

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