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Sweet William (Dianthus caryophyllus – Carnation)

Sweet William, Dianthus, carnations -  edible flower

Carnations / dianthus can be steeped in wine, candy, or use as cake decoration.  To use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower.  Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with light clove-like or nutmeg scent. Petals add color to salads or aspics.  Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that has been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century. They have been cultivated since ancient times and were quite popular in Rome during the empire days. Its botanical name, Dianthus, means flower of the Gods. Originally just in shades of pink or peach now a rainbow of carnations are available, each still keeping it clove-like scent.

Like many blossoms Carnations were used to convey sentiments in times when overt expression of love were frowned upon. Thus many a bouquet was carefully constructed to send just the right message with just the right colour. Their fresh petals can be used to liven up salads, sandwiches and pies (petals should be removed from the calyx and their bitter white base should be removed). An essential oil is obtained from the flowers that is largely used in perfumery and is credited with providing many therapeutic benefits to the individual. Flower heads are dried to make scented sachets, macerated oil and other cosmetic application.

Growing dianthus

Dianthus are one of the oldest cultivated flowers, treasured for centuries for their scent and their ease of cultivation, as they will thrive almost anywhere. Wild dianthus are plants of mountainside, grasslands, mountain slopes and forest margins. They grow well in cool zones as well as warm areas providing a well-drained soil. The harder they are grown and the less they are fed, the better they will flower. Furthermore, these flowers can all be propagated easily from cuttings, taken at any time of the year. They are usually harvested in summer and autumn during flowering and fruiting time.

 Medicinal use

 Dianthus is a key herb used in Chinese traditional medicine to treat urinary difficulties. In Western herbal Medicine, the entire plant is used as a bitter tonic herb that stimulates the urinary system and digestive system. Dianthus chinensis is classified as antibacterial, diuretic, emmenagogue and febrifuge. Externally, a decoction of either petals or roots is used to treat skin inflammations, infections and swellings.

Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus – aka Dianthus)