This edible yellow button flower IS THE POP ROCKS OF THE FLOWER WORLD! A. Oleracea is a small leafy plant with edible flowers that make your mouth feel like you’re chewing a battery. And they’re all the rage.
Buzz button, toothache plant, electric button, Szechuan Button, electric daisy, paracress, jambu, Sichuan button – they’re all the same thing: an edible flower that’ll dance on your tongue like a glass of champagne. Except gross.
I’m not opposed to a good nickname. Who hasn’t dreamed of one day being referred to as Winner, Meatball or Jimmy in the Clink? I once spent the better part of an entire summer trying to convince my co-workers I was really more of a Lola.
Yes. Lola. And yes – I was old enough to have co-workers.
But the list of nicknames for this plant is out of control. My personal favourite would probably be Electric Daisy, if the plant looked anything at all like a daisy. Even though it’s related to a daisy, it really looks nothing like one. I normally refer to it as a Toothache Plant because in addition to a tingling sensation it makes your mouth numb too.
But for this post I’ll refer to it as Buzz Buttons because I like that nickname and I think it’s the best description of what it feels like when you eat it.
Your mouth feels buzzy.
So let me introduce you to this plant that I often grow and always have fun daring people to eat; which 90% of the time they do. Even after I’ve told them everything that will happen once they eat it.
STUFF YOU WANT TO KNOW
What is it?
Buzz button (toothache plant) is a member of the Asteraceae family which also includes daisies, dahlias, marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, asters, chamomile and chrysanthemums.
It’s an edible plant (flowers, stems, roots) that contains spilanthol, an analgesic and antibacterial bioactive comound. In regular talk – it can numb and clean skin.
When I first started growing this plant I thought it was just a novelty. But when I read about it more I discovered that it’s actually been scientifically studied quite extensively and proven to have an insane amount of potential uses.
What *does* happen when you eat it?
Oh boy. How to describe eating a buzz button flower. Here we go.
- Your tongue starts to tingle all over
- Your salivary glands begin overproducing and your mouth starts to fill with spit
- Your mouth develops the tastes of salt
It’s weird. It’s just plain weird. The bigger the flower you eat, the stronger the effects.
- The number one thing to do with a Buzz Button is offer it to a friend and watch them eat it of course.
- topical anaesthetic (hence the term toothache plant)
- flavour enhancer (it’s added to cocktails and food because it makes other flavours explode)
- In specialty boozy drinks from your favourite mixologist (This flower made the Chandelier Bar’s “The Verbena” drink in Vegas famous)
- Add the petals and leaves to salads, pasta, rice and other dishes to add a buzz and pump up the flavour.
Where to get buzz buttons
You can order fresh or dried buzz buttons (sometimes listed as toothache plant) online.
Etsy sells fresh picked buzz buttons now.
Amazon also sells them fresh in clamshells the same way you’d buy packaged herbs in the grocery store.
ORRRRrrrrrrr for a lot less money you could grow your own.
Growing Spilanthes (buzz button)
This plant is easy to grow from seed but it takes a while for it to sprout and when it does it’s TINY. So keep an on it when you plant it to make sure the seed has consistent water to help guarantee germination.
Start seeds 6-8 weeks before your last frost date.
- Plant the seeds in a cluster in a small pot of soil. Just sprinkle seeds over the top and push them down with your finger so they’re making contact with the soil.
- Very lightly sprinkle about 1 mm of dry soil over the top and press it down as well. Don’t water the soil on top – it’ll slosh all the tiny seeds around. The wet soil below will moisten the little bit of soil you sprinkle on top.
- Cover the pot with plastic wrap or a plate to retain moisture. Check on the pot every day. As soon as you see sprouts (which could take anywhere from 1-2 weeks) remove the plastic or plate and put under lights or on a windowsill.
- When the first true set of leaves appear, you can transplant each seedling either into the garden or into it’s own small pot or cell pack.
- Plant out when danger of frost has passed.
It grows best in full sun but tolerates some shade.
The plant itself isn’t very large – about 18″ across and around 1′ high. But it produces a ton of flowers for its size.
If you leave the plant in the fall, and don’t clean it up from the garden, it’ll reseed itself by dropping dried seed heads below. By the following spring you’ll have multiple sprouts shooting up that can be transplanted, left to grow where they are or given away.
If you plan to use the flowers for medicinal purposes, continue to pick the flowers as they bloom when they’re fully formed and bright yellow. They can be dried by hanging them, putting them in the oven on a very low temperature or set in a dehydrator.
Once you grow these plants from seed you’ll never have to buy seed again. They produce hundreds of seeds per flower if you let them dry on the plant. At the end of the season when the seed heads have dried, pluck one off and shake the seeds into a bag.
There are two varieties of this plant. One is all yellow (like the one I’m growing) or one that’s called a bullseye plant. The flower looks exactly the same as the all yellow one, but there’s a dark brown centre in the middle of the flower making it look like a bullseye.
Its stems are sturdy for the size of them and are about 5″ long. The flowers will last for days and days in a vase.
I’ve grown toothache plant (as I normally call it) for years and it’s always one of my favourites. Who doesn’t like thrusting a flower at someone and then demanding they eat it so you can watch their face go through myriad of changes??
Also they look super-cute in a small vase.
And for obvious reasons, this plant really doesn’t have any pests that bother it.
It seems we humans are the only ones ridiculous enough to want to eat it.