Cornflowers… they don’t just grow in cornfields, they grow pretty much everywhere, but I guess their striking blue is shown up beautifully against a mass of ripening wheat, barley, oats, rye, (corn in a general sense meaning grain) and so were given the name.
I didn’t realise they are edible – imagine how pretty they would look as a garnish to summer dishes! They were originally a European plant but have since spread, accidentally and purposefully, to just about every other continent with the right climate and conditions. They have been here in the British Isles since very ancient times – next time I imagine a landscape with our neolithic ancestors wandering round, I shall add some cornflowers!
As you might imagine, their gorgeous colour has been used as a colouring, but the flowers do have a medicinal use, as an eyewash, apparently they are most effective. As with most striking plants, they are an emblem used in many countries – they are the national flower of Estonia, and in former times, of parts of Germany. They are also used as a symbol of various political European parties, mostly it seems right-wing – I guess in contrast to the association of red with socialism.
We were lucky enough to be in the Netherlands last week, and while out walking came across a whole field dotted with cornflowers! Now whenever I see them, I’ll think not just of neolithic peoples, not just my own childhood, but our Dutch friends and the great time we always have together!