CornflowerCornflowers are large, showy flowers that resemble daisies. They have a blueish-purple color in the center with yellow petals. The leaves are green and may have three lobes near the base of the plant. Native to Europe, cornflowers are widely cultivated in North America as garden plants and have been naturalized as an invasive species in some areas outside of their native range. Cornflowers can be used to obtain cornsilk, an alchemical ingredient.
The flowers can be eaten raw or cooked and can be used to make dyes. Cornflower petals are sometimes given as an ingredient to give a blue hue to such things as butter, vinegar, and custard (known as 'cornflour flummery'). They make a good garnish for many foods. The flowers can also be used to make tea.
Miners and other folk suffering from lead poisoning (plumbism) used to drink a tea of cornflower petals in the hope that it would limit the amount of lead absorbed by their bodies. This was due to an unproven theory that said since cornsilk can absorb excess amounts of lead, so could human beings. It is in fact poisonous.
Cornflowers are also used in divination. If a young woman places three cornflower petals under her pillow before sleeping, she will dream of her future husband. They are also thought to help induce sleep when placed upon one's pillow.
They are also said to promote love if carried by a man and professed faithfulness if carried by a woman. Like a lucky charm, they ensure good weather and soothe troubled minds.
Cornflowers are also said to bring wealth. They can be thrown into the path of someone that has stolen from you in order to confuse them and cause them to lose their way. They can also be used for protection against fairies and witches.
Cornflowers can be used for dyeing as well. The blue color was once preferred over indigo to dye American Civil War military uniforms, as the flowers were widely available in the South and thus cheap. Depending on the mordant or how much of the flower is used, cornflower dyes range from sky blue to a dark shade. They are typically mixed with alum as a mordant, or with vinegar or baking soda as other mordants to help set the dye.
Global cornflower production
It is estimated that the global production of cornflowers is around 1.3 million tonnes per year. The vast majority of this production takes place in Europe, with Russia, Ukraine, and France being the leading producers. Other significant producers include the United States, Canada, China, and India.
Cornflowers are an important commercial crop and are used in a wide range of products including cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoos, dyes, and medicines. They are also used as a food ingredient in a variety of dishes and are popular as decorative garnish.
The majority of cornflowers grown commercially are blue in color, although there is also a white variety. The blue cornflower is the national flower of Estonia and is also the symbol of the Finnish province of Karelia.
Cornflowers are relatively easy to grow and can be started from seed. They prefer a sunny position and well-drained soil. Once established, they will flower from June to September.