Barbara Ruffoni is passionate about flowers. She came up with the idea of expanding the edible flowers "niche", starting in France and Italy where flowers have always been part of traditional dishes.
She is project manager at ANTEA which aims to promote the horticultural industry by developing new products such edible flowers.
Currently around 80 flowers are recognised as being edible and the ANTEA project is focused on 40 of these. They range from new and wild flowers to those already traditionally used in kitchens. Researchers are experimenting with new ideas and concepts as well as looking into the various characteristics of these edible flowers. Scientists are interested in their nutritional characteristics, levels of toxicity and microbiology, everything that can be helpful in creating a good product.
Barbara Ruffoni says there is no question eating flowers has several health benefits.
"Eating a salad with edible flowers is better than eating a salad without them," she explains. "The flower and the petals contain anthocyanins, antioxidants and polyphenols that help our bodies to stay young."
Barbara Ruffoni's interest in flowers dates back to her childhood.
"For me, the flower has always been a friend, a companion," she says. "My grandmother was a great lover of flowers, and she handed down this passion to me. I started working in flowers 30 years ago, with ornamental plants, and this evolution really intrigued me and I am very happy to have given flowers a new chance"