What is a buzz button?
The Buzz Button (Acmella oleracea) is a very interesting edible flower!
The plant’s botanical name is Acmella oleracea, and is also known as the toothache plant, electric daisy, electric button, and Szechuan Button.
Read on to discover why these names are so apt!
The Buzz button flower is relatively uninspiring to look at. The flowers are yellow, and have a cone shaped, semi- dense head, with no obvious petals and looks a bit like a liquorice allsort!
But there’s a surprise in store for your mouth when you start to chew on the flower! They are called Buzz Buttons for a reason! They send your taste buds buzzing!
So, what happens when you eat a Buzz Button flower?
When you bite down on one of these flowers, your mouth will experience a pleasant fizzy, effervescent tingling sensation which can become quite intense, but is an amusing experience! This stimulates the saliva glands which then start working overtime and the tingling feeling gives way to a strange numbness in the mouth.
It is a bizarre but not unpleasant experience! And one that is cherished by chefs and cocktail makers as a fun, surprise element for their unsuspecting customers!
How long does the Buzz Button side effect last?
The buzz button effect can last between a minute and 10 minutes depending on how many flowers you eat! Generally, the more flowers you consume the more intense the sensation.
Are Buzz Buttons dangerous?
No, they’re not!
The numbness is caused by spilanthol which is activated when the flower is crushed. This compound is absorbed by the soft tissue in the mouth and provides the tingling and numbing experience.
Spilanthol has anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural analgesic and antibacterial bioactive compound. For this reason, the plant has been used for centuries in South American folk medicine as a remedy for toothaches and sore throats.
How can you use Buzz Buttons?
The combination of the tingling sensation and the increased saliva production stimulates the taste buds with an exciting burst of energy, heightening the flavours in food.
The Szechuan buzz button tastes a bit grassy and subtly citrussy, but it’s not a dominant flavour. Chefs tend to use the flowers more for their ability to awaken the palate, heightening flavours in both savoury and sweet dishes.
The flowers can be added to salads, stir fries, sushi, pasta, and soups as well as sprinkled over ice cream, sorbets and chocolate desserts. In fact, it can be added to any dish for an enhanced flavour experience.
The buzz button drinks have also become very popular, with the flowers used as a garnish in cocktails.
They can be muddled in the drink or just floated on a leaf as a garnish. Watch as the flower is picked up and eaten!
A fun use is to grate the flower and use on the rim of a cocktail glass for the exciting tingling effect.
Many fun and unexpected experiences have been had by unsuspecting cocktail drinkers!
How to grow Buzz Buttons
Buzz buttons are a member of the Asteraceae family and can be grown as a perennial in tropical climates that don’t get frosts. In more temperate climates it’s grown as an annual as it dies as soon as it gets too cold.
It is quite an easy plant to grow in the warmer climates, growing to about 30 cm high, and likes to spread out. The plant likes to have full sun, good moist, organic filled soil and will reward you with flowers that bloom continuously from late spring, right through the summer. If it doesn’t get 6-8 hours of sun a day the plant will become straggly and won’t flower so abundantly (which would be a great shame!).
The buzz buttons also grow very successful in containers filled with a rich organic soil and compost.