Szechuan buttons, however, give new meaning to the term "flower power." Also known as buzz buttons, electric daisies, and electric buttons, Acmella oleracea are famous for delivering a powerful zap—yes, as in an electric shock—when you bite into them.
It's no wonder that they're also known as the toothache plant, since that shock is followed by a numbing sensation.
Saveur describes them as being straight out of Willy Wonka's laboratory. One restauranteur says they're "a little north of Pop Rocks, and south of putting a 9-volt battery in your mouth." Smithsonian mag says the flowers taste like a combination of mint and lemons and feel similar to a Novocaine shot.
Why Chefs Love Buzz Buttons
Unsurprisingly, chefs and mixologists are in love with this unusual ingredient, incorporating it into pasta dishes and cocktails with glee. In Brazil, Szechuan buttons are normally used in stews while in Southeast Asian, they're used in salads.
Some chefs recommend that you serve them as a unique, standalone appetizer to best appreciate their qualities. The effects are most evident when the buttons are raw, but even cooked, they retain a little buzz.
Used in Drinks, Desserts...and as a Botox Alternative
Native to South America, North Africa, and Asia, the Szechuan button's unique sensations are due to Spilanthol, an alkaloid that is reputed to warn off certain parasites. (It's also been touted as a natural Botox alternative.)
One of the most popular uses of the plant has been as a cocktail ingredient. Marx Food has a great primer on how to create all kinds of Szechuan button cocktails and infusions (and some delicious recipes, too, like this coconut ice cream with mint and Szechuan button foam or these poached prawns with buzz button salt.