Last week I planted several different “edible” flowers in my garden, which still seems to surprise those who’ve never tasted a Nasturtium, so I thought I might write something about it. Another, better informed Hword writer, Don Siffring, has written about “Edible Landscaping” but I wanted to be more kitchen counter specific, so I “Googled” the subject to help me get started:
Edible flowers 10,400,000 hits Too many!
Edible Plants 3,660,000 hits Still too many
Edible Plant Species 2,480,000 hits A little better
Edible Plants; past week 9,370 hits Good place to start!
One site on the list, http://www.gardendesign.com, refers to a current phenomenon much more familiar to us than pansies in our salads:
“Plants are tricky. Many are edible, but one false mouthful and you’re dead” — The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
The rest of this website is fascinating and, if you’re a dedicated fan, you know already that Katniss, her sister Primrose and her friend Rue are all names of edible plants and that there are dozens of other “ethnobotanical” examples of plants critical to their survival, but, as usually happens with a Google search, I’m already off track.
http://www.wikihow.com/Find-Wild-Edible-Plants suggests “Wild edible plants are everywhere you turn” and mentions Chickweed, Dandelion, Wood Sorrell, Henbit, Dead Nettle, Plaintain, Sow Thistle, Wild Onion and many others, including the spring growth of conifers, described as: “great raw; a pleasant acid taste.”
No mention is made of Lambs quarters, a new favorite of mine … Judy’s great chicken salad was even better yesterday on a bed of this common weed and, in the last two weeks we’ve had it fresh in salads, as a spinach substitute in lasagna and wilted, then folded into an omelet. Off track again; I’m now into weeds and I meant to be into flowers…
…but point “10” on this site gets back to my original intention: “Sample the flower petals of plants you know to be nonpoisonous.” While thinking about spring vegetable gardens, think also about adding some additional colors and some wonderful tastes, as well as some opportunity for beneficial insects! One of the best books of edible flower recipes was published in 1993; it’s Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash. It contains nearly 300 pages of ideas for bringing flowers to the table as food. (I didn’t find it at Prairie Books, but Bernie could order it for you or you can get it from the public library on an interlibrary loan.)
Another site, http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/edible-flowers, has a great “slide show” that provides pictures and very specific information on 11 different edible plants you may want to consider for your spring garden: Anise Hyssop, Bee Balm, Borage, Calendula, Chives, Lavender, Nasturtium, Scarlet Runner Pole Bean, Signet Marigold, Violets and Pansies. Recipes are also included, so you can literally plant what sounds good, not just what looks good. Also see Flower Power: 42 Edible Flowers You Can Eat, a longer list, also with photos.
Now, if you want to try this, remember to follow some common sense rules:
• Only eat flowers you are positive are edible; if uncertain, consult a reference book like the one suggested earlier.
• Do not use pesticides or fertilizers around flowers you plan to eat.
• Eat only the petals, not the pistils and stamens.
• If you suffer from allergies, introduce edible flowers gradually.
It occurs to me (belatedly) that I’m using “old technology” of web sites and the printed page to be an effective hunter/gatherer when “there’s probably “an app for that…” and there are several! There’s a new Iphone app called “wild edibles” that looks like it has great pictures to help users quickly identify edible plants in the wild. More specifically for gardeners are FlowerPedia, which specifically includes information on edibility, and GardenPilot, which will allow you to search their 15,000 plant data base for the word “edible” in the plant description.
Finally, apps aside, explore the web yourself. If you spend time on “Pinterest,” check out “Edible Flowers.” Another approach might be to start with a search for “edible flower recipes” and then select “Images.” It’s interesting how many of these images include recipes that have been posted in the last few days … and they look delicious! This topic must be currently very popular! Anyway, from those images, just click on the pictures that interest you or that look “too good to eat.” I promise you, they’re not.
Tags: edible landscapes
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