Monday, May 19, 2014

Edible Ornamentals



In frontier times, people foraged the  nearby hills and fields for edible plants. Since the early 1900’s, however, Americans began the great migration to the cities and  eventually lost their foraging ability. Perhaps the time has now come to learn which ornamentals and common weeds can be a  good source of nutritious food.

Here is a short list of some well-known edibles. Many university websites have a more comprehensive list of ornamental edibles.

A. Weeds - If you can’t beat them, eat them!
 1. Dandelions, Taraxacum officinale -Fresh dandelion leaves can be eaten raw, in salads, added to a stir fry, or boiled and steamed like spinach. They have a bitter taste, but boiling will help take that out. Dandelions also make a great addition to soups and stew. They are high in carotenes, iron, calcium and vitamins A and C. As a detoxifying agent, dandelions aid with liver, urinary and gall bladder disorders, diabetes and high blood pressure. Dandelion root tea is sold in local health food stores. 

2. Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) is also called wild spinach with similar nutritional value to spinach. 

3. Burdock (Arctium Lappa) is a weed rich in potassium, iron and calcium. 

4. Common mallow (Malva neglecta) the leaves, stems, and immature seeds are eaten raw or cooked. Mallow is reported to be rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, selenium, and vitamins A and C.

 5. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a succulent; the leaves, stems and flowers can be eaten either fresh or cooked. The leaves contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant.
Other edible weeds include chickweed, white and red clovers and plantain.

B. Edible Flowers
1. Marigolds are one of the most commonly grown ornamental annuals. When dried and crumbled, the petals of marigolds can substitute for the most expensive spice in the world: saffron. 

2. Roses, both the petals and the rosehips (fruit), are edible. Rose water is often used in scones, cakes, sherbets, salads and icings.  

 3. Sunflowers – in addition to the commonly eaten seeds, the petals can be added to soups and stir-fry dishes. The sunflower buds can be steamed and eaten like an artichoke.

4. Daylilies (Hemerocallis sp.) - Some species (especially H. fulva) are cultivated in Asia for their edible flowers. The petals can be eaten raw or more commonly dried and used as a flavoring in soups. The young shoots should be cooked and have a pleasant sweet flavor. Even the roots are edible.

Nasturtium, violas, borage and calendula flowers are also edible and frequently used in salads.  Bon Appetit! 

Caution: Before collecting, research the plant to verify it is edible, and most importantly, make sure it is properly identified. Eating the wrong plant can be disastrous.