Most of us don’t realize it when we pick up the “spring salad mix” that is already bagged, but these baby lettuces often include argula, mizuna, red and green romaine, red and green oak leaf, red and green chard, baby spinach, frisée, and radicchio. Have you ever discovered an impatient or a marigold in your bag of edible greens?
You get more bang for your nutritional buck in terms of phytonutrients and minerals by venturing away from regular salad lettuce and incorporating these different varieties of leafy and flowering greens, so be sure to ask for these lettuces by name at your local farmers market. These are all varieties of lettuce that grow locally in Berks and Lancaster Counties, and you can find them right now being sold individually for much less than you would pay for pre-bagged varieties in the grocery store. All you have to do is ask for the lettuces by name. Oh, and don’t forget to munch on those pretty flowers too. Flowers? Like, the kind I would plant in my flowerbed?
I think for most of us, picking dandelions off of our front lawn and adding them to our dinner plate might seem a bit unusual, yet if flowers are served on your plate at a five-star restaurant, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that they are edible. In fact, dandelions are edible, the entire plant from the bright, yellow flower all the way down to the leaves (usually the leaves are used in soups). These days though, what you need to be conscious of is not whether the dandelion plant itself is edible, but whether your lawn has been treated with any herbicides which may have endangered the roots.
There are a great variety of edible plants, including not only fruits and vegetables of course, but the flowering plants we traditionally use for aesthetics rather than nourishment. Knowing how to incorporate the prettier varieties with blossoms can be a fun twist on your regular lunch or dinner routine.
Here is how you can get started:
Roses – remove the white, bitter base and then the petals can perfume drinks or be scattered across desserts. All roses are edible, however, the darker colors have flavors that are more pronounced.
Marigold (calendula) – The blossoms are peppery and tangy, just like their spicy colors.
Carnations (dianthus) – These flowers have a sweet aroma and the blossoms taste just like they smell.
Chamomile – These flowers look and smell like a daisy, and are often used in teas. Be careful ragweed and allergy sufferers, this plant is in the same family.
Chervil – Smells and tastes like anise (black licorice)
Chrysanthemum – Bitter and pungent, this flower also comes in a variety of colors.
Impatients – These are perfect for candying and make a gorgeous garnish because they come in so many colors. Use them in spring salad mixes to liven up your dish.
Hibiscus – Traditionally used to flavor tea, this flower has a cranberry like flavor.
Dandelion – Oh ya, those wild dandelions are edible, from the yellow flower all the way to the leaves. Just be careful about the ones on your lawn because they may have been treated with herbicide since most people would rather get rid of them! Dandelion leaves are traditionally used in soups or juiced.
Fuchsia – Tangy taste, but another very beautiful garnish.
Other flowers that are edible include jasmine, lavender, lemon verbena, lilac, pansy, sunflowers, violets, mint, and of course, herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, dill, tarragon, oregano, saffron, marjoram and many more that I probably forgot about.
The benefits of enjoying health and vitality from eating plant-based foods include reconnecting with the rhythms of nature. The warm weather lends itself to summer nights filled with long walks outside. The smell of the honeysuckle and the warm breeze are just enough to provide all of us with much needed natural therapy for all the different parts of life that bring about stress. Sometimes busy people forget how easy it is to de-stress, naturally. So go ahead, take a walk, de-stress, and consider how you’ll incorporate one of those gorgeous flowering plants into your next meal.