Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Secondary Edibles: Greens

In researching some necessary changes in our diets both presently and for future days on the homestead we're working to purchase, we've become aware of the role greens should be playing. A vital source of quality nutrition, greens are for the most part easy to grow, and often overlooked (at least by us).

I've never really grown greens, aside in our childhood garden where we grew kale, chard, some leaf lettuces, and turnip greens. Others grew collards. All are delicious in some form, especially when accompanied with a hot buttery hunk of cornbread...mmm!

Lately, we've noticed in our investigation of different plants friendly to this growing zone (9) that some plants know as foods in other ways also have edible leaves or stems. This would make these foods a dual-use food, in addition to their value after harvest as a compost or mulch ingredient.

Vegetables with secondary edible parts sometimes require specific cooking or preparation, and the flavor may vary from appealing to unappetizing. However, it must be kept in mind that whole cultures have utilized parts of plants Americans are unfamiliar with. If prepared properly, many greens untraditional to western tables can be harvested and enjoyed, as well as their nutritional boost.

We're trying to utilize our plants, and plan for future crops, with multi-use in mind. Some may be animal fodder, mulch, fertilizer, companion plants or beneficial insect attractors as well as a great crop for our own eating. Whatever plants we can eat, if we can find multiple parts of the plant that are edible, we'll be trying it!

Here is a small list of some such plants that we've read have edible greens in addition to their primary crop fruit or vegetable:

1. Okra...leaves can be used as greens. Do they have to be young leaves, or prepared a certain way? We're still researching that.

2. Sweet potatoes. Ditto. Leaves and stems are said to be edible as boiled greens...flavor depending on variety, some varieties pleasant and other not

3. Papaya. (Baby papayas shown below) Young leaves steamed and eaten like spinach in some parts of Asia.

4. Malanga. (Shown below)Ditto #3.

5. Mints. (Some shown below, among drying herbs) They're primarily an herb, and used as such, but we enjoy them not only as a spice/condiment, but also stir-fried into other greens such as spinach, with some salt ...really brightens the taste!

6. Gynura Procumbens/Sambung Nyawa/Bloodsugar plant. (Shown below, just after trimming back...we harvest 5 gallons of leaves!) We use these as a tea, but prefer them as greens. They can be used as a food, not just a medicinal.

7. Beet greens/Turnip greens. Others use both root and leaves regularly. I simply love beet greens!

8. Snap beans and Lima beans. We've never tried either. We'll research this some more and actually try some cooked different ways before recommending them. But we saw it on a list and if it's true and they taste fine cooked (and are safe!) then wow, what a great double use for these!

9. Squash. Again, young leaves said to be edible if cooked..I'm assuming boiled or sauteed. Again, would need to try!

10. Red Clover. The flower heads and the leaves are both edible. Leaves are said to be very rich in nutrients and protein, and we'll be trying them both raw in salads and cooked with other greens.

Ok, that's all for now.

We'd LOVE to know if you know any dual-use plants that can be harvested for greens, and how you prepare them for eating. Have you tried any of the above? We'd love to hear from the voices of experience while also trying out hand at some.

Don't forget...before trying anything ALWAYS read read read and KNOW it's safe before beginning. Same thing for testing for very careful!

Don't take my word for any of these things before doing your own research.

If we find success with these, we'll give a full report :)


Carolyn said...

great post. very informative. How lucky you are to live in a good growing zone. We are headed into winter here in Ohio. No fresh grown greens for us!

Christina said...

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMmm so much to think about. The sweet potato greens.... and to think I never touched a collard green until about 5 years ago.... This is radical! Good Post!

Mike said...

Squash and Pumpkin flowers. Not really "greens", I suppose, but still very tasty!

Granny Sue said...

Ah food! So many kinds, so little time...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Fascinating and useful info all at the same time.

I also appreciate your warning of safety first.

If you've ever read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer you may remember how Christopher McCandless got two different plants confused and ended up eating the poisonous one and died out in the wilderness.

Excellent and a very deep, meaningful story.