Friday, December 19, 2008

Unlikely Edibles

I've mentioned some of these before, but we're reading up on it further, and will try some of these in the upcoming year to see how they might be utilized...

There are so many plants whose foliage can be utilized as food in addition to their fruits or roots. Some of those are:

Carrots
Radishes
Turnips (of course)
Beets

Ok, we knew that, I think. But here are the ones we'll be trying in the cookpot in the future to see how we might incorporate them, or at least test them, as valuable additions to our meals.

Cowpea leaves.....pink-eyed purple hull, crowders, black-eyed peas, etc. Did you know that the leaves are edible ?? I have no idea how they taste, but they're nutritious as cooked greens...who knew? Having a few rows of cowpeas not only provides some cheap and great vegetable fare, but if you can eat the leaves, it really contributes in a larger way to the harvest, and the nutrition at the dinnertable. They say you can harvest the underneath leaves as the plant grows, leaving the top ones on the plant still as the cowpease grow and develop, akin to "picking a mess of greens" when you need them. Cool!

Okra leaves...huh? those prickly things? Well, it seems that the young leaves are good chopped and included in soups. Maybe not so good sauteed, as they might have the same slime factor as the pods. But according to preliminary reading we've done so far, in soups and gumbos, the leaves are in their element. It'll be a must-try for our hot climate...we'll see how it does.

Squash and Pumpkin leaves. Again, does the taste vary according to variety? Our reading how turned up mention of the value of these leaves being used at the young stage. I'm not sure if they're used raw, but they can be cooked. I'm not sure of the taste and not sure if they're good alone or better if combined in stir fries and soups. But imagining the double-whammy of utilizing not only the squash and pumpkin fruits and blossoms as well as the leaves...well...there are a lot of leaves on those things! What if it equates to a lot more food from the garden...and another fantastic way to eat our greens? I love the idea of eating as much of the plant as possible.

Clover. Don't laugh. Animals love it, but apparently so did native human populations. We've meant to try this one but haven't yet, except fresh. The leaves are edible cooked, dried and ground as an addition to flour (think adding them into pasta-making or additions to soups), and the flowers are packed with loads of vitamin C and can be pulled apart and used in salads, or battered with tempura and flash fried.

There are more, but that's all for now...just wanted to post it quickly before I forgot! Finding the possibility of "secondary edibles" for common crops figures into our deliberations as we peruse the seed catalogs and figure out what we will try growing this year. In a sense, we're not only educating ourselves as first time gardeners, but also hoping to re-educate our assumptions as to what parts of the actual plants can be utilized. It's exciting to find the choices are vast!

5 comments:

Phelan said...

We eat clover with our salad, it's sweet. Also, Love lies bleeding is a good one. Cook up the young leaves like you would spinach or in a stir fry.

Annette said...

I'd never thought about eating the leaves of pumpkins/squash although I have eaten the blooms, battered and fried. Interesting about the clover - I used to eat the flowers, as a child, during recess! LOL

Wrensong Farm said...

If I "HAD" to I'm sure I could eat any one of those.....and I'm sure some would taste good even. I think I've had pumpkin leaves in a dish I had at a Thai restaurant...but it also had Asian pumpkin in it...not sure on the diffence....but it WAS delicious!!

Robbyn said...

Phelan, neat! I didnt know LLB is edible...another great find, thanks!

Annette, we're trying to stretch our minds around using all the parts of the plants if they have a use, and especially if edible. It'll be fun trying things and seeing if we can find a way to incorporate them...and double our bounty :)

Wren, it'll be fun seeing, won't it? ooo, the Thai food sounds gooood :)

Anonymous said...

I too eat clover (flowers). But consider that the more you remove from the garden the more you have to put back. I think I will leave my squash leaves for the compost.
Cow peas are new for me- an intersting tial for 2009.
EJ