There is tremendous value in understanding our intimate relationship to the natural world, and in our hectic fast-paced lives, so many of us forget to stop and smell the rosemary.
Here are nutritional benefits of 7 edibles that are right in your backyard, no trip to the grocery store needed!
When you have had your fill of garden squash, pick the blossoms that form on the vines before they bear fruit. They are less likely to mature into full fruit as the weather gets colder, and the flowers themselves have a delicate squash flavor, so they are wonderful tossed in salads or deep fried and stuffed with delicious things, like cheese, herbs and bread crumbs.
These flowers are high in calcium and iron, and especially high in vitamins C and A. If you aren’t growing squash in your garden, farmers markets and even some grocery stores have plenty of blossoms toward the end of summer and into fall.
Daylilies bloom in the peak of summer and are high in protein and a good source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. The buds can be sautéed in butter and salt and added to most dishes for texture. The petals, meanwhile, add vibrant color to cocktails and salads.
Dandelion flowers bloom for only a few weeks in early spring, with a few stragglers throughout the summer. They look like little bright yellow suns and have a particularly good amount of vitamins A, C, calcium and phosphorus, some of which will remain even when you dry the flowers.
The leaves have sharp triangular points and the stem excretes a milky sap when torn. Their bitterness pairs well with fatty and acidic flavors, try tossing them in a pan of rendered bacon and finishing them with a heathy dose of lemon juice. You will find dandelion greens in fields, in gardens, and wherever you see bright yellow dandelion flowers.
Pick the leaves from an open field far from any ‘chemical’ spraying, and if you can, pick early in the season when the leaves of the plant are still tender.
Many people confuse wood sorrel with clover because of its similarly shaped leaves. The flavor is entirely different, however, with all of the rich vitamin C giving it a sour, lemony taste. It was historically used to treat fever. You will differentiate it from clover by its brighter green color and small yellow flowers. It tends to grow in taller clusters as well. Use it as a garnish in cold summer soups, it will look beautiful and add a wonderful acidity.
Purslane is an intriguing plant. You’ll find it in many countries, from city sidewalk cracks to your vegetable garden, most likely somewhere you don’t want it to be. Hearty and able to withstand most weather conditions, purslane appears in the summer months, with leaves that are fleshy, plump oval, almost cactus-like. The flavor is a little salty, a little sour a kind of built in “vinaigrette” flavor, requiring little else to make it into a tasty salad.
Its nutritional attributes are a bonus: an extraordinary amount of Omega-3 fatty acid, which is normally found in fish and flax seeds; vitamins A, B, and C, as well as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron; and something called “alkaloid pigments,” which cause its reddish stems and yellow flowers. These are potent antioxidants. You can call this dish your new “sidewalk salad.”
Rich in protein and minerals, clover is almost everywhere you see grass. If the grass has been untreated with chemicals, pick the leaves and incorporate them into salads or sprinkle on top of finished dishes as garnish. Even freeze them in ice cubes along with flowers and herbs to make cold summer drinks more whimsical.