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Carrot greens, squash greens, pea shots, are these edible?

 
Paulo Bessa
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Posts: 352
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Hi,

We often eat what is common but we do not know if we can eat the OTHER parts of the same plant.

I know that for brassicas, you can eat everything, flowers, stems and leaves, if you cook them. I actually like to stir fry their flowering tops. I have also ocasionally eaten red cabbage salad. I have also cooked turnip tops. Brassicas are safe and very healthy if not eaten in great excess, otherwise they mess with thyroid function. I am going to try now radish tops (cooked) for the first time.

But can you eat carrot greens?
Apparently there is a lot of stories pointing to the presence of alkaloids in them.
I have a lot of carrots now flowering outside; I also would like to know if I can eat the carrot root at this stage. I guess it might be risky, as flowering plants often produce alkaloids at times of flowering.

Lettuce is bitter when flowering. Is this because of alkaloids? So it might be toxic at that stage.

What about rucula/rocket, if flowering? Can you at their raw leaves at that stage? I have done so actually but they are even more peppery.

Obviously, green parts of tomatoes and potatoes are very poisonous (and actually I dislike raw tomatoes except cherry types, well ripe, if sweet). But bell peppers are commonly eaten raw (even green ones), which is an interesting fact considering they are from the same family.

And can you eat squash shots and leaves (and any other gourd)? Apparently they are eaten in some regions of the world. Their leaves are surely abundant!

Now, beets (and swiss chard); their leaves can be eaten raw but I guess it does interfere with your calcium if eaten in excess. Anyways, spinach is from the same family. What about their flowering tops (if they are bolting)? And what about amaranth leaves? I heard they can be cooked.

Beans: can you eat imature pods and cooked seeds, from all varieties, or are there any risks? I am well aware you must always boil beans for at least 20min to kill their toxins. And I know some beans have more toxins than others (like red kidney beans). You can actually get poisoned if you cook them without boiling.

Peas: I have eaten both cooked imature pods and seeds, from several varieties. Never had any problem. Mature pods can be fiberous and hard even if cooked (unpleasant to eat). I have even eats raw shots of peas in a restaurant once. I guess pods might be edible raw if they are young. But then, when you think of beans their leaves and pods are probably toxic if eaten raw.

What about the leaves of cereals (rye, barley, wheat, oats)? Can you eat them cooked, or pressed in juice? I have seen some reports on the internet but I am not sure of their safety.

Any comments?
 
Fred Morgan
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Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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I know that you can pretty much eat all of the chayote plant, growing tips, fruit (of course) and the root.
 
Paulo Bessa
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Posts: 352
Location: Portugal (zone 9) and Iceland (zone 5)
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Ok, carrot tops are UNSAFE to eat.

They can be eaten by some people (that report no side effects), but not by everyone (because some people do report significant ill effects after cooking and eating them).

The symptons are those of alkaloid poisoning (nausea, palpitations, throat swelling...) and this might be specific according to stage of growth of plant, susceptibility to climate, and to the person itself.

http://voices.yahoo.com/are-carrot-greens-safe-eat-4535809.html?cat=22

Since some people do report poisoning, you never know until you try them. Therefore, and as far as we are aware, carrot tops are considered potencially toxic for edible purposes.
 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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Carrot greens are edible but not very palatable to me. Some people love them and it's a common food in the South. The other greens you mentioned are also fine for eating, but they fall into the category of "technically edible" for me, which is to say they taste awful when they have bolted.

Regarding alkaloids there are two issues. One, Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in excess (and that's a lot) can cause nervous system problems, and more rarely, a few other problems like kidney stones. (They can also make you high -- like opium.) Two, oxalates interfere somewhat with calcium absorption, and oxalic acid is good at extracting alkaloids. Almost all things we think of as "vegetables" contain alkaloids in some degree. But compared to the benefits of eating spinach and beets and related crops, you really shouldn't worry about it unless you eat them to excess or for some reason you have a personal medical condition where this is a serious factor. Cooking these plants breaks down much of the oxalic acid if you are concerned.

Beans... what kind of beans? It depends on the specific beans. You want to cook mature scarlet runners beans, soy and kidney beans very thoroughly -- with at least one change of water for runner beans -- but many are fine raw when they are young. As a general rule, cook your mature beans.

Wheat grass I know can be juiced; the others I don't know about.

There are a lot of foods which are technically mildly toxic but that doesn't mean they are a problem unless one eats them to excess. Almost anything is "toxic" in excessive doses, including plain water. Many mild toxins are actually beneficial to our bodies. Compared to eating the standard American diet of processed food and soda, I don't worry a bit about eating my vegetables!
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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Squash vine/flowers are edible, but everything but the very tip is tough and fibrous. That said, the tips are wonderful, and one of my favorite times of year is when I start collecting those 1.5 months before vines freeze.

Good questions - most of them I don't know but will watch other replies!
 
Alison Thomas
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Location: France
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Peas - we eat mange tout and sugar snap peas raw all the time. In fact most don't even make it to the kitchen as the children go up to the veg patch and scoff them straight from the plant!

Squashes - that was interesting about the squash tips, Eric. Mine are currently heading into the far yonder and I could contain them AND have a yummy snack at the same time - like it.

Runner beans - we've always eaten ours as sliced green beans, mostly cooked but sometimes we have them sliced finely into a salad (very young pods). From the info posted here I'm guessing that one can also eat the fully mature beans? Handy to know as we always have a glut of the green beans stage.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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My body tells me what to limit, because I just don't want to eat a ton. I always have enough chard and rhubarb to eat it constantly, but while I like them both, the weird tongue sensation from the oxalates makes them a 'sometimes' food.
I find carrot tops gross, but they're definitely eaten by some.
Apart from soy beans, which need special treatment, juvenile beans are fine raw or cooked.
Alison, I'm very fond of dried scarlet runners.
 
leila hamaya
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Location: northern northern california
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i like to eat the flowers of most of those things you mentioned (except carrots, which i didnt know you could eat the greens).

squash and pea, bean flowers are very yummy, so are kale and cabbage flowers.
but then of course, you are lessening the harvest some, any pea flower you eat isnt going to make peas, ditto with squash, so i try not to eat them all before they have a chance to do their thing. i do think there are a few (rare) varieties of peas that arent edible, but i dont know which? i've wondered myself too, all the peas i have looked into and grow are edible, though some of them arent as good (relative of course). the pea flowers are good from most (all?) even some of the "ornamental" ones.

seems most veggies flowers and lots of the seeds (or as sprouts) are edible, i eat alot of parts of the plants that many wouldnt think of...

beets i grow mostly for the above ground parts, which people find odd, it takes me a while to build up to actually eat the beet root. i try to make myself eat them, i dont know why its that way. but i love the greens, and above ground parts. some times i will cut up some of the stalks too, also of brassicas and even chard to stir fry or for soup. chard makes a kind of beet like bulby root eventually...after growing for a few years people will eat the chard roots.

with carrots you can eat them after they flower, but you wouldnt want to...different varieties act differently actually... but most make this tough inner rind part once they flower thats not pleasant, but not bad for you (as for what i know)
 
leila hamaya
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Location: northern northern california
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quote:Lettuce is bitter when flowering. Is this because of alkaloids? So it might be toxic at that stage.

this is what they call *lettuce opium* its a very mild relaxant and has been used medicinally for a very very long time.its not at all toxic, but it will make you sleepy. its quite mild actually, unless someone makes a preparation to try to concentrate it into a medicine. thats usually only done with wild lettuce, which is much stronger. but common garden lettuce, that milky substance when you break the leaf, is medicinal.
 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Squash tips and tiny baby squash are delicious in a stir-fry. Carrot tops may not be real yummy plain, but can be used in a green smoothy, mixed with other greens like chard, spinach, kale, etc, which is my favorite way to "eat my greens." Pea shoots are also good in stir-fry. I usually just wander around the garden and gather a mix of whatever looks good. I also use flowering tops of mustard, radish seed pods when young, but not usually the carrot tops after they flower. But my hens love all the greens I don't want to eat, plus comfrey, marshmallow leaves, malva, amaranth, wild spinach, etc--anything that is too old or overgrown to be tasty to me.

Generally, the pea shoots or squash tips or mustard flowers etc that I harvest are when the plants need thinned out, or the squash plant has already set 2 or 3 nice fruits and any more wouldn't have time to mature, etc.
 
Angela Baker
Posts: 14
Location: Portland, OR
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Pea shoots make a very good stir fry. We grow a batch of peas in the fall just for shoots. Sautée them, then toss them with pesto, sautéed garlic, and pine nuts or hazelnuts and you've got a tasty lunch.
 
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