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Non Traditional Greens  RSS feed

 
Cassie Langstraat
steward
Posts: 3933
Location: Zone 9b
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Hi David,

I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about some of the non traditional greens you talk about in your book. Which are a few of your favorites? And maybe you could tell us one recipe or something!
 
Jerry Sledge
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Location: Rockwall, TX
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I, too, am curious about all the greens (aka weeds) that are growing in my yard and garden. I can recognize dandelions and most of their apparent seasonal variations. I have tasted some of the other greens, but don't positively know what they are. They taste okay and I have not noticed any ill effects. Is there a "rule of thumb" for safe sampling, should it be a taste or a handful? I am not sure how to look it up in the books I have. There does not seem to be a book says, "if your plant leaves look like this, then go to this chapter".
 
Erica Taranto
Posts: 3
Location: Pasco, WA
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Hi David (and Cassie)!

I am also interested in recipes...especially for dandelion greens since that is what we have most of in our yard currently. I know dandelions are very persistent, but living in a neighborhood where most of our neighbors' yards are dandelion free, and before we really knew what we were doing, we (SHOCK and HORROR!!) used weed and feed, I was wondering if you've ever come across a good way to encourage dandelion growth?!?!? They probably need little to no help, but if we were to try, what could we do to help them populate our yard again?

Also, what are the most drought tolerant greens you've come across? We live in Eastern WA which is basically a desert. Having grown up in CT where we definitely didn't irrigate, I am still learning about how to live out here, and now learning more and more about permaculture, we are working on not having to irrigate here too!

Thanks!
Erica
 
Dave Kennedy
author
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Hi Cassie, Jerry and Erika,
Thanks for your questions about green leafy vegetables. A few thoughts to offer.
Favorite Non-Traditional Greens: I like quail grass (Celosia argentea) sometimes called soko or Nigerian spinach. It is related to amaranth and shares most of its high nutritional values, but is easier to grow, slower to bolt, and has beautiful foliage and flowers.
Edible Jute (Corchorus olitorius) also called molokhaya or bush okra, is another favorite. It is not related to okra except in name. It is an annual plant that is grown as a source of jute or burlap fiber. It is also a popular leaf vegetable in much of Africa, India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, and the Middle East. It can grow over 6 feet tall but is usually pruned to keep at a convenient height for harvesting. Varieties of this plant grown for jute fiber are quite different from the leaf vegetable varieties and can grow up to 16 feet tall. Jute leaves have a slightly bitter flavor and are somewhat mucilaginous, like okra. The leaves either fresh or dried are valued for their ability to thicken soups and stews. It is one of the most nutritious vegetables, being especially rich in iron, calcium, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.
Wolfberry or Goji (Lycium barbarum and L. chinense) is another favorite that cold hardy. With bright green foliage, red or pink flowers and scarlet berries, wolfberry plants are attractive and easy to grow from seed or suckers. Once they are established suckers are very easy to propogate. The plant produces the goji berry, which has been marketed in health food stores, but the leaves are even more nutritious.

In Asia the leaves are usually stripped from the stem (carefully, to avoid thorns) and stir-fried, steamed or added to soups. Wolfberry leaves are somewhat bitter and the younger leaves are the best flavor. generally cooked for a few minutes and used as potherbs. Wolfberry leaves have by far the highest content of iron among vegetables. This is potentially important to the roughly 2 billion women and children suffering from iron deficiency anemia.

Jerry asked “I, too, am curious about all the greens (aka weeds) that are growing in my yard and garden. I can recognize dandelions and most of their apparent seasonal variations. I have tasted some of the other greens, but don't positively know what they are. They taste okay and I have not noticed any ill effects. Is there a "rule of thumb" for safe sampling, should it be a taste or a handful? I am not sure how to look it up in the books I have. There does not seem to be a book says, "if your plant leaves look like this, then go to this chapter".

I am unaware of such a book. If you are double checking to make sure a plant is the one you are looking for a search through Google images will often give you many color photographs to compare to your garden sample. I might start with these common and nutritious weeds
• Dandelion (Taraxacum officiale)
• Dock (Rumex crispus)
• Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album)
• Chickweed (Stellaria media)
• Pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus)
• Plantain (Plantago major)
• Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
• Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica)

As for a rule of thumb; I advise caution in eating plants that you don't know. A few, like members of the Elephant ear family can be dangerous eaten raw. Some like poke, have been commonly eaten in the past but are no longer recommended for human consumption. As Martin Price, the founder of ECHO would say “eat like a deer, not like a cow”. Caution with wild plants is especially important for young kids.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1318
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Great, with my climate I have all of what you are telling about!
I also like moringa leaves, they taste like radish when eaten raw.
also poppy leaves are not traditional but easy to find.

Do you know malabar spinach? Really need heat, but great.
I eat them raw or cooked, and also the violet berry.
The only berry I know that taste like a veggy!
And colour lips and tongue like blueberries or more!

I also discovered a chenopodium from mexico, chenopodieum nuttalensis or something llike this....
Look like the C. album at the beggining, but they grew 2ms tall.

I also like the wild ruccula, smaler leaves but can stand all summer with a great taste, even when they flower.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1374
Location: northern California
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Another avenue to keep in mind are the edible greens produced by common plants primarily cultivated for other purposes or edible parts. Jute has already been mentioned, which is primarily a fiber crop. Not many people know that the leaves of the sweet potato make excellent greens when briefly cooked....similar in taste and texture to spinach. The foliage of just about any of the cultivated brassicas is edible when cooked as well....radishes will produce "greens" from seed quicker than just about anything else. Cauliflower usually will not re-sprout after harvesting the head....but there is a bunch of lush greens on each plant, which are so identical to collards that I have even sold them as collards.
Yet another small and important list of plants are the woody species, shrubs and trees, which produce edible foliage. These are perennial and usually respond well to a coppice system of repeated cuttings. Sourwood (Oxyendrum), the basswoods or lindens (Tilia), and rose-of-Sharon (a Hibiscus) head the list in the temperate zone. In the tropics are some very important perennial greens, both shrubby and not, which can be very important source of vitamins....Some of these (chaya, cassava, and taro come first to mind) are toxic in a raw state and become edible after cooking. This is a valuable characteristic, as the plants often resist damage from the many insects and wild or domestic animals......
 
Seth Peterson
Posts: 94
Location: Berkeley, CA
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Wow! I'm thoroughly impressed by the wealth of knowledge in the previous posts. Thank you all.

As a chef, I come from the other side of the coin, from the kitchen. i love bitter greens for the flavor and the nutrition they bring, I often pick them up at Chinese markets to experiment and grow several varieties at home. Not only to I like their bitter flavor untouched, I also like what I can turn those flavors into.

Fermenting with bitter greens is fabulous, it changes their flavor entirely, and you can put just a little into a cabbage based kraut or kimchi, I often put nettles. Or you can ferment just bitter greens. I have tasted how fermentation can turn very bitter green veg like tan ho into a complex array of flavors there are nothing like its raw or cooked taste. fermented salted bitter greens, a standard in many countries. A little bit on a bowl of rice alongside some protein, sauce, etc. It's the same process as sauerkraut. My wife to Bo taught me to mix the greens with brine and let them ferment on the counter till delicious, then the fridge. And talk about nutritious, it's more nutritious. So good for you we should all eat fermented foods daily then we have the beneficial bacteria in our guts, just like plants need in the soil to feed better. Just like plants don't eat directly from the soil without the help of microrganisms, neither should we. If we don't eat fermented foods, we are starving our bodies, leaving the nutrition in our food undigestible or inaccessible.

Salt, acid and bitter. I find it fascinating that both acid and salt temper bitter flavours. This you have to use them in concert to complement the food.

When I was at Paul and Jocelyn's place we mad a pickled daikon seed pods with water, sugar, rice wine, ginger and sesame seeds and blanched green seed pods that were immersed in ice water after to blanching to retain their vibrant color and crispy texture.

Seth Peterson,
Permaculture Chef

"Fermentation is that creative space between raw and spoiled where flavor and nutrition develop" sandor Katz

 
Dave Kennedy
author
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Lots of good information on plants with edible leaves not generally grown as leaf vegetables. The list of these is fairly extensive. Pumpkins, squashes, gourds and most members of the squash family have edible leaves. Fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis) leaves are widely eaten in Africa. Young okra leaves are a good source of calcium where dairy products are not widely consumed. Wheat, barley, amaranth, quinoa, beans, peas, black-eyed peas, onions, garlic, all have edible leaves. Gardeners are in a position to make much greater use of the whole plant than farmers, because it takes more labor and management to capture enough edible leaves at the right stage of the plant's growth to be worthwhile without diminishing the yield of the primary product too much. Almost always the maximum yield of food from these crops would come from combining a partial leaf harvest with the primary product. Most plants create a surplus of leaves so that they can tolerate the loss of about a third of their leaves to insect or animal's eating them. The idea with this is to make you that animal. Of course it works easier when you are looking for servings or meals rather than bushels and dollars.
 
Dave Kennedy
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Hi Xisca,

You must be in a warmer place than Montana. I am a big fan of moringa and malabar. Malabar is actually about as nutritious as moringa if you remove the water from both. In Sri Lanka (near the Malabar coast of India) the berries are used to color rice a beautiful violet for special occasions.

Not sure I know Chenopodieum nuttalensis but epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is similar to lambsquarters in growth habit and is used quite a bit in Mexican cooking. It is claimed that epazote added to cooking beans reduces the number and intensity of farts.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1318
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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It is actually impossible to lack greens with any mere little garden!
I have another favorite... Borage sprouts!
If you have it, you know how difficult it is to grow it for seeds... They fall down too quick and not at the same time.
So, when they all sprout in the garden, I have too many, and I start to remove them at the stage of the cotidedon leaves!
I avoid the hairy contact in mouth, and they taste gorgeous, I usually eat them right away when picking, including the root, with some unperfect cleaning of the root between 2 fingers.

I did not know Telfairia occidentalis and never tried any been nor pea leaves, not sweet potatoes!
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1318
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Dave Kennedy wrote:Not sure I know Chenopodieum nuttalensis but epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is similar to lambsquarters in growth habit and is used quite a bit in Mexican cooking. It is claimed that epazote added to cooking beans reduces the number and intensity of farts.


Dave, this is not at all the same. "nutal" is much closer to lambsquarters leaves.
The best part might be the flowers, cooked as brocoli.
And the seed can be eaten as quinua! (a little bit smaller, and loved by birds too)

Epazote tastes very good as a tea, and here it is given to children with diarrhea, as they accept it. It is naturalised here in the Canary.
 
steven Hendon
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this is a bit different, but I like amaranth leaves when they are young. I'm in NC, zone 7 and have found that they reseed themselves quite easily here. I love chickweed and it grows so prolifically here.
 
Joshua Babbish
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One forgotten common green was sheep sorrel. That stuff is delicious!
Can you list some greens that would do well overwintering in zone 6-7 in a cold frame or mini greenhouse?
I swear I posted this somewhere, but cannot seem to find it.
Many thanks
 
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