• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Unusual Plants We Should All Be Eating?

 
D. Logan
gardener
Posts: 562
Location: Soutwest Ohio
92
books food preservation forest garden rabbit tiny house
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a question directed at Stephen Barstow, but others are more than free to speak up with their own feelings as well. I'm sure lots of us have been to unusual locations with lots of unfamiliar food plants. I am curious to know about some of the plants you ran across while researching this book that you felt should have already been a part of the diet for a broader segment of the world. More pointedly, which plants did you come across that you found it amazing we aren't all eating?
 
John Saltveit
gardener
Posts: 2000
61
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would say curly mallow. Delicious as any salad green. It freely self sows. You don't have to plant it. Slightly mucilagionous, it helps with detox. You can buy seeds for $2.50. I did 20 years ago, and I haven't had to buy it since. Even at a new house.
John S
PDX OR
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Curly mallow (Malva crispa) is certainly an excellent one, although it doesn't self-seed enough here and I've lost it in the past! My personal favourite Mallow is musk mallow (Malva moschata) as it's reliably hardy (I've had plants for 25 years or more), you can start eating it early in the spring and unlike most perennials that have a short harvesting season, you can harvest this one more or less throughout the season (April to September here), although never large amounts, perfect for mixed salads and greens dishes. It also has much larger flowers that are excellent in summer to autumn salads (they have a prolonged flowering season). There are white and pink flowered varieties readily available, an excellent edimental (edible ornamental) too. The young seed pods (cheeses) are also tasty and were favourite snacks for children in the Mediterranean countries... the plants also readily self-sow.
Here's one of my salads on which you can spot the mallow flowers

P8060655.jpg
[Thumbnail for P8060655.jpg]
P8060663.jpg
[Thumbnail for P8060663.jpg]
P8060674.jpg
[Thumbnail for P8060674.jpg]
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
...and did you know that 1,000 years ago or more there was a huge diversity of mallows cultivated for food in the Far East. Sadly most of the exciting varieites that were available and are described in old texts ahve been lost. When brassicas arrived from Europe, they took over more or less completley from the Malvas.... time then for us to start breeding interesting Malvas.... Let me give a plug to the folks on the Plant breeding for Permaculture fora:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/PlantBreedingForPermaculture/?fref=ts
and for folks allergic to FB: http://perrenial-food-crops.proboards.com/
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
...and there are both colours of musk mallow on the main picture of the cover of my book of course (the picture is taken from my balcony):
Forside.jpg
[Thumbnail for Forside.jpg]
 
Dylan Mulder
Posts: 44
Location: North Carolina
5
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
On the topic of mallows, Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is a pleasant edible vegetable. I found the leaves tasty and the calyces a real treat to boot. Seems it’s even a perennial in a hot enough climate.

I’m surprised tree onions (Allium x proliferum) aren’t more popular. Edible bulb, leaf, stalk, and bulblets make this plant a miniature pantry. I found the bulblets similar enough in flavor to garlic that it could be a garlic alternative. What’s more, is that you don’t have to pull, cure, clean, and separate out the cloves as you would with actual garlic. A real labor saver!

I’m equally surprised the various edible Elaeagnus species aren’t more popular. I sampled fruits of around 25 or so wild Elaeagnus umbellata a time ago, and found only a few to be unpleasant tasting. What’s more, It’s a nitrogen fixer that grows prolifically in the disturbed environments that humans often create.

It strikes me as one of those plants that very much would like to team up with humans, but has been passed over for its ‘prettier’ peers. Reminiscent of those awful teenage romance comedies, where the male protagonist chases a woman who’s far out of his league (and downright unpleasant) while the wholesome female friend who not-so-secretly pines for his affection eventually wins his love in the end.

This is the exact story I had with blueberries a time ago. I was sure I’d done everything right, but the blueberries died pitifully. Elaeagnus, which had been around since the start, did wonderfully on the same land. The blueberries were a just a bad fling, a relationship that never would have gone anywhere. Now I give Elaeagnus the affection it deserves!
 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
26
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was surprised to see what looks like Tiger Lilies in your salad (very beautiful, by the way!)...I was always taught not to eat the spotted lilies! But upon further internet research, it seems I may have been misinformed. I do eat daylily shoots and flowers pretty regularly. I try to add edible flowers into my salads regularly - a favorite of mine is vetch flowers.
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've failed with Roselle, even inside here...too cold...

Allium x proliferum are covered in detail in the book! Very common here in Norway, but people don't realise there are many different types. I think it's mainly Catawissa Red that's grown here, originating in New York state around 1870 and we know of a family that almost certainly took this onion to Norway in the 1890s and have been growing it ever since

Again, not terribly successful with Elaeagnus here, most species haven't made it....have just sown seed of a Russian cultivar of E. multiflora - "Urozhaynaya Vavilovi'"...would love to experience your Autumn Olives one year...the ones I've tasted in England have been good!
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Tiger lilies (Lilium lancifoliium) are a great edimental, also one of the best Lilies for their edible bulbs (the white bulbs below). Even better is Lilium martagon (Martagon lily) as it will grow in quite deep shade, perfect for the forest garden (yellow bulbs below). The picture of the Martagon lily flowers is from my forest garden and has a flowering Hablitzia climbing over it!!


FB album of Lilium martagon and Hablitzia:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152458098500860.1073742100.655215859&type=1&l=b81a3dc122
PB063608.jpg
[Thumbnail for PB063608.jpg]
PC013815.jpg
[Thumbnail for PC013815.jpg]
10462519_10152458099275860_5784273819787102287_n.jpg
[Thumbnail for 10462519_10152458099275860_5784273819787102287_n.jpg]
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1267
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
16
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have to admit I've never once eaten a flower. Can someone suggest a first time flower for me to try?
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are the ones most people start on....get yourself some seed, try them and you'll be hooked!
 
D. Logan
gardener
Posts: 562
Location: Soutwest Ohio
92
books food preservation forest garden rabbit tiny house
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Stephen Barstow wrote:Tiger lilies (Lilium lancifoliium) are a great edimental, also one of the best Lilies for their edible bulbs (the white bulbs below). Even better is Lilium martagon (Martagon lily) as it will grow in quite deep shade, perfect for the forest garden (yellow bulbs below). The picture of the Martagon lily flowers is from my forest garden and has a flowering Hablitzia climbing over it!!


FB album of Lilium martagon and Hablitzia:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152458098500860.1073742100.655215859&type=1&l=b81a3dc122


I really love the pictures you add to the topic! How does one prepare the bulbs on the Martagon? The same way as the Tiger Lily bulbs? I'm having visions of artichokes thanks to their vibrant appearance.
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They're prepared in the same way...just break up the bulbs by peeling off the so-called scales (saving a few to replant). They are usually stir-fried fresh or after drying, sometimes pickled. They are quite sweet to the taste and sometimes compared tastewise to parsnips...
PC023835.jpg
[Thumbnail for PC023835.jpg]
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1283
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
22
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Flowers are the most unusual parts of plants we should eat
Apart from nasturtium,
poppy petals are great.
And milder than nasturtiums.

Also the orange petals of calendula.

I use some hibiscus flowers and a sage called pineapple sage.
And the yellow petals of aztec marygold, they are rich in luteine (what also colors egg yolks)

I use some pea flowers, a wild sort of vicia that grows here. And also young shoots.

You can also use the rosemary flowers!
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1283
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
22
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And borage flowers!
They are often used with sea products
I have some pics of my own salads, but you beat me Stephen!!!
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1111
Location: Pacific Northwest
115
duck forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love pansy/johnny jump-up/violet flowers. They are almost buttery and a little sweet. Their flavor varies, also, by the variety and soil, but I've enjoyed eating all I can find! Nasturtiums are a little too spicy for me, though my husband loves them!
 
John Saltveit
gardener
Posts: 2000
61
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pineapple guava flowers are sublime and don't interfere with the pollination of the plant.
John S
PDX OR
 
Pamela Melcher
Posts: 299
Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I also think that the Elaeagnus plants are undervalued. Too bad they do not easily grow so far North, Stephen. I hope the one you are trying out now works. They taste good, grow fast here in Oregon, are very resilient, and fix nitrogen. They are self-fertile and not prey to pests and diseases....What's not to love? None are deemed invasive in Oregon. I would find it hard to call them invasive. They seem to me to be a boon. I love Goumi berries (Elaeagnus multiflora.) Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is shockingly easy to propagate with hardwood cuttings. Hybrid Silverberries (Elaeagnus x ebbingei) are evergreen!

Roses are delicious. I pick them when they are starting to wilt so that the plant will grow more flowers. Lilacs taste divine. Dandelions are among the first edible flowers in Spring.
 
John Saltveit
gardener
Posts: 2000
61
bike books food preservation forest garden fungi trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The hybrid silverberries that you mention Pamela also have a breathtaking fragrance from October to December and fruit in April here, which is quite rare.
John S
PDX OR
 
Pamela Melcher
Posts: 299
Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Awesome, John. I live in Portland, too, so that is good to hear.
 
Rob Read
Posts: 86
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
7
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One of my favourites is Salsify (technically a biennial, though it self-seeds rampantly). The root is widely consumed, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the above ground part of the plant (tender shoot, closed flower buds). Quite unique in flavour, but it's mild and very nice for me. Careful not to use flowerbuds that have already opened - their seeds are similar to dandelions, so if the flower has moved towards that stage, you'll get a mouthful of fluff.

Rob
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Scorzonera (there are several species, the most common hispanica) and Tragopogon (salsifiies) are mostly used for their spring greens when wild foraged in the Mediterranean countries, very popular and the flower shoot is surprisingly sweet...
Scorzonera is one of my favourites and I've been harvesting one clump for over 30 years, long-lived plants and very hardy....and it's in the book of course
 
Pamela Melcher
Posts: 299
Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you everyone for sharing. Thank you so much for your research, Stephen.

I am blown away by what I learned from your book about how many more plants are edible than the ones I knew about, many of which I already had growing in my yard! And I was fairly up on this subject before I read your book.

This opens up so many possibilities.

My life is now more healthy and more fun!

Thank you!
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1283
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dylan Mulder wrote:I’m surprised tree onions (Allium x proliferum) aren’t more popular. Edible bulb, leaf, stalk, and bulblets make this plant a miniature pantry. I found the bulblets similar enough in flavor to garlic that it could be a garlic alternative. What’s more, is that you don’t have to pull, cure, clean, and separate out the cloves as you would with actual garlic. A real labor saver!

...also called walking onion I think, for the bulbets that make the plant expand.
The only problem is that I do not find them for sale!
And I really want it!

That is why I opened a post to ask for european providers of bulbils, bulbs, roots etc,
....as I am reduced to seeds from the American providers I am used to buy from.ç
Americans seem to be the best for rare plants' supply!
 
Stephen Barstow
author
Posts: 51
Location: Malvik, Norway
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Walking onions/ tree onions/ egyptian onions aren't sold that much simply because they are so easy to propagate by putting a topset on the ground....
These are mostly past on from person to person. I'm sure someone here will help you...if you haven't got an offer in one month, I will send you some...
By the way, most people in Europe don't realise that there are many varieties..
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1283
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
22
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks Stephen !

... many allium (I agree, soooo many!), or many different walking onions?
 
André Troylilas
Posts: 130
Location: North of France
4
bee bike forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What about squash seeds?
Some squash have bland flesh, but good seeds (Lady Godiva), some have toxic flesh, but very nutritious seeds (fingerleaf gourd).
I've read (but where, can't remember ops that some squash give seeds that can pop like popcorn (can't remember either what cultivar/specie).
 
Alex Veidel
Posts: 123
Location: Elgin, IL
3
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
elle sagenev wrote:I have to admit I've never once eaten a flower. Can someone suggest a first time flower for me to try?


Broccoli?
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
42
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Many people are unaware that other parts of common food and crop plants are also edible in addition to the "main crop" that the plant is traditionally grown for. This is particularly true of "greens". Sweet potato greens are a summer staple of ours, and you can continuously prune the tips and young leaves once the plants are large without significantly reducing root yields. They cook up bland and soft like spinach. Radish greens are nearly indistinguishable from mustard and turnip greens, and grow much quicker. The leaves of any of the edible brassicas, like broccoli or cauliflower, are edible just like collards or kale. When I lived in the South, where collards are cooked a long time with pork (concealing any subtle differences in taste), I would market cauliflower greens as collards, thus creating an additional yield once the head is harvested, since cauliflower doesn't sprout out again like broccoli. The list goes on.....the tips of winter squashes, pumpkins, and several kinds of gourds including bottle gourds, fava beans, jute, violets and pansies, and rose-of-Sharon and several other hibiscus
 
Franz Jonkere
Posts: 2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I like this idea, to use unusual parts of common food and crop plants, as Alder Burns mentions.
At the 5 acre vegetable garden (of a restaurant) where I work, we use in this context, lettuce stems, radish stems (prepare them like asparagus!) and pea shoots.

And these are the flowers we use on a daily basis, when available:
Vegetable flowers
Male zucchini flower, Radish flower (white and purple), Leek flower, Broad bean flower, Hyacinth bean (white and purple), Fennel flower, Jerusalem artichoke flower, Brassica flower, Miner’s lettuce flower
Non-vegetable flowers
Nasturtium, Citrus tagetes (yellow, orange and red), Borage (white and blue), Pot marigold (yellow and orange), Cornflower, Sunflower, Daylily
Herb flowers
Salvia (about 5 species), Asian chives, Tulbaghia, Monarda (red, pink and white), Phyla dulcis, Agastache
20140715_074243.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20140715_074243.jpg]
pea shoots
 
Sean Banks
Posts: 153
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Longevity Spinach (gynura procumbens) has incredible healing properties that can be used to treat cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure....mostly unknown
 
Franz Jonkere
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Makes me think of Malabar Spinach (Indian Spinach), a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine that produces edible flowers with a nice crunch.
Knipsel2.JPG
[Thumbnail for Knipsel2.JPG]
Basella alba
 
André Troylilas
Posts: 130
Location: North of France
4
bee bike forest garden
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Don't know where I got the inspiration, but bought some Malabar Spinach seeds on-line yesterday.
 
André Troylilas
Posts: 130
Location: North of France
4
bee bike forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm almost sure I've seen somewhere on these forums a few weeks ago a brussels sprout that make little broccoli-like flowers instead of little round cabbages.
Does anyone know what I'm talking about?

Thanks.
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Posts: 9042
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
681
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
André Troylilas wrote:I'm almost sure I've seen somewhere on these forums a few weeks ago a brussels sprout that make little broccoli-like flowers instead of little round cabbages.
Does anyone know what I'm talking about?


Was it this?

 
André Troylilas
Posts: 130
Location: North of France
4
bee bike forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's not the picture I remember, but my memory isn't what it used to be.
Thanks.
What's the name of this plant, please?
Is this Dalmeny sprouts?
 
André Troylilas
Posts: 130
Location: North of France
4
bee bike forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's a shame to answer to myself, but I found something else there: Kalettes.
Too bad that's an hybrid, and not a fixed cultivar.
 
D. Logan
gardener
Posts: 562
Location: Soutwest Ohio
92
books food preservation forest garden rabbit tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
André Troylilas wrote:It's a shame to answer to myself, but I found something else there: Kalettes.
Too bad that's an hybrid, and not a fixed cultivar.


Those are interesting. I bet you could stabilize them readily enough with a few generations of growing.

As to the other thing, it wouldn't be something like Broccoli Raab would it?
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Posts: 9042
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
681
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
D. Logan wrote:As to the other thing, it wouldn't be something like Broccoli Raab would it?


Ooops, I meant to come back and reply but I got sidetracked. It's one of my purple couve galega, or Portuguese bush cabbage. It's kind of perennial, so long as you keep taking the 'flowers' off. But as those flowers are really sprouting broccoli it's not exactly a hardship.
 
André Troylilas
Posts: 130
Location: North of France
4
bee bike forest garden
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for your replies, I will investigate in these plants.
 
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!