So I once said when I laid down the scythe, looking at the heap of green. Then I realized that most of the plants in the garden are edible! Most are bitter and intense, very much to my liking! In preparation for this hunter-gatherer’s season I am going to create this cheat sheet – not to pick anything toxic.
Field Fennel Flower (Nigella arvensis). One of my former decoration-only plants, once a decorative plant in Victorian gardens The seeds of the cultivated variety are used to spice pita bread – but these wild seeds should be used sparingly because they contain a toxic alkaloid.
The seed capsules look like alien space probes:
Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) – my favorite daisies on sticks, to be used for tea and salad. It had been imported to Europe from America in the 17th century as an ornamental plant.
Normal (short) Daisies (Bellis Perennis): the 2nd most common plant in the ‘lawn’ after yarrow. I find they taste similar to spinach.
As a child I ate loads of green woodsorrel despite the oxalic acid. Our
peskiest bravest weed belongs to the same family: Creeping Woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata), beautiful but capable of slowly destroying any structure of stone with its innocuous pink roots.
Dandelions (Taraxacum) – I usually uprooted them. The leaves taste like rocket salad with a touch of nuts, and the buds can be used like capers. After World War II people had used the roasted roots as a replacement for coffee. The German name means Lion’s Tooth – but the English one does, too, as I learned from Pairodox’ post.
I uprooted Chickweed (Stellaria media), too, showing up in early spring. It tastes a bit like fresh corn kernels. One German common name translates to Chicken’s Colon. Not sure if this is related to chickens’ craze for it or to the white rubber-like, elastic strand inside the stem!
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). Another Plant I had promoted it from weed to decoration. It should taste like pepper, and can be eaten fresh or cooked. Its Wikipedia page features the nutritional merits extensively. In contrast to pepper it survives in our colonies of slugs. Generally, wild edible plants go well with our No Pest Killers / No Fertilizer policy. The wild variety is creeping …
… and there is a cultivated variety growing upright:
White Stonecrop (Sedum Album). Also resembling green pepper, but more sourly. Loves to grow near the supporting construction of our solar collector:
White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – the perfectly scythe-able, drought-resistant replacement for grass. Great for tea, and perhaps salad in small quantities.
Fireweed – the plant flooding our office with cotton-like fluffs every year as I let a few of them grow, for their ornamental merits. Dave from Pairodox Farm had once published a stunning image of similar seeds of Milkweed. You could use leaves and stems, and the young sprouts are said to taste like asparagus. My expectations are high!
Violets. Young leaves are edible and the fragrant sweet blooms seem to be somewhat famous. I think I will not eat them though!
I add two classical plants in the herb garden because I had just found them as alleged wild flowers in our garden: Oregano (Origanum vulgare). I recognized it as an edible herb when spotting a blooms on a salad served in a restaurant. Until writing this post and comparing close-ups of blooms I was sure it was marjoram.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Great for tea, but I like the green leaves especially as a replacement of jam in pancakes Austrian style. I don’t like sweet taste too much – perhaps that’s why I enjoy all these bitter herbs!.
The first harvest:
Edit on May 25, 2015: More than a month after starting extensive and regular harvesting, I notice I missed an extraordinary plant:
Meadow Goat’s Beard (Tragopogon pratensis). The leaves can be used like spinache – cooked with olive oil and garlic, very tasty – but German articles suggest the roots are the real delicacy, similar to Black Salsify. Blossoms and also leaves are somewhat similar to dandelions, but leaves are thicker, and they come in different textures and colors – a bit ‘hairy’ versus smooth.