Update on Edible ‘Weed’

After two physics articles with too much links I owe you an image-only link-free post. This is an update to my catalogue of edible wildflowers in our lawn meadow.

I amended the original list with one amazing wild vegetable: Meadow Goatsbeard. In past years I tried to eradicate it, now I don’t scythe certain patches but carefully use grass shears, avoiding to cut its signature yellow bloom:

meadow-goatsbeard

It can be used as fake spinach and for salad – I vouch for both! Insiders say the roots are the real delicacy (tasting like salsifies), but this year I will not yet dig out the roots but rather let them flower and disperse their seeds. The most amazing feature is that it grows and grows new leaves, despite it had not rained in the past week and maximum temperatures were up to 30°C.

Here is the result of a single ‘harvesting session’ (left):

meadow-goatsbead-yarrow

… side-by-side with a Yarrow leaves (right). We are self-sufficient on tea since April. thanks yarrow and Lemon Balm.

In the background of the first image: the tomato plants attached to the solar collector. So far they look good this year, blooming nicely:

tomatoes-collector-june-2015

We weren’t able to discard ‘spare’ tomato seedlings – so they grow near the compost pile. Clients visiting us to see the heat pump system may think we are in the tomato business (one strawberry plant in the middle):

even-more-tomatoesFinally my secret favorite has started growing – Portulaca / Purslane. Yes, I think it tastes like pepper!

The wild, creeping variety (… and even more ‘spare’ tomatoes in the background):

wild-portulaca

The more erect variety, from purchased seeds (the larger ones).

portulaca-erect

The plants in the background is for decoration and suppression of other weed, such as grass 🙂 Some variety of Sedum Reflexum (yellowish), and Phlox.

Speaking about Sedum: White Stonecrop was a main ingredient in the typical spring salad, together with Dandelions, and the absolutely amazingly tasty Fireweed.

Now White Stonecrop is nearly blooming (in the image below: in front of seed pods of Pasque Flowers / Prairie Crocus[*] Afterwards it will wither – then harvesting season is over.

[*] I am sure I picked the most uncommon common name often in this post, actually I am not even sure about German ones.

white-stonecrop

Fireweed – despite the temptation I keep a few for seeds:

fireweedAs for Dandelions, it seems I was unable to take a photo of the plants. Now I know how to feel sorry for having not enough weed anymore. The buds are even more delicious than the young leaves.

dandelions

The photo of fireweed als shows one of my new favorite decorative weeds in the background, but the Poppy season is nearly over now.

poppy-june-2015

Poppy’s seed capsules have some aesthetic value, but they cannot beat Nigella Sativa. Here is spice in the making – alien space probes inspecting the garden.

nigella-seed-capsules

Those plants we finally picked for cultivating – weed or not – are also the ones that turned out maintenance-free, drought-resistant, and capable of taking care of themselves – suppressing other unwanted plants. The remaining ‘work’ – if you want to call it like that – is truly enjoyable and like the proverbial raking the Zen garden.

We have never used weed killers nor fertilizer except the soil from compost. We only water tomato plants and mediterranean herbs a bit, so scything is due only once every two or three weeks. I don’t care if the meadow is burnt down to straw in summer.

These are my favorite drought-tolerant alien periscopes –  Hen and Chicks, used as a medicinal herb, otherwise too bitter even for me.

alien-hen-and-chicks

We don’t fight pests, and I live in fear what will happen to eggplants’ fruits. I have learned that those are (in our climate) slugs’ favorite diet in summer. In this case the, last resort is my office gardening experiments. To  my surprise, this spare plant has some flower buds already.

eggplant-office-june-2015

… maybe due to the wooden ‘table’: original Art from the Scrapyard – from the remainders of our two large spruces – by the Carpenter-Artist-Engineer-Physicist working in that office with me.

If Only It Would Be Edible …

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. One of my former decoration-only plants. 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.

Nigella arvensis sl12

Nigella arvensis, Field Fennel Flower, once a decorative plant in Victorian gardens. Image by Stefan.lefnaer, Wikimedia.

The seed capsules look like alien space probes:

Nigella arvensis fruit,. Image by Luis Fernández, Wikimedia.

Daisy Fleabane – 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.

20120626Berufkraut Hockenheim

Erigeron annuus, Daisy Fleabane. The German name translates to Magic Spell Herb. Image by AnRo0002, Wikimedia.

Normal (short) Daisies: the 2nd most common plant in the ‘lawn’ after yarrow. I find they taste similar to spinach.

Daisies in our garden

Bellis Perennis, Daisies. Historical view of our garden without the solar collector, but with tall trees. Daisies liked the forest-like climate even better.

Daisies, solar collector

Or maybe I am romanticizing the past – still lots of daisies today.

As a child I ate loads of green woodsorrel despite the oxalic acid. Our peskiest bravest weed belongs to the same family: Creeping Woodsorrel, beautiful but capable of slowly destroying any structure of stone with its innocuous pink roots:

Oxalis corniculata, Creeping Woodsorrel. One German name translates to Red Jumping Clover – referring to its catapulted seeds. Image by TeunSpaans on Wikimedia.

Dandelions – 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.

Dandelions at Home

Taraxacum, Dandelion. The German name means Lion’s Tooth – just as the English one, as I learned from Pairodox’ post. (Image stumbled upon when browsing our our photo folders).

I uprooted this one, too: Chickweed, showing up in early spring. It tastes a bit like fresh corn kernels.

Stellaria media 04

Stellaria media, Chickweed. 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. Image by Sanja565658, Wikimedia.

Purslane. 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.

Portulaca oleracea stems

Portulaca oleracea, Purslane. The wild variety is creeping as this image shows. We will also try to grow another kind that grows upright.

White Stonecrop. Also resembling green pepper, but more sourly.

sedum album

Sedum Album, White Stonecrop with reddish leaves, growing near the supporting construction of our solar collector. (The smaller, greener one is toxic Sedum Acre – Yellow Stonecrop).

White Yarrow – the perfectly scythe-able, drought-resistant replacement for grass. Great for tea, and perhaps salad in small quantities.

20120922Roter Bruch Walldorf12

Achillea millefolium, Yarrow. It grows (even) more extensively after the trees had been removed. Image by AnRo0002, Wikimedia.

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!

Wikimedia, kallerna [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Violets. Young leaves are edible and the fragrant sweet blooms seem to be somewhat famous. I think I will not eat them though!

Violets, Daisies, Stonecrop, Yarrow

Viola, Violets – in our ‘lawn’ of yarrow, daisies and yellow stonecrop.

I add two classical plants in the herb garden because I had just found them as alleged wild flowers in our garden: Oregano. 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.

Origanum vulgare Prague 2011 1

Oregano, Origanum vulgare. Surviving in our winter and in summer without extra watering. Image by  Karelj, Wikimedia.

Lemon Balm. 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!.

Melissa officinalis2

Melissa officinalis, Lemon Balm – hard to get rid of it if you don’t want it. Image by KENPEI, Wikimedia.

The first harvest:

Edible wild flowers, first test in spring 2015

Dandelion, daisies, white stonecrop, and chickweed.

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. 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.

meadow-goats-beard

Tragopogon pratensis, Meadow Goat’s Beard. 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.