Are you interested in FLOWERS and HORTICULTURE?  Then you might find one of these Homestead.org articles handy:

Living with Poison Oak by Wade Truex

Go Wildcrafting! by Catherine Lugo

Brassica: The Queen of Greens by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Look to the Weed by Diana Barker

Mineral-Rich Weeds by Lisa M. Maloney

Iris Psuedocorus - Exotica on the Cheap by Neil Shelton

Rose Mallow: Southern Belle Knocks Your Socks Off by Neil Shelton

Becoming a Master Gardener By Christi Sweaney

A Walk through a Shakespearian Garden by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Noxious Weeds - or are they? by Nicole H. Brauner 

 

 

 

Edible Flowers

 

A Rose by Any Other Name Just Might be Lunch

by Adrianne Masters

Making a life off of your land is nothing short of one big adventure.  People who are serious about it are the committed type.  The dedicated type.  The stubborn type.  Homesteaders will try anything to make it work, and folks who’ve been at it a while have stories and scars to attest to the fact that they have tried everything in their pursuit of the simple life. 

A homesteader looks at the basics: food, shelter, and water as necessities that can be foraged, built, and stored rather than purchased.  In this homesteader’s experience, fewer vegetables are wasted when they were grown by sweat on the brow and soil-stained knees.  Every part of the pig gets used with you have to grow, kill, and butcher it yourself.

It is this functionality and efficiency that appeals to the type of person who dreams of a life separate from society’s norms.  And it is a special type of person who manages to find true beauty in such a way of living.  Not everyone can appreciate beauty.  It’s not an important quality to everyone.  For some, competency is enough.  I’m not that person, beauty is important to me

I’m confronted by a small lake and national forest outside the window behind my laptop as I write this now.  There’s an orchid on my desk.  And a stained glass lamp.  I design my garden with aesthetics in mind as much as efficiency.  It helps that vegetables grow in such beautiful colors and interesting shapes, of course.  What beauty really inspires me though is the illuminating brilliance of flowering blossoms.  And in order to spend my valuable, limited time cultivating these stimulating blooms, I had to find a use for them other than just “pretty” and “good for pollination.” 

How about, “edible?”  That quality is pretty tough to argue with, even for a rough-around-the-edges country man who doesn’t find beauty compelling and prefers function above all.  My country man in particular is a big fan of foraging.  He likes mushroom hunting; I can’t help myself from picking flowers when we go.  I love finding mushrooms, too, but morels aren’t really as pretty as they are tasty. 

Nasturtium

What’s pretty as well as tasty is a bed of Nasturtium, not to mention nutritious.  On the efficiency scale, they’re a ten.  The whole plant is edible.  It is also loaded with vitamin C and iron.  As for flavor, think spicy, like Arugula.  The seeds can even be a substitute for black pepper when dried and ground, that’s how spicy.  These gem colored beauties are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants.  Nasturtium comes to us all the way from the Peruvian Andes and was first valued as a food product in the ancient orient where the petals and buds were consumed raw and used to make tea.

The most common variety is Empress of India, though there are over one hundred to choose from.  Some types climb upwards of 15 feet, though most will stay closer to the ground, growing not more than ten or twelve inches.  If you intend to eat Nasturtium, steer clear of blooms purchased from a florist or nursery, those plants have most likely been treated with chemicals you shouldn’t ingest.  By growing them yourself you can be sure you’re getting the valuable phenolic compound, Anthocyanin (otherwise found in blueberries and red cabbage).  This phenol helps neutralize damaging free radicals and is great for protecting you from cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

If you add Nasturtium to your salad, throw them in after your vinaigrette, to prevent wilting.  If you can’t eat them fresh, try pickling the buds to use as an alternative to capers.  Your other option is saving and drying the seeds to add in with your standard old peppercorns in your pepper grinder. 

Dandelion

Put down the weed-killer.  Dandelions are among the most nutritionally dense green foods you may ever consume.  Full of potassium, and a strong diuretic, these yellow gems are wonderful for those suffering from high blood pressure.  They are also useful in detoxifying the liver and blood and have been valued by herbalist for easing the strain of arthritis and eczema.  Also good for your eyes (apart from just being easy on the eyes), dandelions are packed with Vitamin A, as well as Vitamin C, phosphorous, and calcium. 

The young greens are the sweet part of the plant, whereas the bloom can taste somewhat bitter.  Use the greens in place of lettuce on sandwiches for a tasty switch from the norm.  The greens may also be sautéed or steamed as any other green.  If you do want to eat the flower, blanche it for just a moment to remove the bitterness.  You will lose a lot of vitamins and minerals this way, but plenty of beneficial nutrients will remain. 

Of course, you may know that dandelion roots can be ground and used as a substitute for traditional coffee.  That’s the sort of bitterness you find in the blooms, a nice sort of bitter.  What you may not know is that the French have a wonderful recipe for Cream of Dandelion Soup.

It goes like this:

  • 2 lbs (6 Cups) Dandelion Greens

  • 1 Tablespoon Butter or Olive Oil

  • 4 Cups Vegetable Stock

  • 2 Large Leeks, white and light parts only, cleaned and sliced

  • 1 Carrot, cleaned and diced

  • 2 ½ cups milk

  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Dandelion blooms or leaves for garnish

Heat Butter or Oil in a large pot to medium high heat.  Add greens, carrot and leeks.  Cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

Add vegetable stock and simmer for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and whisk in milk.  Stir frequently until slightly thickened.

Puree mix until smooth.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard. 

Serve in bowls and garnish with dandelion leaves or flowers. 

Continued on page 2   >

 

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