Sunday, November 1, 2009

Foraging in the Flower Beds?

Did you know a lot of common garden flowers and shrubs are actually edible?   I don't just mean that eating them won't make you sick either.  I mean that they are actually an excellent food source.  Roses hips are a good example.  They are so rich in Vitamin C that they were used in Great Britain in WWII to help prevent scurvy.  The rose hip is the seed pod that develops after the bloom is spent and dies off.  A lot of people prune their rose bushes to remove spent blooms and thereby keep the rose hips from ever developing.  Let the blooms die off and leave them on the stem.  The rose hip at the base of that bloom will develop and mature over several weeks and you can harvest it.

Dried rose hips can be crushed and steeped into a tea.  Fresh rose hips can be pureed and added to jams, jellies or sauces.  Rose petals are edible as well though they are usually only used as a fancy garnish.  Rose hip tea is thought to be beneficial in treating bladder and urinary tract infections, reducing stress, eliminating trembles, strengthening the heart and ...of course, preventing scurvy!

Rose hips should be harvested in the fall after the first frost.  You will know they are ready when they turn bright red in color.  If you have roses in your yard and want to experiment with harvesting the rose hips, you must refrain from using any pesticides or herbicides in your yard.

Another common yard ornament that is also edible is the daylily.   They have a sweet flavor and a crisp texture if harvested the day the flower pods begin to open, which is usually mid-spring in most parts of the country.  They are best cooked and eaten they day they are harvested, but can be stored in the refrigerator for few days.  If you plan to store them, harvest them with the stems attached and place them in a glass of water in the refrigerator until ready to cook.  The flowers can be battered and quick-fried in hot oil for a tasty fritter.  Any batter recipe will do but whole wheat flour with a little cornstarch makes a thin crisp batter that compliments the daylily's sweet flavor.   They should be fried in very hot oil, with enough enough oil that the flowers float while they cook.  Daylily fritters can be served hot with butter, or glazed with fresh preserves, apple butter or cinnamon as a sweet side dish.   When cooked, the flower has a texture and flavor similar to sauteed onions or mushrooms but may also be eaten raw in salads.  Daylilies can also be chopped and added in the last few minutes of cooking to soups or stir-fries.  These flowers come in many color variations and one reason it is so popular as an ornamental plant is that it multiplies quickly... an excellent trait in a flower that doubles as a food source! 

Consider planting a few more rose bushes and maybe some daylilies in your yard.  There is no rule that says there can't be a pretty side to prepping too! 

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