Compost bin or salad bowl? Last Spring I waited gleefully to see how many dandelions would come up in the garden, I then wondered out into the nearby lane to see how many more there were. I couldn’t wait to see an abundance of yellow flowers.
You may think that this is a strange pre-occupation for someone who says they love gardening, afterall, they are considered weeds. However, I only saw the possibilities of making marmalade and infusions. Dandelion marmalade is lovely and the leaves make a soothing tea.
The saying goes that “a weed is only a plant in the wrong place” and many of the plants we readily call weeds and would discard to the compost or green waste are in fact edible, nutritious and make lovely additions to salads, soups or as infusions.
The same is true of many common garden flowers. So as you’re hoeing and weeding this spring and summer take another look at them, you may just decide to add them to the pan as opposed to the bin.
Chickweed: Is a common perennial weed that often graces our gardens, the leaves and flowers can be picked and tossed into a salad.
Bittercress: Add the leaves to salads.
Purslane: All parts of young plants can be eaten, and new shoots can be added to salads. At later stages of maturity only the leaves are good for eating.
Clover: Mild and sweet. Often used in infusions. Add the flower heads to salads.
Ajuga (Bugle weed): This plant which is often seen in shady places covering the ground may seems like an unlikely salad option. However, the new growth can be eaten as salad greens.
Dandelions: Best picked in spring and early summer when their leaves are young (on maturity they are slightly bitter). Add raw to salads or you can lightly sauté in a stir fry.
Daises: Both the buds and petals can be eaten. Best to pick just before eating so that they don’t close-up. Add them to salads.
Nasturtiums: Often used in hanging baskets and to climb up bean poles, these come in a range of lovely colours from deep rich velvety reds to pale lemons the colour of a pale moon. They are annual flowers but seed easily and they will appear year after year if planted in the ground. The blossoms are sweet and pretty as a picture in salads as garnish. The leaves can also be eaten and have a slightly peppery taste adding a kick to salads and soups.
Calendula: Pot marigolds are wonderful as a husbandry plant as a natural pest control in organic gardening and you will see many used among vegetables on allotments and in gardens. The flowers can be used as a saffron substitute due to their wonderful colour. The gorgeous yellow or orange petals can be added to salads or a stir fry.
Cornflowers: Pretty cornflowers have a slightly sweet to spicy taste and can used as a garnish for salads.
Rocket: Once you plant rocket in your garden it is likely to pop-up in different places as the seeds spreads. Both wild and cultivated varieties can show-up in the garden. The leaves are good in salads with a lovely peppery taste.
Pinks: Dianthus has a wonderful clove-like scent and used as decoration to be added to salads or desserts.
Pelargoniums: The lovely lemon-scented variety is a favourite of mine. Add the flowers as garnish to salads.
Voilets: The flowers make for pretty additions to salads.
A good guide book to edible weeds and flowers is useful in understanding which plants can be eaten. Only use plants that have not been in contact with chemicals – herbicides, pesticides etc., Wash leaves before using. Flower petals just require a good blow or shake to dislodge and insects or soil that maybe sat in the petals.