I read an article recently in the San Francisco Chronicle about how restaurants are getting more creative with their ingredients due to this faltering economy. Many Bay Area restaurants are using beet greens that were previously disregarded as a menu worthy side dish and including tasty but usually overlooked broccoli stems (my favorite part) in their stir fries. For most of us who have been gardening and eating consciously for a while, that’s old news. You’ve probably already included those healthy bits in your diet, but recently I’ve been finding out that there are some more unusual, yet commonly found things that are completely edible.
Two weeks ago we went to the Marin Farmers Market and saw a bundle of allium buds sitting alongside the lettuce, chard and other leafy greens. I asked, ‘can you really eat these?’. Why yes! was her answer. Apparently you can roast, saute, or steam any onion, garlic, shallot, leek or chive flower buds that you might find growing in your garden. The other night we went bud collecting and sauteed them with sliced garlic cloves. While we both really liked the small garlic buds, I wasn’t too crazy about the large leek buds. They were a little mealy tasting. But garlic flower buds, I would highly recommend. I bet chive buds would also be good.
Who knew that peach leaves could be edible? Well maybe not edible, but useful in flavoring what you are about to eat. Someone, at some point found out that peach leaves impart a beautiful almond and floral flavor to whatever they might be steeped in. You can pick a few brand new tender peach leave to steep in milk for about five minutes and use that milk to make ice cream or a peach leaf custard.
Cilantro is renown for how quickly it bolts (flowers), but the good news is that when you are ready to pull it up, you can harvest the cilantro roots and add them into your dinner! Check out this list of cilantro root recipes.
This was a new one to me this year too. You can actually eat the entire pea plant when it’s young. Asian cultures regularly add them to their stir fries and there is even an entire website devoted to pea shoot recipes. I recommend eating them as young as possible because once they get too old they get pretty fibrous and unpleasant to eat (chew, chew, chew).
Broccoli & Cauliflower Leaves
While you may not want to harvest large mature broccoli leaves because of their toughness, young leaves can be quite delicious. I did a post on this last spring if you’d like to read more on how you can eat broccoli leaves.
What other unusual parts of plants have you tried?