Foraging in the Garden

Can you harvest your weeds for your dining pleasure? How about your flowers? Sure! Some of them, anyway, as long as you’re 100 percent positive no herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals have been used on them or on surrounding plants (including lawns).

Young dandelion leaves are cherished by those who love bitter greens, whether in salads or simply steamed. Harvest them soon after they come up and while the buds are small, or they will be too bitter. dibob817 gives these instructions for harvesting the plant: Use a short, stiff, bladed knife to dig at an angle next to the dandelion, cutting its root completely through, three to six inches below the ground surface. You will end up with a rosette of leaves (the whole plant). But if you cut it too high and the leaves separate, they’re still fine. Dandelion buds also are a nice addition to salads. They have a sweet, honeylike flavor, and the younger and more tender they are, the better they taste, according to Gio, who says they are best eaten when tightly bunched in the center and about the size of a gumball.

Lots of flowers are edible, such as daylilies (not to be confused with true lilies, which are not edible), which can be prepared in the same manner as squash blossoms, or their petals can be cut off and used in desserts; and nasturtiums, which have a distinctive peppery flavor. This chart provides a roundup of edible flowers and describes their flavors.

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