The flowers and plants in your back garden look pretty. And they smell so wonderfully fragrant. But have you considered edible garden plants – ones that taste great too? Some may look too good to eat, admittedly, but others, normally considered weeds, can be very healthy snacks.
We are not suggesting you go around nibbling all your flowers – some can have nasty side effects – but we have collected together the 5 best (and safest) edible garden plants that already grow naturally in your garden.
Dandelions are often thought of as weeds to be cleared and thrown away but they are actually a rich source of vitamins and minerals.
The entirety of the dandelion – the flowers, leaves and roots – can all be used for food and medicine and they are also antioxidants.
Dandelion leaves can be added to a salad, cooked or dried and stored. The flowers can be made into juice, and the root can even be made into a coffee substitute.
How many times have we cursed stinging nettles as a child and hunted for the fabled dock leaf antidote? Stinging nettles, once an enemy, can now be a health-giving friend. Who would of thought it?
They are already used for various medical conditions such as eczema, arthritis and anaemia. Stinging nettles are a vitamin-rich food source that can work as an excellent spinach substitute. Nettles can also be added to soups and stews or made into a healthy green nettle tea.
However as you probably well know, those nasty stinging hairs can really bite, so don’t eat them raw! The leaves, stems and roots are edible but not until cooked or dried.
The flower buds and young leaves of daisies can be added to salads or eaten in sandwiches. They can be used as an ingredient of soups, pickled as a substitute for capers and used to make wine. Very versatile!
The stem, flower and bud are used to make medicinal tea. People take wild daisy tea for coughs, bronchitis and disorders of the liver and kidneys. Next time you make a daisy chain and are peckish, you know what to do!
Chickweed is fast growing and almost inescapable. Do your other plants – and your body – a favour by chopping it down and eating it. It’s always been highly esteemed for its medicinal properties.
You can cook the leaves in butter as a tasty alternative to spinach or kale. It’s also known for its ability to cool inflammation and speed healing for internal or external flare-ups.
The discomfort of irritation, redness, dryness, sties, and conjunctivitis can be soothed with chickweed. For best results you need to mash some of the fresh plant and apply the juicy pulp (as a poultice) to a closed eye.
Roses are too pretty to eat in their prime but as the petals start to wilt and fall off, it’s to grab them and put them to use. The best time to pick them is in the mid-morning, after the morning dew has disappeared but before the heat of the day.
Rose petals are already fairly common in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine but not so popular in the west. When we do use them they tend to be in desserts and other sweet dishes. Try mixing them up in fruit salads alongside strawberries and raspberries.
Rose petals can be used in teas, syrups, sugar, as candied flower petals and in salads. Get experimenting!
By Jamie Cameron