Archive for Edible Flowers

Nasturt-yums

Posted in Edible Flowers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2010 by PickMeYard

"Empress of India" Variety of Nasturtium

The nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)  is my family’s favorite plant.  The leaves, flowers, and seed pods are edible and beautiful.  They have a floral, peppery flavor.  Grayson says they’re spicy. My daughter always picks a handful and walks around nibbling on them while she enjoys their beauty. I’ve heard that rabbits hate them and planting them around the edges of your vegetable garden is a good bunny deterrent. 

A Mixture of Nasturtiums

There are many varieties of nasturtiums.  Some are climbing types and others are short and bushy.  The flowers are about 2.5 inches in diameter and come in many, many colors.  They are easy to grow from seed and actually flower better in poor soil.  A rich soil will give you a lot of leaves and few flowers. My favorite website for viewing the different nasturtium varieties and buying seeds is at sunrise seeds.  They look and taste great in salads, sandwiches, pasta, and vegetable dishes.  I love them stuffed with cream cheese.  A great recipe for nasturtium vinegar and other recipes  by Peter Crowley can be found at gardnermuseum.org.  If you were interested in making capers from the seed pod, I found a recipe for “poor man’s caper”.   The bottled capers at the grocery store come from the unopened flower bud of a Mediterranean bush called Capparis spinosa

Honeybee in a Peach Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are really easy to grow from seed.  I like to plant them around the edges in my larger containers with my citrus trees.  The trailing variety cascades beautifully down the sides of the pot.  I’ve observed that nasturtiums don’t do well in Florida when the summer heat gets oppressive.  I usually pull them out.  It’s an easy chore because they are quite delicate.  

Another honeybee in Nasturtium

I make a nasturtium salad dressing that my family often asks for.  It’s really easy and fast to mix and I store the unused portion in the refrigerator.  The recipe is: 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, a couple of squeezes of lime or lemon juice, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 3-4 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of chopped nasturtium stems.  I mix it well because the honey settles to the bottom.  To make it creamy, I add plain yogurt.  I use the nasturtium flowers as a garnish or I toss them on top of a salad. 

 

I like nasturtiums chopped up and mixed with butter and chives too. 

"Strawberries and Cream" Nasturtium

My three-year-old loves to eat them out of hand, but she is always pleasantly surprised when I serve her sliced cucumbers with different colored nasturtium flowers. She’ll nibble a couple off the plate, but they are mostly for color and to make her food look appetizing.  

A Snack for Loring

 

 

 

 

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It’s a Miracle

Posted in Trees with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by PickMeYard

Moringa is the miracle.  It’s called “the miracle tree”.   The scientific name is Moringa oleifera.

It’s not called the miracle tree because it is easy to grow, although it is easy to grow.  It’s drought resistant and grows in poor soils.  Moringa is a miracle tree because it’s being used to fight hunger.  The leaves are edible and extremely nutritious.  It is used to feed starving children and infants in undeveloped nations.  Moringa is also used as a medicine to treat AIDS/HIV (in Africa), diabetes, high blood pressure, stomach pains, the common cold, skin infections, cuts, wounds, rheumatism, and insect bites.  (Pharmaceuticals are not readily available in undeveloped nations.)

In agriculture, it is used to feed livestock and provide fertilizer.  It’s also used as a hedge.  The seeds can be used to purify water.  An oil extracted from Moringa can be used for cooking that is  as nutritious as olive oil.  The  roots and flowers can be eaten as well. Do you see why it’s called the miracle tree? No other word  better describes this tree. Truly a miracle of nature. Amazing.

This is  a small moringa tree growing in our yard.  Moringa is mainly grown for its leaves.  The more a moringa tree is trimmed and cut back, the more leaves it produces.  It will grow into a large tree, but it is best kept trimmed as a small hedge so the leaves can be easily harvested. The leaves contain 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the calcium of milk, 3 times the potassium of bananas, 2 times the protein of yogurt, 4 times the vitamin A of carrots and 3/4 the iron of spinach

When the moringa leaves are dried and powdered, they contain 1/2 the vitamin C of oranges, 17 times the calcium of milk, 15 times the potassium of bananas, 9 times the protein of yogurt and 25 times the vitamin A of carrots.  It has almost the same amount of protein as an egg.  I read  this information on a website called Trees for life where there is a ton of information about moringa.

This picture is the  same tree in our yard as the picture above it. This is after 8 months of growth and several hard freezes in our zone 9b.  It looks taller in the picture than it really is.  I need to cut it back down to size which is easy to do.  It has sprouts up and down the tree.  The four other moringa trees that we planted froze to the ground.  However, it looks like the stumps are trying to sprout and might survive after all.  The tree produces seed pods that contain about 10-20 seeds.  They can be dried and stored or cooked fresh, like peas.

The leaves are mostly used when they are dried and powdered, but they can be eaten fresh.  I wouldn’t describe them as delicious or more-ish (you know, when you want more and more of whatever you are eating), but I would eat them if it became necessary.  I feel the same way about our chickens, ducks and pigeons. 

In southern Ethiopia, many families have a Moringa stenopetala  tree in their garden.  They cook the leaves the same way they cook a vegetable.   It is considered a status symbol there to have one of these trees.  The Moringa oleifera has smaller leaves than the latter, but they are both highly nutritious.

This is definitely my favorite way to eat moringa…as a jelly.  The taste is delicious.  I usually make a tea with the powdered moringa leaves that I purchased from Echo’s bookstore.   They also sell the nutritious powder in a convenient spice container so it can easily be sprinkled on your food for an extra vitamin and amino acid boost.  It is supposed to help memory and concentration too.  The dried powder can be ordered at moringaforlife.com, as well as many other moringa products.  The literature says it is really good for children, but my kids crinkle their noses and run.  The powder has an earthy, green flavor.  It’s hard to describe. 

When the tree is about 8 months old, it begins to flower and flowers year-round.  The bees love it.  The flowers are edible and can be fried or used for tea.  In Haitian folk medicine, the flowers are used to treat the common cold.  They boil the flowers and steep them for five minutes and drink with sugar.  Many other countries, including India, have tons of folk remedies for the moringa, especially the bark of the tree.  However, the bark is toxic and should be avoided. 

To top it all off, the trees are beautiful. We love that we are able to grow them in our yard.  For more background reading on moringa, try “The Moringa News Network“.  They constantly revise and add to their site.  Another interesting site is anamed, a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives in the poorest of nations. 

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Jasminum Sambac…The “King of Flowers”

Posted in Edible Flowers with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2010 by PickMeYard

 

The fragrance from this flower makes me swoon from intoxication.  It smells so wonderful you might wish you could eat it…and you can.  This flower is the glorious jasmine.  It has been highly sought after and prized for many centuries.  Once you’ve held it in your hand, you will want it in your garden as well.  It blooms profusely and will even do so in filtered light.  It doesn’t mind short periods of drought and is easy to care for.  Since it is a tropical, it grows in zones 9-10.  But, if you don’t live in the tropics, don’t give up on it.  It can be grown indoors!  It would need to be kept in an area that has quite a lot of  sunlight, but not so much that it burns the plant leaves.  When the weather warms up over 50 degrees  it can be taken outside.  We had many nights here in zone 9b that were in the low 20’s this year and my jasmines are fine.  I keep some in pots and some in the ground.  They do grow great in pots.

The ‘Grand Duke of Tuscany’ jasmine is my favorite.  That’s a flower in the picture above.  It is very slow-growing.  I am also growing ‘Maid of Orleans’, which grows quickly and vines.  This is the variety that is used to make jasmine tea.  There are several other varieties that I have been looking for.  I know I’ll find them eventually…’Arabian Nights’, ‘Mysore Mulli’, ‘Belle of India’ and the elusive ‘Mali Chat’.

My favorite way to enjoy these beauties is to pick a few flowers and add them to a pitcher of ice water.  That’s it. Voila! Jasmine Water.  You could let it sit for 24 hours or just enjoy it immediately.  I find that these flowers don’t need to sit for long to flavor your entire pitcher with a light floral flavor.  Refreshing and yummy.  I add sugar for the kids, but I prefer mine without.  My kids ask for this everyday when it’s blooming.  Since I usually have more flowers than I know what to do with, I usually just let some float in a pretty bowl on the counter to fill the air with the scent of jasmine. 

I think we are all a little happier when the house smells like jasmine. There are endless possibilities to the culinary delights that could be created with these flowers.  A sugary syrup would be exotic and irresistable.  It can be  poured over fruits, ice cream, iced teas , rice, etc.  However, I want to add a warning here:  the jasmine that you are likely to encounter growing in parking lots and in most people’s yards is highly poisonous!  It is not Jasminum sambac, it just smells similar.

If you’re hooked now and want one too, they can be purchased through Top Tropicals plant nursery.  They have a great website that is full of information on many kinds of plants.  I’ve always had good luck with them.  Actually, now I’m going to see if that ‘Mali Chat’ is available through them.  

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