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Discover Edible Plants: Hidden Treasure is in the Garden

Gardening is a beloved pastime for many, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, did you know that your garden could also be a source of delicious and nutritious food? We are not talking about fruit and vegetables here. Eating plants, often overlooked, provides an exciting opportunity to transform your garden into a culinary oasis. Thanks to the insightful folks at Auburn University’s Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center rooftop garden, let’s dive into a fascinating list of edible plants you might not know.

 Marigold (Tagetes)

Nutritional Value and Uses

Marigolds are vibrant additions to your garden and a delightful culinary ingredient. The petals of marigold flowers are edible and can add color and a mild, citrus-like flavor to salads, soups, and rice dishes. Rich in antioxidants and essential oils, marigolds are known for their potential anti-inflammatory properties.

 How to Use

  • Salads: Sprinkle marigold petals over your salad for a burst of color and flavor.
  • Teas: Brew marigold petals for a soothing herbal tea.
  • Garnishes: Use the petals as a garnish for desserts and savory dishes.

Roses (Rosa)

 

Nutritional Value and Uses

Roses are not just for flower bouquets! The petals and hips of roses are edible and packed with vitamin C. Rose petals have a delicate, floral flavor, while rose hips are tart and can be used to make jellies, syrups, and teas.

How to Use

  • Salads and Desserts: Add rose petals to salads or use them to decorate cakes and pastries.
  • Rose Water: Make rose water for use in baking and cooking.
  • Rose Hip Syrup: Prepare rose hip syrup to drizzle over pancakes or yogurt.

Celosia (Celosia argentea)

Nutritional Value and Uses

Celosia, with its bright, plume-like flowers, is more than just a decorative plant. Both the leaves and flowers are edible. The leaves are particularly nutritious, rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.

How to Use

  • Leafy Greens: Use the young leaves in salads or cook them like spinach.
  • Flower Garnish: Add the flowers as a colorful garnish to dishes. 

Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)

Nutritional Value and Uses

While Citronella is famous for its mosquito-repelling properties, its leaves are also edible. They impart a lemony flavor and are often used in teas and cooking. 

How to Use

  • Teas: Brew citronella leaves for a refreshing tea.
  • Flavoring: Use the leaves to flavor soups, stews, and marinades.

Dahlias (Dahlia pinnata)

Nutritional Value and Uses

Dahlias are stunning flowers with edible tubers that can be used much like potatoes. They have a sweet, earthy flavor and are rich in carbohydrates.

 How to Use

  • Roasted Tubers: Roast dahlia tubers as you would potatoes.
  • Salads: Slice the tubers thinly and add them to salads for a crunchy texture.

Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas)

Nutritional Value and Uses

The leaves of the sweet potato vine are edible and highly nutritious, packed with vitamins A and C, and dietary fiber.

How to Use

  • Leafy Greens: Use the leaves in salads or cook them like spinach.
  • Stir-fries: Add the leaves to stir-fries for a nutritional boost.

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

Nutritional Value and Uses

Daylilies are not just beautiful; they are also entirely edible. The buds, flowers, and tubers can all be consumed and are rich in vitamins and minerals. 

How to Use

  • Buds: Stir-fry daylily buds as a vegetable side dish.
  • Flowers: Use the flowers in salads or stuff them for a unique appetizer.
  • Tubers: Roast or boil the tubers like potatoes.

Gaillardia (Gaillardia pulchella)

Nutritional Value and Uses

Gaillardia, also known as Blanket Flower, has edible petals that can add a splash of color and a mild flavor to your dishes.

How to Use

  • Salads: Scatter Gaillardia petals over salads for a colorful garnish.
  • Garnishes: Use the petals to decorate cakes and other desserts. 

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Nutritional Value and Uses

Purslane is a nutritious weed, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals like magnesium and potassium. It has a slightly tangy, lemony flavor.

How to Use

  • Salads: Add raw purslane to salads for a nutritious boost.
  • Sautéed: Cook purslane with garlic and olive oil as a side dish.
  • Smoothies: Blend purslane into smoothies for extra nutrition.

Exploring the world of edible plants can transform your gardening experience and elevate your culinary skills. From the vibrant marigold to the nutritious purslane, these plants offer a wealth of flavors and health benefits. So next time you’re in your garden, look closer – you might find your next meal growing right before you.

For more inspiration and information on edible plants, we extend our gratitude to the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center at Auburn University’s rooftop garden, whose dedication to horticultural education continues to enrich our knowledge and dinner plates.

Happy growing gardeners, and happy eating!