10 Nutritious Plants in Your Garden and How to Use Them
Did You Know You That Some Weeds Are Edible?
I gave up on my 'normal' vegetable garden a long, long time ago because I'm just not the type of person who will keep the garden free from weed every other day. Result was that I had to search for the veggies through a jungle of non edible plants which somehow always managed to grow faster and taller than every vegetable I had planted or sowed.
Given that I live in an agricultural area where my farmer neighbors do grow their own veggies and are very generous in giving them away, I saw no use in exploiting my own vegetable garden anymore.
1. Red Currants
How to Plant Red Currant Bushes
You can use the Red Currant bushes (there are White and Black Currants too) in a way to either fill up some empty spaces or as decoration to hide an ugly fence. These bushes are very easy to grow and there are different ways to do it.
- Cut off a few twigs of about 20cm (7") long and stick them in the ground and just wait till the next growing season. Most of them will root eventually.
- Take a long twig and bend it down to the ground and cover a part of with soil. When you notice it is growing, just dig it up and cut it off from its main stem and plant it where you want it.
Red Currants Are Delicious and Can Be Used in Many Ways
2. The Indian Cress
(Tropaeolum, commonly called nasturtiums)
Indian Cress, Also Referred To As Garden Nasturtions
Edible Parts Of The Indian Cress: Leaves, Flowers and Seeds
Not only is the Indian Cress (Tropaeolum majus) an edible plant, it is - in my opinion - one of the most beautiful plants that will light up your garden towards the end of Summer, way into the Autumn. Specially when you have the 'climbing' species which will find its way throughout your garden and the bright colored yellow/orange/red flowers will pop up on unexpected places. I usually let it cover the wood stacks, but you can even guide it to climb a tree or cover a fence.
In my country Indian Cress is blooming from the end of Summer till deep into Autumn. As it is winter in my neck of the woods, I can't make recipes with this plant now, so I'll show you some videos on what you can do with the different edible parts of this plant.
Have you ever tasted Indian Cress?
How To Make Nasturtium Butter
How To Make Nasturtium Pesto
How To Pickle Nasturtium Seeds
3. The Purple Dead Nettle
Dead Nettle Edible and Medicinal Weed
Not many people know I think that you can eat the Purple Dead Nettle. I thought it deserves a place in this article because it contains a lot of nectar, just like its sister the White Dead Nettle and you can make pesto from the leaves.
Whenever the Dead Nettles are blooming in my garden, I just have to suck out some nectar from the tiny flowers. Then I know again why the bees are so font of this plant.
I have white, yellow and purple dead nettles growing in my garden.
How to Make Purple Dead Nettle Soup
4. The Common Sorrel
The Sorrel Is a Well-Known and Often Hated Weed in the Garden
The Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a well-known and often hated weed in most gardens, because it's a persistent deep rooting plant which is hard to get rid of. However, on its own, it's also a beautiful plant and not to forget: it's edible.
So....if you can't get rid of it, then eat it.
The leaves have a sour taste due to the oxalic acid, which is a mild toxic. I often mix the Sorrel with Spinach and that tastes really good.
How to Cook a Healty Sorrel Soup
5. The Stinging Nettle
The Stinging Nettle
The Stinging Nettle Is Not a Plant to Handle Without Gloves
There are lots and lots of stinging nettles growing in my garden and each year it's the same struggle over and over, because they tend to grow taller than I am. I've been stung so many times, that I don't care anymore. My skin will prick and will be itchy for a couple of days (or less) and they say it's a good medicine to avoid getting arthritis. If that's true I don't know, but sometimes I have the blisters sitting on my arms because I'm too lazy to put on a long sleeve jacket. I do however put on some gloves if I have to pull a lot of them out.
This nettle is - among other things - a very edible plant when it's still small. Most of the time I use them to make nettle pancakes.
Instruction to Make Stinging Nettle Pancakes
- Put on gloves and gather two hands full of the tops of young Stinging Nettles.
- Wash them in hot water, because then they won't sting anymore.
- Chop the nettles in very small pieces.
- Make a pancake batter the way you usually do.
- Stir the chopped nettles through the batter.
- Bake you pancakes.
How to Make the Best Nettle Soup
Have You Ever Eaten Stinging Nettles?
Dandelions - You Can Use the Flowers, Leaves and Roots
How to Use Dandelions as a Herbal Medicine
The Dandelion is widely spread over most continents and all parts of the plant are edible or can be used as a herbal medicine to treat infections. My Mom used to make a salve from the flowers.
How to Make Salve from the Dandelion Flower
How to Cook with Dandelions
Dendalions Are a Very Nutritious Food
What most people don't know is that Dandelions contain abundant vitamins like A, C and K. They also are a great source for minerals like calcium, iron, potassium and manganese. I always wondered why the grocery stores don't sell them. They are still looked upon as notorious weeds that need to be removed.
A low budget (costs nothing if you pick them yourselves) veggie that's totally underestimated.
Dandelions - Old Greek Recipe
7. The Elder Tree
How to Get the Best out of Elder Trees
I love Elder Trees, but you have to keep an eye on them or they will take over your garden. The tree is blooming in Spring and will carry black berries in Autumn. When the tree grows too big, just trim it and it will grow again. Flowers and berries are edible and can be used in many ways.
- Baked in pancakes
- Battered and Fried in oil
- Cough Syrup
- Jelly or Jam
How to Make Elder Flower Pancakes
How to Make the Best Jam from Quinces
I call Quinces the deceptive fruit because they show off their beautiful bright yellow color as they would say: 'come and eat me', but when you do, you will notice that they are a very hard fruit with a not so nice taste (raw that is).
I know however that Turkish people eat them raw, because I was told so by the Turkish man that often came to pick my Quinces from the tree as I had way too many and didn't want to spoil them. So every year when there are lots of quinces on the tree, I put an add in the local Market place website and there's always people who want to come over and pick them
Quinces are very specific for the area I live in. You hardly see them in other parts of my country. I don't know why that is, maybe because I'm living at the Belgium border and quinces are more common in Belgium than they are in The Netherlands.
I just love to see them ripe during the summer. First they blossom with beautiful white blossoms. Then it takes some time before you actually see the fruits, because they are covered with a grayish green velvet. When Autumn comes the green velvet disappears and then they show their bright yellow fruits that look a bit like pears.
Have You Ever Tasted Quinces?
Quince Jam Recipe on Youtube
9. The Medlar tree
Fruits of the Mespilus Germanica
The Mespilus Germanica or Common Medlar
The common medlar will grow as a large shrub or a not so tall tree. Max 8 meters (26ft) but often much lower. It may have been cultivated for over 3000 years and yet you won't see it in a lot of gardens. The Medlar needs a bit of sun and not too hard winters. It also needs a bit of acid soil. It hasn't a really large lifespan, about 30-50 years. The Mespilus Germanica was for a long time the only known species, but recently (1990) a new species was discovered, known today as the Japanese Medlar.
This tree really is underestimated and it's unbelievable that it's not spread widely in many gardens. It's the ideal tree for a middle sized garden.
What is the best way to eat medlars
The Medlar tree is a lovely and very decorative tree for the somewhat smaller gardens. The medlar is a distinct family member of the rose and it blooms in Spring with big white blossoms. Not overwhelming like apple trees, but a few at the time. In Autumn the medlar tree carries a load of fruits and in order to eat them raw, they need to be bletted (rotting) until its flesh is dark brown and soft.
You can either let nature do the rotting during frost, or you can pick them when they're still firm and let them sit in a dark corner for several weeks. That's called bletting. Letting this fruit completely rot is very essential, otherwise you can't eat it. The Medlar has a special taste and you either love it or hate it.
This fruit is used for making jelly or jam and I found this website with a very old recipe for making Medlar Cheese
The Medlar Tree in My Own Garden
Showing Off The Medlar Tree
How to Make Medlar and Apple Yelly
Have You Ever Tasted Medlars?
9. The Walnut
(Juglans - Family Juglandaceae)
How to Use Walnuts the Best Way
You have to have lots of space in your garden when you want to plant a Walnut tree. They are growing in to very wide and very tall trees. You better get some information on how to plant a walnut tree and learn which one would be best for you.
Fortunately we have that space and we have 5 Walnut trees. One is more than 25 years old and it's a beautiful majestic tree, but I don't use its nuts anymore because they are very hard to crack and it's very difficult to get the nuts out of their shell. I leave those for the birds and mice. The crows just love them. The other trees give beautiful and easy to crack nuts and they taste delicious.
We store them and use them a whole year around until we can harvest again. We use them in cooking, in our muesli, in my special Banana Walnut Cake, or eat them while watching the television.
The Walnut Tree in the Back Is as High as It Is Wide
Store Your Walnuts in a Dry and Safe Place and Don't Do What I Did
I had stored a box of walnuts in the barn and I should have known better than to do that. One evening I heard this gnawing sound and then I knew it was too late to save the walnuts. The mice had found their provision box and had taken over. I was curious though as to what kind of mice they were so...one evening I took my camera and a flashlight. I carefully moved some stuff, installed the flashlight, set my camera to flash and suddenly opened the box and this is what I saw: the most cutest little house mouse having a good time.
But he/she wasn't alone.
© 2013 Titia Geertman