So you’ve mapped out your garden, prepared the soil, researched what grows best, planted the seeds, and now it’s growing beautifully. One may say all that is left to do is harvest the fruits of your labor. Is that all – really? It could be, however in most cases you are likely not getting the most use of your gardening space.
Explore & Expand
In traditional gardening you plant, maintain, harvest, & repeat. We consider ourselves anything but traditional here at Bain Home Gardens so let’s amend that process shall we? Plant, maintain, harvest, & explore. What do we mean? Did you know the leaves of that young Okra plant are edible? It’s a fact! What about the Blossoms? Seeds? The answer is a surprising and resounding – YES! In fact, if you are willing to explore just a little bit you will find more to eat in your garden than you think! This is one of the best ways to get the most out of your garden! It will mean you will likely have to explore new recipes as well but it’s a small price to pay to expand your flavor palate!
Vegetables harvested for dinner
You may be hesitant to do this. After all, if everyone else isn’t eating it, there must be a reason. You are right, there is a reason. Most of these items do not store well and are not a safe investment for the grocery stores, so they do not sell them, the public does not buy them, and no one is the wiser that the blossoms of the Marigold flower are edible. Herein lies a funny story that I must share. When planning the garden out for Spring back in January, I asked my husband how he felt about flowers. He just looked at me with a blank stare. I clarified by adding, “edible flowers”, to which he immediately began shaking his head no. He said they weren’t for him to eat but rather to look at and admire. I didn’t pressure him. After all he has come so far. One day this month I was preparing to cook by cleaning and sorting veggies pulled from the garden. He came in and didn’t recognize that I was cooking and started his own thing. While our kitchen is big enough for two cook, if he wants to cook who am I to stand in the way? So I cleaned the Malabar Spinach & Marigold Blossoms and handed them to him. I told him I was going to stir fry the spinach with onion and add the blossoms at the end. I was certain he had put the blossoms in the fridge until we began to eat. He exclaimed, “Well I just ate a flower!” I nearly had to pick myself up from the floor! He had cooked them just the way I had planned. Later he revealed that he enjoyed them. He had expanded his flavor palate to include flowers.
So what’s growing in your garden that you didn’t know was edible? Below is a list of items growing in our garden not traditionally recognized as edible:
- Okra Leaf- cook like spinach or kale or even eat raw
- Okra Blossom – stuff with cheese, batter, & deep fry
- Okra Seeds – press for oil, make granola, and even coffee – crazy!
- Kale & Chard Stems – use raw in smoothies or a sauté
- Broccoli Leaf – cook like collards or mustard greens
- Broccoli Flowers – eat raw or add to stir fry at the end
- Radish Leaf – Cook like kale or spinach or use for radish leaf pesto
- Rutabaga Leaf – cook like collards or mustards
- Carrot tops – add at the end of stir fries, smaller ones can be eaten raw in salads or wraps
Getting the most out of your garden doesn’t always mean you eat everything – after all, everything isn’t edible. What it does mean is being creative. If you cannot eat it then explore other uses for it or compost it.
Banana leaves are used for many things I have recently found out. The one use we will be utilizing is wrapping food in it to keep it moist while grilling. Cool right? The thick, nutrient rich leaves also are awesome for mulching as they will feed your plants as they breakdown as well as retain moisture.
Red Okra Blossom
Okra is in the article so much, you must know we love it! We do! It’s easy to grow and super useful. As its growing season ends, you may be tempted to pull the unsightly stalks from the ground in preparation for new plantings or to just rid the eye sore. Pause. Are you planting Fall peas? If so plant them in front of each stalk of okra and boom – instant trellis!
Whatever is growing in your garden we are proud of you for the effort you have put into it. We know it isn’t easy. It’s perfectly acceptable to reap the fruits of your labor and keep it moving. If however, your desire is to get the most out of your garden, we hope these ideas help you to explore & expand!