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Edible Spring Blossoms…Our Top Ten

May 11, 2021

Want to bring some unexpected tastes to your palate? A recent walk around our edible landscape gave us the answer. Yes, we are growing kale for the foliage, chervil for its delicate, lacy leaves and chives to top baked potatoes and egg dishes but many other beautiful spring blossoms offer special gifts not to be missed.

Salads become more vibrant and enticing, soup receives a touch of elegance and lightly steamed or sauteed vegetables sparkle when flower blossoms garnish the dish. We’ve selected ten of our favorite spring blossoms to whet your appetite. Some are familiar, others may surprise you with their distinctive and very pleasant tastes. Enjoy your springtime visit to our garden to catch a glimpse of these lovely blossoms before they fade away.

#10…German Chamomile (Chamaeomelum nobile; Matricaria recutita)

Dainty, apple scented, daisy-like spring blossoms become the perfect ingredient for brewing a cup of German chamomile tea. To make the tea, place 1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) flowers in a cup. Pour 1 cup boiling water over the top and steep for 5 minutes. Strain out the petals before drinking or using in a recipe. Let the soothing taste calm and comfort you on a crisp spring morning. Petals can also be used in salads. 

#9…Scented Geraniums (Pelargoniums spp.)

At Raincatcher’s we’ve fallen head over heels with scented pelargoniums (geraniums). Their fragrance is so captivating that we’re constantly searching for new varieties. This spring, we’re growing some of the following: chocolate peppermint, lavender, lemon fizz, rose, peach and pink champagne. From smooth-as-velvet rounded leaves to deeply lobed, the foliage of scented pelargoniums makes a lovely statement in the garden. Use scented geranium leaves to lend a nice fragrant addition to cookies, cakes, butter, drinks, and many other types of foods. Garnish the beverage of your choice with a tiny blossom. For a sweet finish, give it a gentle swish in the liquid before consuming.

#8…Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)

After the deep freeze of February, chervil gave us a spirit-lifting surprise. Our tender little plants growing in the Hügelkultur stayed nestled in the ground just long enough to survive the bitter cold. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been drawn to tiny white anise-flavored blossoms covering the plants. Harvest chervil blossoms and leaves as close to preparation time as possible. Partner it with eggs, salmon, cream soups, and many classic sauces. Use the blossoms to garnish watercress for a simply divine salad.

#7…Begonias (Begoniaceae – Semperflorens Cultorum Group)

We are growing the wax leaf variety in our Statuary/Cottage Garden. The fleshy leaves and flowers are edible both cooked and raw. In Japan, India and Indonesia they have been cooked up as potherbs. The Chinese use them to make a sauce for meat. Children in northern Mexico and China eat them as a snack. Tuberous begonias are also edible. The flowers have a delicious, light, lemon taste and a crisp texture.  We hope to add some in the shady parts of our garden. 

#6…Rat’s Tail Radish (Raphanis sativus var. caudatus)

Edible podded radish plants look very similar to traditional radish plants except that the flowers are allowed to go to seed and form seed pods. Rat’s Tail radish is grown for its edible pods. The pods are green and pencil-thin with a smooth, somewhat lumpy appearance. Flowers can range from white to pink and purple and can be added to salads. Pods can be eaten raw or cooked, sliced and added to salads or crudité platters. Because Rat’s Tail radish plants are heavy producers, it’s fun to use both flowers and pods in different dishes.

#5…Kale, Red Russian (Brassica napus)

Kale is typically grown as a leafy green crop. But have you tasted the blossoms? Surprisingly, they are very tender and delicious. And, with the extreme cold in February, it brought out their sweetness even more. If fully opened, use them in salads. If they are still in the bud stage, try adding them to stir fry dishes. Or, after a light sauté, add them to soup or pasta. Other members of the brassica family also produce these tender flowering tops known as raabs. Raab is a tangible, edible sign that the kale (or broccoli or whatever you have) “overwintered” and survived into spring. 

#4…Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

With nicknames like pot marigold and poor man’s saffron, you might have missed the opportunity to grow calendula. At Raincatcher’s, we’re thrilled to have it growing alongside the greenhouse beds and in our sensory garden. Springtime is the best time to enjoy calendula flowers in the landscape and, especially, for culinary purposes. Calendula flowers have a spicy, peppery taste that give a nice flavor to cornbread, quiche, ravioli and sweets.

#3…Wasabi Arugula (Diplotaxis erucoides)

If you’re ready for tasting notes of horseradish and peppery aromatics, give wasabi arugula a try. It has deep green spoon-shaped leaves with slightly toothed edges and stems that are delicately crisp. Once it bolts, let the edible flowers attract pollinators or enjoy their tender, tangy bite in salads and as a garnish for your favorite bowl of soup. 

#2…Borage (Borage officinalis)

In our crescent bed, you’ll find both white and blue borage in full bloom. Bees are buzzing and can’t stay away from the striking star-shaped blossoms. Borage is an extremely old plant, originating from an area around Aleppo, a Syrian city that dates back to the eleventh century B.C. After spreading to Europe, Pliny the Elder wrote, “it maketh a man merry and joyful.” His comment, along with others, may refer more to the wine it was drunk in than the herb itself. Fresh borage flowers can be used in salads, dips and cold soups as a garnish.

#1…Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)

Not surprisingly, nasturtiums are the number one pick in our edible landscape. There are almost a dozen varieties of nasturtium on the market but this year we chose ‘Variegated Alaska Mix’ for our Statuary/Cottage Garden bed. Their unique variegated foliage delivers a colorful display of gold, orange, salmon and mahogany flowers on compact plants reaching about one foot in height. A big attraction for growing nasturtiums is that the flowers, leaves and seed pods are all edible. Their tangy flavor is mustard like with an added perfume and sweetness. (For a special treat, go to our link for Nasturtium Risotto. This incredible recipe includes all parts of the nasturtium plant.)


(FYI…Come back in a few months for our next seasonal look at a Baker’s Dozen favorite edible summer flowers.)

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Nasturtium Risotto

Nasturtium Pesto

Nasturtium Bouillon

Don’t forget our plant sale May 13th and 14th.

Arugula Has Its Day

Tuesday at Raincatcher’s we noticed that the arugula was bolting. Lovely little white blossoms crowned the tops of all the arugula plants in our raised bed.  The bees couldn’t have been happier.

However, it also reminded us that the time had come for one final harvest. Carefully we clipped our way through the plants with bees buzzing all around us.  A very generous amount of arugula, at least 6 pots full, was harvested and shared with our volunteers.

Here is a delightful recipe for using fresh, peppery arugula brought in straight from the garden. A nice addition to the salad would be 1 bunch fresh roasted beets.  Be creative, arugula supports a variety of many different ingredients.

 

Arugula Growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

Arugula Salad

Ingredients:

¼ cup sliced natural almonds

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons red-wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 cups baby arugula (about 3 ounces)

3 or 4 radishes (thinly sliced)

Directions:

  1. Cook almonds in oil in a small skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until pale golden. Cool almonds in oil, (nuts will get darker as they cool). Transfer almonds with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and season with salt.
  2. Stir together shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and oil from almonds in a large bowl.
  3. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, thinly slice radishes.
  4. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over the top and toss well to coat the leaves.

Yield: 4 servings

Note: Freshly “pulled” radishes were added to the salad, as well.

 

 

 

 

Linda Alexander

Find out more about arugula here .

And here’s another way to use harvested arugula.

Arugula-Pear-Blue Cheese Salad

Arugula, Pears, Pecans, Blue Cheese For Salad

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach or pear preserves

1/2 cup Champagne vinegar

1 shallot, sliced

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper 

1/2 cup olive oil 

8 cups loosely packed arugula

2 Bartlett pears, cut into 6 wedges each

4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans 

Process 1/4 cup preserves and next 5 ingredients in a food processor 30 seconds to 1 minute or until smooth.  With processor running, pour oil through food chute in a slow steady stream, processing until smooth.  Transfer to a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl, and stir in remaining 2 Tbsp peach preserves. 

Place arugula in a large serving bowl.  Top with pears, blue cheese, and pecans.  Drizzle with vinaigrette. 

Elizabeth  From Southern Living Magazine 

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