Friday, June 25, 2010

Are Vegetables Underused?

As I was enjoying some squash blossom tempura yesterday, I started to wonder what other parts of common vegetables do we ignore?


Eat and Grow your...
Squash blossoms & Watermelon seeds

Squash - winter and summer

All commonly grown species of Cucuribita including C. pepo, C. mixta and C. moschata have edible flowers, seeds and would you believe greens? The fruit of all varieties from zucchini to pumpkin can be eaten at both the mature and immature stage though breeding has made some more desireable for one or the other use.

Squash blossoms - The abundant male flowers (those with skinny stems and no immature fruit at the bottoms) are a great bonus harvest. Just don't harvest them all when there are female fruit around to make sure that you will have pollination. They are commonly eaten as tempura or stuffed.

A halloween treat around our house is roasted and salted pumpkin seeds. We eaten them unshelled though they are better without the white fibrous coat. Varieties like Lady Godiva have been selected for their hulless seed. You can also press the seed for oil. According to Plants for a Future, sprouted squash seed contain a toxin in the embryo though if you google, it seems lots of people eat them (or at least they eat pumpkin seed 'soaks')


Don't just spit all those watermelon seeds on the ground, you can eat them just like your mother said. If you don't crunch them raw while you enjoy the sweet watery flesh, you can roast them and use them as a flour adulterant. Oh and according to pfaf, the juice is high in pectin: the possibilities. Watermelon rinds, especially from citron, are used to make perserves.

Cucumber and Melon

Small cucumber seeds are also edible but would be a pain to deshell. Thankfully you can also press them for oil that is said to be reminiscent of olive oil. If this is true, then I will be searching for some very seedy cucumber varieties. Most links about the oil, however, take you to information about beauty products.

Melon seeds are on the menu too.

Eat and Grow Your...
Broccoli leaves & Kale Broccolini

If you have any issue growing Brassicas because of pest and disease problems, then you already know what a great food source they are. The bugs find them delectable too.

Most commonly grown Brassica can be eaten from leaf to seed, and sometimes root. I encourage double checking of all facts but here's what I've eaten. Cauliflower, kholrabi and broccoli leaves all have a tough texture but are perfectly acceptible. Mustard, rocket and kale flowers are mildly flavoured and plentiful. I suspect that most flowers from this family are edible but verify before you try. Broccolini flowerbuds from kale, choy and mustard are all tasty. Immature seedpods from mustards, kale and especially rattail radish - bred for this purpose. Of course, seeds of mustards, cabbage, and broccoli are commonly used in sprouting. I always have an over abundance of mustard seed to mix with vinegar for mustard sauce but I suspect you could use other edible brassica seed as a substitute.

Eat and Grow your...
Onions greens & Garlic Scapes

You have probably heard about eating the immature flowering stem of garlic known as its scapes, this is also true of other alliums if they flower. Making allium greens from garlic or onion is a great way of producing a winter crop or producing a quick cache crop with some late planted seed onions or garlic cloves. You can also grow greens, scapes and seed by replanting the bottoms of green onions or leeks.

If you have too many seeds on hand, sprout them.

Eat and Grow your...
Runner Bean flowers & Bean Leaves

I commonly grow extra pea seeds for their young shoots and tendrils that taste like a cross between spinach and peas. This is another easy indoor winter harvest but also makes a great quick crop for an empty place in the garden. Many common legume flowers are edible such as pea, fava bean and runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) flowers but I haven't found mention of regular old beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) so I'm not sure about those.

Eat and Grow your...
Corn Pollen & Silks & Stem

This was a fun surprise. I had no idea that you could put Zea mays pollen in soups, eat the silks and use the pith of the stem in a way similar to sugar cane. Well, now I have more incentive to try to grow the stuff! If you have had experiences using corn this way, I'd be interested in hearing more.

More uses of corn by Two-Lane Livin'

This is only the start of the alternative uses for common vegetables, there are also the well known beet greens, sweet potato greens and chicory flowers so do your research and just because your broccoli buttoned, your corn didn't form kernels and your squash aborted its fruit shouldn't mean that you didn't get anything to eat!


Stuffed squash blossoms

Pumpkin leaves in peanut sauce

Watermelon rind pickles

Roasted watermelon seeds

Rattail radish

Mustard recipes

Sprout people on Leek Sprouts (and much more)

Whole page on pea shoots with recipes (marketing page for Sainsbury but good info)


Alexis said...

This article is fantastically timely! I just hung up some radish pods to dry. I'm not sure they're ready to harvest for seed but the stems were broken and the cucumbers were strangling them. I've got plenty left and I'm looking forward to finding out if they're pallatible. (I grew a long red-rooted type)

The corn information has me excited too! I've got a three sister's bed going and I absolutely LOVE growing corn whenever I can (though my neighbor repeatedly tells me what I'm doing is impossible)

Angela said...

Thanks, you are such an inspiration!

Of those unused veggies listed I love squash blossom with a passion. The make a great appetizer as filling for taquitos with a slice of green chile and some epazote leaves.

Kale flower buds are sweeter than actual broccoli, I'll like them and need to get check my plants for some.

Here we have an invasive wild radish that has tasty pods, but I don't have direct experience eaten it. When I'll next find some, I'll harvest them in your honor.

Ottawa Gardener said...

When I started to transform our lot into mostly gardens, several neighbours stopped by to tell us that it would not be possible because of the bunnies, time, etc... and I am pleased to report they don't tell me those things anymore :)

I love kale buds too Angela. Looking forward to hearing your invasive wild radish experience!

thyme2garden said...

Talk about being an adventurous eater! I will have to (bravely) try some of these things out. When you eat blossoms (like squash or daylilies), is there anything you have to "do" to prepare your blossoms? Can you each all parts of the blossom, or just the petals? I can't wait to get my hands on some blossoms!

Ottawa Gardener said...

I eat the whole daylily blossom when it's unopened but I remove the stamen in the middle. Some people also remove the green calyx at the bottom.

As for daylily, you can remove the sexual parts too if you prefer, especially if this is your first time eating them in case you have an allergy.

There are lots of recipes on line. I highly recommend the squash blossoms. When I eat opened daylilies, I only eat the petals but they are scrumptuous.

As for eating flowers in general, sometimes you have to be careful and only eat the petals or take off any green as it may not be edible, or may be bitter.

Let me know how it goes.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Sorry, in the previous comment, the first daylily should be squash :)

thyme2garden said...

So for squash blossoms, do you eat them almost as soon as they appear on your plant, before they start opening in the early morning? Or do you mean unopened like you pick them during the day, after they've already opened and closed in the early morning? My squash plants have lots of male blossoms right now, but only one female blossom. Do you think that I could pick a few male blossoms without sacrificing pollinating chances for any future female flowers? Oh, this is really exciting!