If you take your time wandering through the garden you will be able to collect a wide variety of ingredients to make up a green salad. Taste the different leaves and you will be amazed by the plethora of scents and aromas you can find.
There is not very much poisonous or harmful to find in our garden. Of course only eat what is growing in our beds because this is growing in healthy soil. We know the history of our garden site was industrial, so don’t eat anything that is growing outside of the beds.
Leave these leaves!
There are three groups of plant that carry a bit of a risk, but they are perfectly fine if handled properly:
- our solanaceous, the tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants are of the nightshade family and while their ripe fruit are perfectly fine to consume, their leaves and flowers carry a poison.
- beans contain lectins that affect your guts. Not all people are equally susceptible to lectins and a little bit of raw beans will probably not do much harm. In general beans should be cooked before consumption. Never feed raw beans to kids! Broad beans are the only bean perfectly save to eat raw. Runner beans and green garden beans have very high lectin content.
- several plants in the garden contain oxalic acid. You can find it in warrigal greens and sorrel leaves. The leaves of our amaranth varieties, the silver beets, rainbow chards, spinach and beetroot leaves contain it. Oxalic acid is what makes rhubarb tart. Oxalic acid is not poisonous but it is known to be related to kidney stones. It is perfectly save to eat those plants as long as you don’t consume them in large amounts on a daily basis over weeks. Never eat rhubarb leaves!
Eat these leaves
That said, there is a lot to discover. I love making a salad out of leaves that don’t even need a lot of dressing because they come packed with flavour:
- rocket comes with a peppery, mustardy heat
- lettuces add bulk, colour and crunch
- endive adds a lovely bitter note and a lot of texture
- lovage used in small amounts surprises with its savory taste
- sorrel brings in tardness
- young nasturtium leaves taste like peppery water cress
- Mexican tarragon adds sweetness and a hint of liquorice
- society garlic leaves add the taste of garlic without the smell
- young beetroot leaves look very beautiful in salads
- young carrot leaves actually taste like carrots
- whole basil, continental parsley, marjoram or oregano leaves mixed into a salad sparingly add their savory aspects
Experiment, play around and be creative. Use the flavoursome leaves to add interest to your green salads. It’s exciting how many different salads you can create just using these leaves. Don’t use too much, some of those leaves have strong flavours. But biting on one or two while eating your salad makes all the difference.
Dress the leaves with an uncomplicated dressing: lemon juice and olive oil, some pepper and salt most often does the trick. Add a bit of garlic if you like. Or just use your favourite dressing.
You can easily spruce it up one more notch and gild the lily by adding some edible flowers. Use nasturtiums, borage, or society garlic flowers to add colour.
Fancy restaurants serve this as an expensive treat and call it a wild herb salad. For you as a garden member it’s just a walk in the park.