"Harvest what you have"
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Orange mint hanging to dry
Why Grow & Forage Herbs?
Five Edible Flowers You Can Forage
Did you know that there are a number of edible flowers? Foraging flowers, whether in the wild or in the yard, is easy when you know what to look for. See below for five common edible flowers you can forage in the wild.
We have dried both leaves and blossoms for tea, but since every part of the plant is edible, you can eat the flower, too. Like the oxeye daisy, there are recipes to batter and fry dandelion flowers. You can also add them to baked goods like breads. Here is one bread recipe I found that looks amazing. Dandelion flowers can also be used to make jelly and wine, both of which have a delightful light floral flavor that a friend describes as “liquid sunshine”. The root can be dried and used for tea. Roasted dandelion root tea is one of my favorites and has been used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. One of the biggest perks of dandelion is that it is good for your liver, so give your liver a little love and add a little dandelion to your life.
Roses have long been used in beauty products and fragrances, but did you know that they are edible as well? You can eat rose petals fresh. They add color, flavor, and vitamins to salads and lemonade (see the blog post about summer hydration here). Its petals can be used in drinks, infused in honey, infused in oil, dried for teas and recipes,or made into rosewater. Rose water is a common ingredient in baked goods such as Turkish delight, cakes, and cookies. It also makes a nice addition to some savory dishes. See here for some ideas on cooking with roses.
Rose petals are not the only useful part of this plant. Rose hips can be collected in the fall and made into jelly and syrup, or dried for teas. Rose hips are known to be a good source of vitamin C. In fact, during WWII, the British made rose hip syrup as a vitamin C supplement for their children when wartime rations did not provide much in the way of fresh fruit. (1)
Violas are one of my favorite flowers. They come in so many colors and add a cheery touch to any yard or hillside. They are also edible. We have dried these for tea, but they make a lovely addition to a salad (both the flowers and leaves are edible) or as a garnish for a drink or dessert. This article here has a photo of some lovely lollipops they made with violas.
You have probably heard of elderberry syrup. It is known for its ability to boost the immune system and shorten the duration of colds and flus. Did you know that the flower of the elderberry bush is also edible? Do NOT eat these raw, as raw elderberry and elderflower contain a toxic chemical that is only destroyed when cooked. (2) I have yet to forage the flowers since I usually wait for the elderberries to make syrup. However, there a number of things you can do with elderflower. See this article for recipes for elderflower tempura, elderflower cordial, and more.
Serviceberry - The Forgotten Gem
Serviceberries (also known as Saskatoon berries or juneberries) are a lesser known, but very useful berry. Due to its nutritional value and its versatility, this berry should be a serious consideration to add to your foraging and prepping database. While some people do not care for the taste of serviceberries picked right from the bush, their flavor improves when made into jam or syrup. (See below for more...)
One of the benefits of adding serviceberries to your foraging plan is the fact that they are not as well-known as other berries, like the huckleberry, so you are less likely to find your favorite picking spot overrun by other foragers. I have friends and family who love to pick huckleberries but keep the location of their picking area a close secret for this reason. Not so with serviceberries. The same family members who love to pick huckleberries only look confused when I asked if they pick serviceberries, too. I am not sure if it is because they have no idea what a serviceberry is, or because they can't figure out why I would bother with them. In spite of this, it was my husband's cousin who introduced me to the serviceberry. She told me that while it didn't have much flavor when eaten fresh, it was their absolute favorite in jam. She was right. While some of our family doesn't care for the fresh berry, it has become one of our favorite syrups, especially when paired with the pannu kakku recipe my husband makes.
Serviceberry is high in nutrition, which is a definite plus when considering adding it to your preparedness or foraging plqn. It contains a variety of vitamins and minerals including, but not limited to, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and iron. It contains higher amounts of vitamin C and calcium than blueberries (1) and are relatively high in protein for a berry. I suspect the protein content may be due to the seeds, which are somewhat reminiscent of almond in flavor.
Uses and Methods of Preserving
Traditional uses of this berry include making pemmican, using a root bark tea to treat diarrhea and menstrual cramping (2), using the leaves to make a tea (3), and more. The berries can be eaten or used fresh, dried like raisins, frozen, juiced, or made into pies, jams, syrups, and wine.
Things to Know
Serviceberries ripen throughout a period of a few weeks. As the berries grow on the bush, they turn from whitish-green, to pink, to red, to dark purple-blue. They are most flavorful when picked ripe. However, because they are very popular with the birds and do not all ripen at one time, it is sometimes difficult to find an abundance of ripe berries on one bush. They will continue to ripen after you have picked them, so I do not hesitate to pick them when they still have a little bit of red tinge and let them finish ripening in a shallow box at home. Since we have several bushes on our property, I go out to pick every other morning for a couple of weeks and freeze what I pick. This allows me to save up enough berries to make a batch of syrup and to make it at a later point in the year when I have more time. If you can find a large patch of bushes, you may be able to find enough in one visit to meet your needs.
Bushes tend to grow in amongst other trees and shrubs so being able to properly identify the serviceberry bush and berry is important. The berry bushes on our property have grown in amongst black hawthorn, which also has dark blue/black berries that strongly resemble the serviceberry. Fortunately, the hawthorn's leaves are different, the berries are more shiny, the branches have impossible-to-miss thorns, and the bark of the two trees is different. Nonetheless, where the branches are right next to each other, a quick check for the leaves is sometimes necessary to keep the two separate.
While not as large as a pit, serviceberry seeds can be rather big in comparison to the berry size. In addition, the berries tend to run a little on the dry side. This can make the small berries less palatable for eating fresh and unless you have very large berries, you can end up with a rather seedy jam. When making jam or syrup, I handle this in two ways:
1) I cover the berries with water, mash them, and then cook them down. This allows the flavor to seep into the water and gives me more juice with which to work.
2) I then run the cooked berries through a food mill to remove the seeds, leaving only the pulp and juice.
We have been picking serviceberries for two years and have used them all for jam and syrup, but there are many options for using these berries. We will be drying some this year to use as raisins and to try a secondary method of preservation for prepping purposes.T he internet abounds with recipes for serviceberry jams, pies, muffins, ice cream, wine, pemmican, and more. Do yourself a favor - find a place to pick serviceberries and delve into the many ways they can be used.
Remember to always properly identify any plant before you harvest and to pick responsibly. Happy foraging!