Ornamental Edibles

Ornamental Edibles

Part of Ep. 1103 Pretty Enough to Eat

Discover plants that do double duty in the garden. They're beautiful in containers and in the ground - and you can eat them.

Premiere date: Sep 24, 2003

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is Cardoon. The stems and flower stalks are edible and have a mild artichoke flavor. And the blue-grey leaves look great in the garden. Welcome to the Wisconsin Gardener. I'm Shelley Ryan. Today's program is called "Pretty Enough to Eat."
First, we learn about plants that do double duty in the garden. They're beautiful in containers and in the ground, and you can eat them. Next, how about a purple carrot? Or chard that comes in rainbow colors? Professor Irwin Goldman shows us some of the many colorful root crops that we can grow.

Some plants aren't just tasty and attractive, they're also very good for you. We'll learn about the amazing antibiotic properties of garlic with an expert on herbal medicine. The program wouldn't be complete without some great recipes for ornamental edibles with chef Rafe Montello. It's all coming up on the Wisconsin Gardener.

Shelley:
This plate is pretty. And also, everything on it is edible. Welcome to the wonderful world of ornamental edible landscaping. Our guide today is Anne Walker of Homeland Garden. Anne, I look at this tray and I think, "Wow, what a work of art!" It's hard to believe that we can also munch on almost everything there.

Anne:
Right. Everything here is edible. There's the purple basil. And this is a ten-day-old bouquet. And it's actually, I just put it in water, put it on the counter and it has rooted.

Shelley:
So, you could start new plants from that and still enjoy the beautiful bouquet.

Anne:
Definitely.

Shelley:
Gorgeous.

Anne:
Then we also have Borage, both the young leaves and the flowers are edible. And they have a light, little cucumber flavor.

Shelley:
And that's one that re-seeds quite readily in the garden, too. So, once you've got it, you've got it.

Anne:
Then, there's also Calendula. And Calendula is nice, use the petals. You can use them fresh or dried. And it's the poor man's saffron.

Shelley:
Okay, that's what I thought.

Anne:
Right. And it's great in rice pilaf dishes, or something like that.

Shelley:
And again, just on the tray, it's gorgeous. And these, I recognize, Scarlet Runner Beans.

Anne:
Scarlet Runner Beans, I think, are one of my favorites. I think the bean itself is really quite lovely. And the flower is also edible.

Shelley:
And I've used the flowers in salads. They have a little bit of a bean crunch to them. They're surprisingly good.

Anne:
And a great color.

Shelley:
And it grows up quite tall on a pole or trellis, so it's a quick screen, too.

Anne:
It is a quick screen. And then there is the tuberous begonia, which has a light lemony flavor to it.

Shelley:
Those are edible, too.

Anne:
They are edible.

Shelley:
The flowers?

Anne:
Yeah. And they're incredibly beautiful. You put it on a dessert tray and it's really quite a stunner.

Shelley:
Here it's more the flowers. But there's also plants that are architecturally interesting that we can also eat. And it comes to mind right away, these statuesque artichokes.

Anne:
Beautiful artichokes, completely edible. These guys are started from seed. And as you can tell, there's been quite a few that have been harvested already.

Shelley:
I didn't think you'd get that many, so this must be a really good variety to try.

Anne:
A good variety for here.

Shelley:
And yet, if you don't eat them, you've got beautiful artichokes on them. That's what I like about so many of these. You don't have to eat them to enjoy them. You can do both. And this is related to artichoke.

Anne:
It is. This is a cousin. This is Cardoon. And it really can get to be quite a good size and really an architectural interest.

Shelley:
Architectural! Mine's almost a house! It's about yay big now.

Anne:
They really can get to be a good size.

Shelley:
Again, I just love the color. And you mentioned squash blossoms are also very popular for many people.

Anne:
Squash blossoms are really nice. You can stuff them with say, a tuna salad or something like that.

Shelley:
Oh, that one has a couple visitors.

Anne:
And this is a really good thing to remember. Before you eat an edible flower, you should look into it to make sure you don't have something in there.

Shelley:
That would be not too fun to crunch on.

Anne:
And the other thing to remember is you don't want to get it from a florist. You want to make sure that anything that's been sprayed is food grade.

Shelley:
Chemical free. Period.

Anne:
Right.

Shelley:
Eggplant is another one.

Anne:
There's a number of really beautiful eggplants, anything from purple to orange. This is a nice little variegated one called Kermit.

Shelley:
How pretty. And the ones I've got at home have beautiful purple flowers before you get fruit, too. So again, why hide it always in the vegetable garden.

Anne:
Right.

Shelley:
Nasturtiums come to mind right away. That's one of the most popular edible flowers.

Anne:
Right. And one of the things I love about it is all parts of it are edible. So, the flowers, the leaves, the seeds. Really nice spicy flavor. And these are some of the flowers. You have the lighter colored ones, more deeper colored, anything, and the pink and yellows.

Shelley:
My son just likes to munch them. He said they taste like he's eating pepper.

Anne:
They are. They a have a nice-- It's got a good zing to it.

Shelley:
Now a trick with these. These are an annual, easily grown from seed, but they don't like good soil.

Anne:
They like a poorer soil. They really do.

Shelley:
I like that! And here's another one that people don't think of for a border. Look at how pretty that is.

Anne:
Beets. This is the more traditional beets with the green foliage. This is Bull's Blood beets.

Shelley:
Wow, look at that!

Anne:
Really, a spectacular foliage. It keeps it's coloration during the summer. And it gets sweeter and actually more color as it gets colder.

Shelley:
So, here's a good cold-season idea, too.

Anne:
Excellent cold season.

Shelley:
And you had, also, speaking of cold season.

Anne:
Cold season chard. This is Charlotte. It has less of the oxalic flavor that some people object to with chard. It has great coloration. It's beautiful backlit. And it has a nice flavor. And once again, once it gets colder, it sweetens up.

Shelley:
Wouldn't that be nice in a bouquet?

Anne:
It's really nice in a bouquet.

Shelley:
Why waste it eating it! And then, these beans. This is something else people don't think about. You can grow ornamental edibles vertically. This is an Italian Soup Bean. Look how pretty this is.

Anne:
And gourds can be quite interesting grown vertically as well.

Shelley:
So, if you've got a small yard or if you're in a condo, that doesn't mean that you can't have vegetables and something pretty to look at.

Anne:
And a screen, potentially, as well.

Shelley:
Now, this is an edible container, right, everything in here?

Anne:
Everything in here is edible. This is Lemon Grass, one of my favorites. I like to make tea with the foliage. And then, with the bulb, itself, I do stir-fries with a lot of vegetables. And also, there's Anise-hyssop. This is Golden Jubilee, so it has more of the chartreuse foliage. And both the foliage and the flowers are edible. Same thing with the Bronze Fennel, foliage and flowers are completely edible.

Shelley:
And it just doesn't quit. It seems to get better as it gets colder.

Anne:
Right, and it also attracts beneficial insects into the garden.

Shelley:
And re-seeds. Right now, it's in my perennial bed. I don't know how it got there, but I'm going to pretend that I designed it that way.

Anne:
Exactly. And we have ornamental peppers and then sweet potato. This is your basic sweet potato, just with more interesting foliage. And while it isn't as flavorful as the ones that are bred for the table, it does have a really nice flavor, and with butter and rosemary, it's fabulous.

Shelley:
Really? So, we can actually eat the tubers from the ornamental?

Anne:
You can eat the tubers.

Shelley:
Now, we don't have to stop having ornamental containers just because it gets cold out, either?

Anne:
No, I think that's actually one of the really exciting times to have containers.

Shelley:
You've got a couple examples here, of course.

Anne:
Right, we have a couple of the kales. And I just love kale. This gets more coloration as the season gets colder. You get some of those nice apricots and pinks in the foliage. They also get sweeter. This is the Lacinato or the Tuscano. And this is Red Bore Kale. And it's absolutely one of my favorites. It gets more coloration and it gets curlier as the weather gets colder.

Shelley:
What I like as far as cooking them is they really hold up in soups, too, they don't fall apart quickly, so you can still have a little bit of a crunch. And they go with the purple here.

Anne:
Right, the pansies or the violas, and the Icicle series is very hardy for us.

Shelley:
So, these will stay beautiful until the snow flies.

Anne:
It will.

Shelley:
Anne, thank you for all this advice, I appreciate it.

Anne:
Thanks a lot.

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