Greenbelt

Wild Summer Salads

summersalad

This month our gardening guru Agnes Stevenson looks at how sustainable gardening also means a bounty of delicious natural salads!

Greenbelt take great pride in looking after the green spaces in your development. But have you ever looked at your own garden and despaired at how many weeds can pop up almost overnight?

Well, before you reach for the hoe and start slicing the heads off them, why not pick them carefully and eat them instead?

That might sound like a very weird suggestion but in fact many common weeds and lots of summer flowers are perfectly edible – and they can be used to create delicious salads that look every bit as good as they taste.

Three of the most annoying garden weeds – chickweed, dandelion and fat hen – are full of vitamins and bursting with flavour and they can easily be served up when you fancy a change from lettuce.

Other leaves to add to the mix include nasturtium and particularly the variegated varieties, which have got attractive marbled patterns on their leaves, as well as a peppery taste.

At the Secret Herb Garden at Lothianburn near Edinburgh they specialise in growing edible flowers and culinary herbs and owner Hamish Martin says: "We use all the mallow flowers as well as the blooms of calendula, dahlia, antirrhinum, chop suey, lots of different kinds of sage,some of the phloxes and fuchsias, cornflower, sunflower, tulip petals, nasturtium, borage, violets and more."

Diners who order salad in the café regularly find themselves feasting on rose petals, hollyhock blooms, begonia flowers, daylilies and even on pelargoniums.

According to Hamish, chickweed ishigh in vitamin A and C, it contains iron, copper, magnesium and calcium, which makes for an excellent health tonic and dandelions are just the tonic our bodies crave when we've been eating foods that are high is salt and sugar.

Of course you shouldn’t eat any leaf or flower unless you are completely confident that it is absolutely safe to do so, but the good news is that most edible flowers are very easy to grow.

All the annuals can be raised from just a few packets of seed and pelargoniums are so easy to grow from cuttings that you can easily raise enough to give you an almost year-round supply of edible petals.

And, if you are serving up summer drinks, then why not freeze a few flower heads in ice cubes, ready to drop into cocktails?

To keep your edible flowers growing all summer long, don’t let them run out of water because otherwise they will taste bitter and run to seed, and harvest the flowers regularly to encourage the production of more blooms.

Happy gardening and bon appétit!

agnes

Agnes Stevenson