Summer is the time to let some vegetables flower. Not just for the seeds I can keep to plant next year but for the honeybees as well. Most of these flowers are edible. The only one I’m not sure of is the lettuce since I’ve never eaten it. I do know that lettuce becomes bitter when it gets hotter and it will ooze a milky liquid when the stem is broken. Even when I collect the seeds, it still oozes a milky liquid so I refrain from trying it.
These flowers also draw air traffic to our vegetable garden. It’s fun to see a variety of bees and other insects foraging from flower to flower.
There is a remarkable similarity between mustard green and pac choi blossoms. But note the tip of each petal.
I’ve been thinking of growing Edible Chrysanthemum for years but have never gotten around to it until this year. Either it was too early or too late in the growing season to sow the seeds, or I ran out of space. This spring was too cold to grow a lot of leafy vegetables so I decided to sow chrysanthemum since it loves cool weather. One package was a couple of years old (the oval leaf) but has sprouted anyway albeit a bit slowly. The freshly purchased this year (serrated-leaf) sprouted up really fast though.
Edible Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum coronarium) aka Tang Ho (Chinese), Shungiku (Japanese), Tang Oh (Thai), Kelsang (Tibetan) is an edible green that can be eaten raw or cooked. It tastes similar to spinach but has a stronger flavor. The most common uses are in soup, stir-fry and in salad. I don’t really know how many varieties there are in total but I grow two different kinds; the smooth oval leaf and the serrated-leaf. The taste is not much different between them.
It can be direct sown in the ground once the frost has passed. I sow them in rows like spinach and thin them when they get around 1.5 inches tall and use them in salads. The whole plant can be pulled out or just cut above the leaf node and it will grow back between the leaves. When the temperature gets too hot, I cover them with a net to filter out some of the sunlight to prolong their life span. As much as they don’t like hot weather, covering them with a net really helps. I also let some of them flower for the bees and to provide seeds for next year.
I no longer have to go to Chinatown to get an expensive, wilted bunch when I have a craving for them. But I will have to pull them out once their flowers have matured and sow another set for a fall harvest.
Edible chrysanthemum are as easy to grow as other greens and their flowers are pretty too.
It’s mid-June but some night’s the temperature still drops to the mid 50º F and with a cool wind blowing during the day, it feels more like late winter than late spring. Roses love this weather, a combination of cool dry days with some rain in between. Except when the rain pours down so hard that everything droops and petals are knocked to the ground.
Not much else wants to grow in the vegetable garden either. Tomato, chili peppers, beans, bitter melon and basil grow at a slower pace. The good thing is there are no black spots or mildew in sight, even with heavy rain. I guess it has been too cold for these tiny life forms to grow.
Cooler weather, however, is good for the leafy greens like lettuce, pac choi, mustard green, arugula, edible chrysanthemum, and broccoli. They retain their sweetness longer and are not quick to bolt. I still cover them with a net to block out the midday sun. Herbs love this weather too. I couldn’t cut them fast enough. July may be different so I’m taking advantage by picking greens and herbs when I still can.
I grew Angled gourd (Luffa acutangula) and Sponge gourd or Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca) for the first time this year. Why? Out of curiosity really. I just wanted to know that I could grow them in this climate successfully. I also miss the sweet taste of the gourds.
The seeds germinated very well and the entwined vines cover the whole homemade trellis and stretched to the vegetable garden fence. They have taken forever to flower. The Angled gourd flowered first but only with male flowers, the one without a small gourd attached at the base of the flower. The female flowers appeared much later. Once they begin production, they produce a lot of gourds. Only four of them have grown to full size so far but there are plenty of small gourds on the vine.
The Sponge gourds are not in such great shape: both male and female flower buds appeared but have stayed in their ‘bud’ stage for weeks. They started to grow again and blossomed last week. But it’s too late at this point since it’s too cold for the gourd to mature.
I may not have many full size gourds or dry Luffa to scrub my body with but there is nothing wasted. Young gourds and flowers of both types can be eaten the same way you would with squash. Stir-fried with fresh garlic and oyster sauce is great. The young shoots can be eaten the same way.
I’m still debating whether I should try again next year.
This year is my second trying to grow Winged bean. Last year I nearly had two very small bean pods. There just wasn’t enough time for the beans to grow and reach their full potential. I started the seeds earlier this year with semi-success, not to the level I had hoped to reach.
Winged bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) is a type of bean where nearly every part of the plant can be eaten, not just the bean pods. The flowers and young leaves can be stir-fried together with young bean pods, for instance. The pod is better picked young because the shell gets very hard and fibrous if the seeds are allowed to fully develop. The young beans can be eaten fresh in salads, stir-fried with egg or blanched and eaten with a dip as you would with carrots or celery. Its tuberous roots can be eaten grilled or steamed. The finely cut, dried and roasted roots are also used as a tea to give your health a boost.
I can’t vouch for using dried beans though (see link above) since I have never used them that way. I only know the more common methods for using the beans as noted above. It’s harder to get mature roots where I’m living since the summer is too short for the plant to grow fully. In the tropics, this bean will grow year round and the roots can grow to thumb size.
As unhelpful as the weather is this year, the beans have been producing a considerable number of pods and plenty of flowers. One of the problems with growing this bean in a cold climate (Northeastern US), even in summer, is the flowers will drop if it’s not hot enough. So I ended up eating the flowers more often than the bean, nothing was wasted.
Though the bean hasn’t performed as well as the Asian long bean, I’ll grow it again next year from seeds I’ve collected. I hope the seeds from this year’s plants will somehow adapt to this climate a little though it may take a few generations. If not, I still have the leaves and flowers for my cooking.