By Cory Blair
The summer has risen upon the hills and mountains of Asheville, NC. This gives an opportunity for the established plants to put out more foliage and blossoms to welcome pollinators, pests, and hungry humans. Plants such as lambs quarters, nettles, violets, yellow doc, borage, and amaranth as well as other cultivated varieties of fruits and vegetables thrive in the heat of the summer even in shady areas. This blog will serve as an easy guide for identifying a trio of nutrient-dense plants that you may be able to find in a nearby garden, lawn, or park.
A hearty and abundant edible is Lamb’s Quarters, or Goosefoot. Identifiable by its silvery dust at the tips of new growth and on the underside of the goose-foot shaped leaves, it grows readily on bare earth. Its velvety tender, triangular, and toothed leaves are delectable when consumed raw in salads or cooked as a steamed vegetable with carrots, parsnips, and beets. The plant contains high amounts of phosphorus, iron, calcium, vitamins A, B2, C and Niacin making it an amazing, and arguably tastier, supplement for expensive spinach greens. There is also a vibrant purple variety of lamb’s quarters that will add a bright magenta tone to the garden and any salad bowl.
Some plants that most people might not consider a green, are in the mint family. Peppermint lines the Ashevillage Sanctuary property and we harvest it regularly. Before any mint flowers, it can be cut back to produce a number of harvests in the warmer months. Peppermint is perennial and often multiplies quickly. If you plan on growing some, consider starting it in a container, as it is easily propagated. The thin-speared and purple-stemmed low growing peppermint, shares its cooling and calming benefits. It is a wonderful addition in a fruit and greens smoothie and adds a vibrant sensation when finely chopped into salads. It is pleasantly aromatic and can be simply added to a glass of water, infused as tea, decocted for a few hours, and tinctured to produce varying degrees of medicine. It is a nervine, meaning it calms the nerves, stimulates digestion and is identified as antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial.
Another exciting summer edible is Amaranth. An annual hearty crop known widely for its self-seeding capabilities, purple and green leaves, this ancient super-grain grows tall and wide. It’s young tender leaves are delightful. We can use amaranth as a fresh salad green, steamed green, and even gather and grind the seeds in late summer as a substitute for a gluten-based flour. Recently, I made some amaranth pesto in the Vitamix with salt, lemon, water, oil, basil, peppermint, and pumpkin seeds pureed together for a beautiful purple pesto. Amaranth is full of fiber, vitamin A and C, and is a general nutritive.
Between green smoothies, purple garden pestos, and bright salads, summer inspires a nutrient-dense, medicinal, and flavorful array of homemade goodies. Share your creations on the Ashevillage Facebook page and our Instagram!
This is a continuation in a series of blog posts about harvesting edible greens, read part 1 here for more garden edibles. Check back for more posts following the series.
Disclaimer: Never eat an herb or edible plant that you have not 100% positively identified. For more information visit these sites and be sure to register for the Food Forests Permaculture Workshop starting soon.
Cory Blair is an artist and gardener living and working at the Ashevillage Sanctuary based in Asheville, NC. She is currently working on illustrating an herbal reference leaflet. For more of her art visit her Facebook and Instagram.
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