Person hold a variety of vegetables

UNIQUE EATS: 5 PLANTS YOU CAN EAT FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

FOODS YOU CAN EAT EVERY PART OF

It always makes me cringe a bit to throw food out, so I’m always looking for ways to recycle it in the compost pile or in our urban farm animals’ food bowls. But what I really enjoy is when we have food with all edible parts —stem to stern, so to speak. While you may be familiar with some of these, there are a few that might come as a surprise. Nom, nom, nom!

1. Beets: The root of the plant is what we usually eat, but the beet green are not to be overlooked. They can be steamed, sauteed, or braised, mixed with other salad greens, and added to soups and green drinks of all varieties. Beet greens are a great substitute for spinach, chard, and bok choy.

2. Carrots: Another tasty root veggie with edible tops! So you’ve got carrots with all their greenery still attached…what do you do with them? The greens have a sweet earthy flavor that blend well with other ingredients to make pesto, fritters, vegetable broth, smoothies, and juices.

3. Oca: This is an oxalis, but different from the “weed” found in your lawn or garden. This oxalis is Oxalis tuberosa, mostly grown in the Pacific Northwest. Oca is a tuber crop with produce vividly colored tubers about 4” long — and they have a similar consistency to potatoes with a wider range of flavors. Eat the greens, too — toss them into your salads and green drinks for extra nutrition.

Two organic carrots peeking out of the dirt
Oxalis tuberosa in front of white background

4. Dandelions: This common lawn “weed” is actually one of the most nutrient-dense plants around! The flower, leaves, and roots are all edible. Toss flowers into salads, harvest young leaves for salads and green drinks, and use roasted roots as a coffee substitute. Who knew?

5. Chard: We love those large chard leaves, but don’t throw the stems out! Those brilliantly colored stems add great texture and flavor to many dishes. They’re tender when young, and tougher when mature. Sauteé young stems along with the greens, and use older stems as pickled goodness, thrown into veggie stock, finely diced into dips, and incorporated into gratins.

Dandelion root with leaves on a wooden cutting board
Sugar beet leaves sprouted out of the ground

Where can I get these plants?

We’ll always encourage you to grow your own, of course. There’s nothing that beats the savings, quality control, and satisfaction of growing and harvesting your own food. If that’s not possible, or you can’t grow them all, check out these venues:

  • Farmer’s markets: You’re much more likely to find carrots with their greens at a local farmer’s market. If you have a favorite vendor, let them know you’re interested in the entire carrot or beet.
  • Your lawn: Dandelions are often found in your lawn, or your neighbor’s lawn. Hey, it’s only a weed if you don’t want it there. But be sure to only harvest those more wild plants when you are sure of its identification and know that it has not come into contact with pesticides.
  • Specialty grocery stores: Upscale or specialty grocers often have items other Plain Jane grocers don’t.
Plants you can eat top to bottom pinterest image
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