Growing up wandering the aisles of my Uncle Gene’s greenhouses taught me one important lesson: plants may be pretty, but they are also good snacks.
House plants serve many purposes.
- They provide that nice pop of green next to your gold curtains.
- They’re a good barometer for if you’re ready to get a cat (or a dog).
- They clean the air you breathe
But flowering plants have another, lesser-appreciated benefit – besides just sitting there and looking pretty, of course. Many can be trimmed and added to your salad, soup, or sauté.
The flat, disk-shaped leaves and the bright yellow-orange blooms of these little beauties are both edible. They add a peppery zip to any salad. Or, use the flower to decorate the plate of a special meal.
The dwarf varieties are best for growing in containers indoors. They like full sun, and can take a little abuse if you don’t have much of a green thumb. If you have a bigger outdoor space, they will spread, and grace you with lots of free plants.
These green stalks grow easily on nearly any windowsill, but prefer full sun. Most people don’t realize that they sprout a pretty purple bloom that adds a delicate oniony-flavor to sauces or scrambled eggs.
My favorite use is to trim them into plain cream cheese for a yummy spread or dip. They are like a mild scallion when mixed into a salad, or chopped into a soup.
Pansies are often seen in tiny ceramic pots as the favor for a springtime baby shower. That’s because they are vibrant and like the sunshine and cool temperatures of April (read: don’t set them right next to your radiator).
You can tear off the petals to toss with your mixed greens for a grassy, almost minty, note, or use the whole bloom as an edible garnish for cocktail night or a special cake.
Though dandelions are commonly seen as weeds, every part of this plant is edible – roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. They’re often sprouting in the cracks of the sidewalk, or among the grass of your yard, so for a beginner gardener, they make a hardy choice in a pot.
Dandelion greens have a bitter flavor akin to Swiss chard or radicchio when uncooked or sautéed with a little garlic and olive oil. The flowers are a treat when battered and fried. The root has a history as a homeopathic remedy when made into tea. Some believe it improves liver function, digestion, and even skin problems.
Calendula (Pot Marigolds)
Calendula thrive in sun or shade. Place them any nook, but be sure not to over-water.
These bright orange petals can be mixed in with a salad uncooked, or dried then used in place of saffron seasoning. It is used as an alternative remedy for certain skin problems and may speed wound healing when made into a salve or tincture.