This week we ate the first fruits of our garden! The turnip plants were about four inches tall and I thinned them and tossed the rejected plants into some stirfry with delicious results. For you non-gardeners out there, “thinning” plants means pulling (or cutting) the extra baby plants from a row to give the plants that remain room to grow. The “baby” plants are what you see sold in stores in plastic bags and labeled…wait for it…baby kale, baby spinach, baby arrugula, etc. Baby plants are popular because they’re tender and sweeter than the grown up plants. Ever eat overly mature greens (spinach, kale, turnip, etc)? If it weren’t for the wilting, you could make shoes out of them.
I used to pitch the pulled plants along with the weeds, but then I discovered that you can eat them! You can eat the leaves of turnips, radishes, beets, and broccoli, as well as the obvious “leaf” plants such as lettuce, spinach, chard, and kale. When I found out that we can eat the whole plant, I was thrilled. My kids were not. I’m under no delusions: my present goal is not to make my kids like vegetables; that will come in time. My goal is to convince them that they can eat a green leaf from the garden and not die. I suppose I’m trying to convince a few of you readers as well.
Let’s do a quick science class review. The parts of a plant? Root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit, seed. Depending on the plant, you can eat some or all of these parts. Quick quiz! Ready?
Which part can you eat from a carrot plant?
Root. Nice work, too easy.
Green bean plant?
Fruit and seeds. Excellent. The bean is actually the seed pod (fruit) and as the pod matures, it gets thin and tough and the seeds inside become hard; these seeds are what we see in the stores as dried beans in bags or canned beans (think Baked Beans, black beans, kidney beans, etc). Cool, huh? This summer I’m going to plant some dried black beans from the store and see what happens.
Turnip, beet, or radish?
When it’s young, you can eat the whole plant! Root, leaves, stem. Once it flowers, the plant is so tough; you’d be hard pressed to choke down any part of it.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you run outside and begin eating anything green in sight. No, that would be crazy. When you find a plant you think is edible, you should first Google it and base your consumption on unverified comments from an unqualified person on a random website. (I’m kidding! Although that’s exactly what I did….) What I am suggesting is that you try a new vegetable this week!
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”