How Do We Eat It?
But how do I use these perennial plants in the kitchen? This is the question we get asked all the time!
Almost everything in our garden can be eaten raw, straight off the bush (see cautions below). Obviously that’s not for everyone. I usually explain things in terms the perennial greens in the garden (like Okinawa Spinach and Sambung and Sweet Potato leaf etc) can be used as lettuce replacements or spinach replacements. The following picture give you a guide to salad greens.
Caution: some wild plants and perennial greens contain higher levels of oxalic acid or other compounds than cultivated vegetables require cooking before they can be eaten in large quantities. High levels of oxalic acid may are also present in many common foods such as spinach and almonds so it doesn’t mean we don’t eat them just that we are mindful of this. Cranberry Hibiscus, Amaranth and Sweet leaf should all be cooked before eating them in quantity. The wild plants on this website that contain high levels of oxalic acid are oxalis, fat hen, amaranth, dock and purslane.
Cooking can be steaming, boiling, stir frying and baking like spinach and ricotta pastries. Generally, all that is required is a light steam. This allows the nutritional value to be retained.
The question we get over and over again when introducing people to perennial edibles or to bush foods is “But how do I eat it?”. There seems to be apprehension out there about these foods requiring special cooking to be lovely and edible. For the vast majority of plants this is not the case!
Our world and its climate are changing and growing more food locally is going to be a key component of our adaptation to that. Perennial edible plants provide an awesome opportunity to enhance community resilience. This page provides easy recipes to help everyone incorporate more perennial plants into their regular diet.
Second caution: Cassava requires special preparation as both the leaf and root are toxic if eaten raw but when properly prepared they are both delicious, nutritious and a stable food in many places.