Thursday, November 9th, 2006...5:33 pm

Nutritious edible plants

The following question was sent to me by David:

Are there any plants that are especially healthy to eat?  The reason I ask is that I am coping with a lifelong manageable disease and have been told that one of the keys to managing the disease is my diet.  I’m supposed to avoid processed foods and stick with natural foods.  I eat a lot of garlic and also honey, but I was wondering if there are any other plants that are known to be especially healthy?

Here is my reply.

Dear David, I am sorry to read that you are dealing with a chronic disease. I am not a doctor nor a nutritionist, so I can not professionally recommend the best plants that would be especially beneficial for you.

However, I think all of us should eat natural foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible to be as healthy as we can be. I once read that to be healthy we should all eat what the poor man in history ate- vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts.- not the overly fattening, processed foods that people eat today.

There are so many websites, blogs and articles on the nutritious value of fruits and vegetables, see, e.g. this site.  I feel certain that you are already very knowledgeable about the nutritious value of most vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts in the marketplace. For example, you probably know that the darker green vegetables like collard greens, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, even beet leaves are especially good for you. You must have heard that you should buy the most colorful produce and vegetables; the more colorful the better, is what the news people seem to say. I also smell the fruit I buy and buy the most fragrant. There is an old saying “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away” which shows that people have known the health value of apples for hundreds of years. Fall is the best time to buy really good, fresh apples.

The key to getting the best, healthiest, most nutritious produce is to buy LOCALLY and ORGANICALLY. Try to get your produce from your local farmers or in your local farmers’ markets or organic or health food stores where they buy local produce. Local is important because the farther most produce has to travel and the longer it takes for the food to get from field to the table, I believe, the less vitamins remain in the foods. The fresher the produce, the better it tastes. There is no comparison between the taste of produce freshly harvested and produce sitting in the store waiting to be bought.  Also, the better the organic soil is, the more minerals that are passed into the plant and from there to the plants’ fruit or vegetables.  Check out this site.

I am going to talk about a few plants you might not have heard about. Some of the plants are underfoot, literally. But, please note that even though I will tell you about some plants you may or may not have heard about, check with a medical professional before you try any new food.

Have you ever heard of Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)? Purslane has been eaten around the world for years. I ate it for the first time when I was in the Middle East. But in this country it is mostly thought of as a weed: though my old copy of Joy of Cooking has 2 recipes for Purslane. Researchers are finding that Purslane has more Omega3 fatty acid than other plants. Though you can find Purslane growing as a weed in flower or vegetable beds, one has to be careful about eating it wild because so many gardens use pesticides. Look for Purslane in farmers’ markets where it has been grown as a vegetable.  Check out this site.

Another wild plant that is healthy and making a re-emergence is the dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale) . All parts of the dandelion plant, I read, are edible; but especially it is the leaf making the comeback- used in salads. Again it is better to buy dandelion leaves than to pick them yourself. The dandelion leaves become bitter after it flowers or has been mowed. And people do use a lot of pesticides to try to eradicate dandelions in their own lawns. Vineland, NJ, used to say it was the dandelion capital of the world.

All berries are good for you but researchers are finding how extraordinary the blueberry is. A good source of vitamin C and dietary fibre, the blueberry is one of the richest sources of  antioxidants. I had listened to a lecturer at Rutgers University who was extremely excited about the benefits of eating a cup of blueberries each day.  She said that if you cannot get fresh blueberries, frozen are almost equally as good. Of course, many people have learned of the research, so the price of blueberries has skyrocketed.  Check out this site.

Researchers are extolling the virtues of pomegranates, guavas and other exotic fruits. Keep checking the website for the newest findings of best fruits and vegetables.

Turmeric (Curcumin domestica also listed as C. longa is in the ginger family) is a spice that is being “discovered” in the US as having a lot of beneficial properties. Turmeric has been used for ages in Asia both medicinally and in cuisine, especially in curries. Check out the health value of turmeric to see if this is something you want to add to your diet.  Check out this site.

And finally, let me suggest that you grow fresh herbs in your kitchen. Herbs have had medicinal value as well as culinary value for centuries. Parsley,(Petroselinum crispum) is an easy herb to grow in a pot. My favorite parsley is the Italian flat leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum variety neapolitanum). Both curly and flat leaf parsley are rich in large quantities of vitamins A and C.

I hope that some of the suggestions TheGardenLady has made are plants you will find worth investigating. Good luck.

 

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2 Comments

  • sabi ko nutritious flowers……………. eh bkit puro flowers lang ang ibinigay nyo?????????????????

  • Certainly the well known plants are good. You may want to look at wolfberries (Lycium barbarum) and the Moringa tree (moringa olifera) for alternatives to the standardized view of nutrition.

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