By Diane Lockspeiser
Steve and I greatly enjoyed going on the Andes Library Views & Vistas Garden Tour. All the places were extremely lovely, each in their own unique way. At one place, I pointed to the beautiful calendula growing in their garden and asked the owner if he knew that the flower petals were good to put in salad. His answer was “Oh, you’re one of  THOSE.” I had to laugh because yes, I’m one of THOSE. I nibble my way through the garden, eating certain flowers and weeds that many people don’t realize are not only edible, but exceptionally healthy. Calendula, for instance, is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-microbial. When eaten it can help with stomach issues as well as boost the immune system. Made into a cream, it’s soothing and healing for your skin. If it’s in a place where it’s happy and you let some of the flowers go to seed, it will replant itself year after year. I noticed some of the gardens also had nasturtiums, one of my favorites. Not just a pretty face, both the leaves and flowers give a nice peppery taste to salads as well as adding vitamin C and lutein, an anti-oxidant. Matter of fact, it has the highest amount of lutein of any edible plant.
If some of the clover growing in your field has pink blossoms, which is red clover, you can toss a few of those into your salad also. They say it helps your skin stay healthy, helps prevent osteoporosis, and I have known people to take it as part of a liver cleanse. Don’t have too much though, because it is a mild estrogenic that has been shown to help with PMS and menopausal symptoms.
Another one of my favorites to snack on or toss into salad also grows as a “weed”: purslane (see picture). It is the richest vegetable source of alpha-linolenic acid, which is an essential Omega-3 fatty acid. If left to go to seed, it will comeback every year and spread. I have a very large patch of it because I feed it to the chickens as well as to people.
Eggs from pasture-raised chicken have higher levels of Omega-3 than regular eggs to begin with. I am hoping that giving the hens purslane will boost that, especially now that I can’t let them free into my pasture any more. Besides, they love it. We haven’t seen the fox in a while, and so I had been thinking about letting the ladies loose again. Two of them had been escaping almost daily anyway. Then one evening, one of the escapees was gone from the edge of the field with just one loud squawk and a few feathers left behind. I had been hearing owl sounds lately from the woods, so I suspect that was WHOO picked up a chicken dinner. They may have also picked up some small rabbits for snacks, since I haven’t seen any of them around lately either.
We still have the fattest chipmunk I have ever seen, who can barely walk from openly helping themself to the extra snacks I give to the chickens to make up for their lack of freedom.
Snack wisely!~