Guide To Edible Winter Plants
Part of the Guide to Edible Plants

Part I

Bunching Onions, Parsley, Garlic, Carrot Greens and Mint Winter foraging can be one of the toughest challenges; however, if you do a little preparation in the fall, the buried treasures will yield healthy results. Chives, scallions, bunching onions, garlic greens, mint, carrot greens and parsley are great outdoor green plants that will continue to produce chlorophyll in the winter, as well as, tolerate cold temperatures.

I like preparing winter greens in a wide variety of ways, but in general, just add them to anything you are getting ready. Start by picking them fresh. Both the touch and smell have health attributes. Handling many of these winter greens will have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal benefits. The health benefits also very depending on how you cut, smash, rub and cook the greens. Since there are costs and benefits to the medicinal states in the cooking process, add some to everything along the way. Start with eating them raw. Take a taste when picking them. Add them to salads or anything cold that you are serving. Parsley, carrot greens and mints can be used as garnishes and in drinks. If you're boiling water for vegetables, rice or noodles, add winter greens. Anything you may be steaming works great for adding winter greens. Cocktail sauce, spaghetti sauce or other sauces... add more fresh winter greens. Use winter greens to create a meat "rub" and sprinkle additional winter greens over the meat throughout the cooking process. In fact, sprinkle winter greens over anything right before serving. Using frozen winter greens also has additional health benefits. Be creative with your desserts.

Allium fistulosum is also called Welsh onion and Japanese bunching onion. Many bunching onions can multiply by forming perennial evergreen bunches. (picture). They often grow wild in yards and fields in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. The greens are not exactly the same as garlic greens. Health benefits are also altered by preparation. For instance, "scallions, like leeks, possess proportionately less thio-sulfinates anti-oxidants than that in the garlics. Thio-sufinates such as diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide and allyl propyl disulfide convert to allicin by enzymatic reaction when its leaves are disrupted (crushing, cutting, etc.). Laboratory studies show that allicin reduces cholesterol production by inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme in the liver cells."

All the greens of the Allium (onion) family are found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal activities.

Garlic greens are easy to grow and can be planted as late as December. Take one section from a clove of store bought garlic. Plant it about an inch under the soil with the point sticking up. Once the greens have sprouted, they will survive in low temperatures.

Parsley and carrot greens come from the same family -- Apiaceae or Umbelliferae. "The family is large, with more than 3,700 species spread across 434 genera. Included in this family are: angelica, anise, arracacha, asafoetida, caraway, carrot, celery, Centella asiatica, chervil, cicely, coriander (including cilantro), cumin, dill, fennel, hemlock, lovage, Queen Anne's lace, parsley and parsnip.

Parsley and carrots are biennial. The greens tend to taste best during the first year's growth; however, if you want to grow your own seeds, you need to let it flower in the second year. The plants will stay green in most winter climates. After a snow storm, you can treat the kids to a parsley popsicle from your own garden.

Mentha spicata is the Latin name for spearmint. Spearmint is easy to grow but best contained to pots. Though the mints will not survive to as low of a temperature, they can tolerate frost and snow.

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Health Benefits

Health benefits of carrot greens according to the Carrot Museum of the United Kingdom, "The leaves of carrot ARE considered edible and are highly nutritive, rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. They contain 6 times the vitamin C of the root and are a great source of potassium and calcium. The tops of the carrots are loaded with potassium which can make them bitter, so the use of them in food is limited, but there some ideas and recipes below. The leaves do have antiseptic qualities and can be juiced and used as a mouthwash.

These greens are packed with chlorophyll, a phytochemical that gives plants their green color and pigmentation. Chlorophyll is an excellent source of magnesium, which promotes healthy blood pressure as well as strong bones and muscles, and has been noted to purify the blood, lymph nodes and adrenal glands

They are high in potassium, which can lower blood pressure, support your metabolism, and help prevent osteoporosis, according to Caspero. People most at risk for heart disease are the ones who get too little potassium.

What's more, carrot greens are rich in vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself and is vital to bone health. They have also been noted to deter tumor growth.

This applies to both Wild Carrot leaves as well as domestic.

A simple use of them is to mix some in with a mixed green salad, or add to coleslaw. You may also use it for garnish. Combine your common sense and your creative skills, and invent something! That's what makes cooking fun. It is a form of art. Carrot greens are high in vitamin K, which is lacking in the carrot itself.

Carrot tops are an outstanding source of chlorophyll, the green pigment that studies have shown to combat the growth of tumors. Chlorophyll contains cleansing properties that purify the blood, lymph nodes, and adrenal glands. Scientists have been unable to synthesize chlorophyll in the laboratory, but green plant foods contain sufficient quantities to protect the human body."

Scallion and Bunching Onion Greens Health Benefits (according to Nutrition And You)

The health benefits of mint according to Wikipedia are:
"Recent research has shown that spearmint tea may be used as a treatment for hirsutism in women. Its anti-androgenic properties reduce the level of free testosterone in the blood, while leaving total testosterone and DHEA unaffected. However, administration of spearmint tea to rats causes dose-dependently temporary or permanent negative effects on the reproductive system of the male rat and leads to lipid peroxidation that results in histopathologies in the kidney, liver, and uterine tissues; more research into the toxic effects of the tea in humans is warranted. It can also be used to treat a variety of digestive ailments, including stomachache (as previously mentioned) and gas.

Spearmint has been studied for antifungal activity; its essential oil was found to have some antifungal activity, although less than oregano. Its essential oil did not show any evidence of mutagenicity in the Ames test. It can have a calming effect when used for insomnia or massages. Spearmint has also been described as having excellent antioxidant activity; its antioxidant activity was found to be comparable to the synthetic BHT. Due both to its antioxidant activity and its common use to season lamb in Indian cuisine, it has been studied as an additive to radiation-processed lamb meat, and was found effective in delaying oxidation of fats and reducing formation of harmful substances, which can be detected using thiobarbituric acid as a reagent."



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