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Eating Spring's Beauty

Melanie Abbott made me stretch my palate a bit this spring. She's my beloved niece, a committed, Earth-friendly farmer-forager near Berea. I maintain my great-grandmother's "granny doctor" or "herb granny" genes, which skipped me, show up in Melanie's passion for Earth's gifts. 

Recently Melanie posted a picture of a salad she scavenged from her place last week that included "collards and kale that overwintered in the garden, chickweed, henbit, dandelions and some lovely redbud blossoms." It didn't take me long to try the redbud blossoms. All the Eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) that surround our downtown backyard come from one Dad dug for us 28 years ago from the hill near his oldest garden in beautiful Wayne County. That tree succumbed to a wind storm before its time, but not before blessing us with many baby redbud seedlings, some of which are now grandparents themselves.

A basket of backyard beauty from Campsie Place. "Katie Heath" and poeticus narcissi, and redbud with Wayne County roots.

A basket of backyard beauty from Campsie Place. "Katie Heath" and poeticus narcissi, and redbud with Wayne County roots.

Henbit and I are not meant to be dining friends, unless something changes—but I'm glad to know it's edible. Dandelion finds its way into some spring salads here, and I hope I'll be mature enough some day to like chickweed. Redbud florets, though, are easy to love and easy to eat.

Redbud flowers add a lightly tart flavor and bright beauty to spring salads.

Redbud flowers add a lightly tart flavor and bright beauty to spring salads.

I learned from Wikipedia that we have been leaving other forms of good food hanging on all our redbud trees without realizing it. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cercis_canadensis#Edibility

Native Americans consumed redbud flowers raw or boiled, and ate roasted seeds. Analysis of nutritional components in edible parts of eastern redbud reported that:
  • the flower extract contains anthocyanins,
  • green developing seeds contained proanthocyanides, and
  • linolenic, alpha-linolenic, oleic and palmitic acids to be present in seeds.[4]

This spring I've grown aware—thanks to Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer—of the possibility of learning from plants. But I learn a lot faster when a good translator, like wonderful, intrepid Melanie Ann Abbott, helps me understand what the plants have to say.

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