Many of the common garden plants we all enjoy are seed pods (think peas, beans, and other legumes). Other plants that have edible seed pods are not as obvious or well-known, such as rose hips and radish seeds.There is a whole world of edibles out there beyond the common grocery shelf varieties. Seed pods are one of the least explored by the common person, but they have a great abundance of flavor and nutrition to add to your palate.
Varieties for the Home Garden
Let’s start with legumes, the most common of seed pods in the garden. These include nearly all seed plants in which the seed pods have a “seam” for splitting the pod open. All types of peas, beans, clover, lentils, etc. Peanuts too fall into this category, in fact.
Other legumes that aren’t as well known, but that can be very tasty, are:
Alfalfa: While normally associated as hay for animal feed, alfalfa is also one of the most common of the sprout plants we sprout to eat. It’s also a legume!
Kentucky Coffeetree: It’s pods are often dried and crushed and added into ice cream, pastries, etc. as a flavor enhancer.
Mesquite: While not eaten, they can be added to a grill or oven to give that distinctive mesquite flavor to foods.
Maple trees: The “helicopter” seed pods can be made into several dishes, roasted, or even eaten raw.
Radishes: When the weather is particularly warm, many plants, including radishes, will “go to seed” (bolt). If this happens, the seeds of the radish plant can be harvested and eaten.
Roses: At the end of the season, if the last of the roses are left to wilt on the stem, a small (sometimes more than one) rose hip will be produced. These are the seed pods of the rose bush and are usually colored bright red – though some mimic the colors of the flower that left them behind. Roses are part of the apple family and rose hips taste similar to crabapples and are a great source of Vitamin C.
How and When to Harvest
Maple Seeds: Harvest them when they are falling from the tree. Open the pods and retrieve the seeds (the pods will be dry and brittle and inedible). They can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted. Give some to your dog to show you’re a good human. Dogs love these seeds.
Radish Seeds: Wait until the radish seed pod has fully distended, but hasn’t broken. The flowers on the stem will be gone (withered and fallen off) for about two or three weeks when the pods are ready. Cut them from the plant – or pull the whole plant and remove the pods. Process as you would green beans, which they are very similar to (but with a radishy hint).
Rose Hips: They are usually sweeter if harvested after the first frost and it’s easier on the rose bush if you cut them away at that point, since the bush will be hibernation. This is usually when gardeners trim the bushes back anyway. They can be eaten whole, so no other preparation (other than cleaning) is required, but there are many recipes that they can be used in if you do an Internet search.
For Further Reading: