Hostas For Lunch, Next Year

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

Yes hostas. There are many foods we can grow in our gardens that we likely never heard of, or realized could be eaten. Hostas grow in most people’s gardens, yet few of us realize they are a springtime delicacy. Japanese gardeners grow certain hosta varieties just to eat. Hosta shoots, called hostons, are harvested when the shoots have emerged six or so inches, before unfurling into leaf shapes. To enjoy this treat, cut hosta shoots off at ground level and sauté with garlic and soy sauce. The flavor is similar to asparagus and spinach.

I recently found out about hostas, a few perennial plants and many unknown annual edibles that can easily be grown, from a book titled Veggie Garden Remix, 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden, to Add Variety, Flavor and Fun. The author Niki Jabbour shares info about unknown varieties of edibles that she grows in her Nova Scotia garden. A few of these edibles are probably already growing in most gardens, like hostas and daylily roots. Most of her suggestions are uncommon varieties of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, lettuce and radishes. In her lists of “try this instead” suggestions, there are close relatives of common vegetable plants. Tomatillos are related to tomatoes but not the same. Jerusalem artichokes are tubers like potatoes, but are not potatoes. Additional other related choices are also featured.

The book contains tips on growing, harvesting and cooking many of the plants listed. I like the tips for some of the plants I grow already. Information about harvesting the Jerusalem artichokes I planted a few years ago is helpful. I can harvest them throughout the winter as long as I keep enough mulch on top to keep the ground from freezing. I can then cook them like potatoes. Under the section on lettuce, the suggested alternative plants are celtuce, mache, Tokyo bekana and minutina. I tried growing celtuce, with romaine lettuce look-a-like leaves that grows tall on a thick stem. The crunchy stem is really what this plant is about. I couldn’t get the stems to thicken up enough on my plants. Tips about growing and harvesting will help with my next attempt.

I am making a list of plants from this book that I want to plant next year. One I really want to try is cucumelon, a relative of cucumbers. The tiny fruits are the size of a large marble and look like miniature watermelons. They taste like a citrus cucumber. I want to grow cucumelon in my garden next to the street where people walk by. I hope some walkers will try the tiny treats. I also want to try hardy hablitzia, or spinach vine. It is a perennial vine that likes dappled shade and produces tender mild leaves. That sounds tasty and easy once established. There are many more possibilities on my list. This book will open any gardener’s eyes to many edibles, maybe even 224 new ones to grow and taste.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and creativity workshop leader. Her blog and website are: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Her phone number is (314) 504-4266.