, Salem, MA


September 3, 2010

Can I eat those geranium leaves?

Q: Is there a book or website that teaches one which growing things can be eaten and which can't? Specifically, I have some wonderful lemon geraniums — no flowers, just leaves. Every time I water them or the breeze moves them, the most wonderful smell hits me. I want to know whether I could use them to flavor something in cooking, or add them to my tea. I couldn't find this on the Internet.

A: The leaves of scented geraniums (and all parts of the plant) are safe to eat, but the leaves and flowers are most often used as scents and flavoring. Your lemon geranium is one of the most-used of the scented group, which includes nutmeg, rose, orange, peppermint, chocolate, etc. They are used as flavorings and scents, as well as decorations on plates and floating in soups. They can also be dried for tea, potpourri, bug repellents, etc. A recipe for lemon pound cake flavored with lemon geraniums and decorated with the leaves was popular in Victorian times and sounds delicious.

You should be able to find the toxicity of any plant by just typing in the name of the plant and asking if it's safe to eat — try it! Just be sure you have identified the plant correctly. In addition, there are articles on toxic houseplants, toxic trees — almost anything you could want.

The Foxfire book series by Elliot Wigginton has some wonderful wild plant information (as well as planting by the moon phases, hog butchering, etc. — many old-time ideas and skills). It's fun to just read.

Q: I have a deck going in that will end up covering a small section of a creeping myrtle tract. I want to transplant it rather than let it die. When I've pulled some up by mistake, there doesn't seem to be any root; rather, it breaks off from one continuous vine. I'd like to do it right. Any suggestions? Any special prep for the new location? It currently covers a pretty good chunk of yard where the dirt is not so good. Can I transplant it directly into the same not-so-good soil?

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