Gardener's Tax: Sweet cicely seedpods

One of the nice things about having your own kitchen garden is the Gardener’s Tax. You probably haven’t heard it called that, but you know what I mean – the little tasty treats you ‘skim’ off the harvest, before it makes it into the kitchen 🙂

One of the plants I keep meaning to add to the garden is Sweet Cicely. Its main use, really, is as herb to be cooked with rhubarb, to cut down on the sugar needed to make it palatable. But it produces these sweet, aniseedy seed pods that are a wonderful treat to be munched on right from the plant, if you catch it at the right moment. I’ve eaten one or two in someone else’s garden (with permission!), and it’s an experience I’d like to add to my own.

In theory, the Gardener’s Tax could include anything that’s suitable for eating raw. Perhaps you do munch on the occasional lettuce leaf, right there in the garden. I’ve heard of people who eat the odd carrot, straight from the ground, just brushing the dirt off a little bit. It certainly couldn’t get any sweeter! Peas straight from the pod are another treat, and don’t come with the gritty seasoning. They’re often mentioned as a good one for kids, who will often eat raw veg straight from the plant, when they would turn their nose up at it cooked and presented on a plate.

Soft fruit is an obvious choice for a spot of garden scrumping. I have a lot of alpine strawberry plants scattered around the garden, and their fruit very rarely make it back into the kitchen (although, on occasions, they do fall into a jug of Pimms for outdoor consumption). We had a small first harvest of Chilean guavas this year, and we ate those outside, standing around the plants. The fuchsia berries were munched on outside, and we nibbled at a wintergreen berry each. (The wintergreen plants were bought as ornamental plants, so we’re not eating the rest of this year’s harvest. They should be free from any chemical contamination next year.)

Gardener's Tax: Japanese wineberries

The Japanese wineberry has been in the same boat in previous years, denied a starring role in the kitchen. It almost died of drought in a tiny pot this year, but I have given it a permanent spot now, so maybe next year will be the year when it produces enough bounty to feature in an indoor recipe. Maybe not 😉 The balloonberries aren’t at all productive, so they fall victim to the Gardener’s Tax. To be honest, I mostly keep them around for the entertainment value; they produce black berries at the end of tall, bowing stems (a bit like flimsy blackberres) and it’s hilarious to watch the various attempts the blackbirds make to get to them – the stems won’t support their weight. They haven’t managed it yet. I need to invest in some garden furniture, so I’ve got a front row seat for the show!

The patio raspberries haven’t been given enough love, either, so their small harvests tend to pay the Gardener’s Tax. But I do share with Ryan! In future there could be an outdoor cut of various larger fruit harvests, including figs, cherries (although the Bird Tax may take care of most of those) and cherries. The medlars are safe from garden taxation; they come inside to be processed in the kitchen. Ryan likes blueberries far more than I do, so they’ll probably also end up inside.

There are some flowers that are popular with foraging children, for the drop of nectar that can be sucked from them, I would have to look up which they are. I wonder how many gardens nibble on edible flowers whilst they’re outside? Or herb leaves – parsley and basil, or lemon balm and mint? I have a ‘chewing gum’ mint that would be perfect for that, although I think the choc mint may prove more popular! If you have an inveterate nibbler in your garden, then try electric daisies (paracress), a mouth-numbing fizzing sensation that’s more than enough to shock the unwary.

Electric Daisies

So, fess up! What do you grow that rarely makes it into the kitchen, or for which part of the appeal is its Gardener’s Tax value? What would you like to add to your garden, to increase its tax valuation? 😉

The Small Harvest Notebook by Emma Cooper

This post was produced in association with Rattan Direct, but I think you can tell the slighty nutty idea behind it was mine, all mine!

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