Edible Ornamentals - Sedum Autumn Joy
This perennial plant is a joy in all seasons. In Spring it pops up out of the ground, forming an elegant, tight green ball. Here it is, flanked by love-in-a-mist which is just about to bloom, with garlic chives in front, feverfew and giant artichokes behind and the apple tree in the background.
In summer it produces glorious pink flowers which are always covered in bees, and also beloved by our resident praying mantis family.
Image from finegardening.com
In winter its dead flower heads provide a beautiful sculptural structure in the midst of a rather bare perennial garden bed. It can be easily propagated by division, and just this spring I have discovered that it even self-seeds. So what's not to love? If only, I thought, it was edible or medicinal as well, that would just be the icing on the cake..
Well, as it turns out, sedums, or stonecrop, are all edible (click on 'stonecrop orpine'), with the leaves and the roots both apparently good cooked in stir fries, or used in stocks and soups (they are mucilaginous, so good thickeners). Some people use them in salads. I tried some, and to be honest, with a garden full of lettuces, I don't think the sedums will be my go-to salad ingredient.. I don't know, maybe very early spring is the best time to eat them. My sedum is about to burst into flower, so maybe it gets bitter then like lettuce does.
But, if I ever need a remedy for diarrhorea, piles, 'gnawing of the bowels' or quinsy (I didn't know what quinsy was, but keep coming across it in old novels so I looked it up and now wish I hadn't)... I will know exactly where to go.
Its other popular use is to stop mosquito or other bug bites itching. Peel off the sticky film (this is a little fiddly), and apply it to the bite. Now this is very useful to know when out in the garden.
I am so excited and surprised to discover that one of my favourite ornamentals is also useful. I suppose I shouldn't be, because every plant no doubt has some properties which make it of use to us, if only as a deadly poison. We have such demarcated gardens in the modern world. Fruit here, vegie gardens over there, medicine from the chemist, flowers out the front, but other times and cultures use everything they can get their hands on to keep themselves fed and healthy, and that is what I want my garden to be as well. Ravishingly beautiful, productive and useful.
PS: I will stir fry some leaves and report back on whether this is a good idea or not so much..
Updated to add:
Today's lunch: egg strips plus stir-fried broccoli, broccoli stems, broccoli leaves, SEDUM LEAVES, garlic chives and pickled ginger. Really very yummy. Couldn't taste the sedum leaves at all, as they fried down to nothing. BUT apparently they are very good for the liver and kidneys, like other bitter greens (dandelions etc), so maybe I will toss some into the lunchtime stir-fry occasionally, because, you know, health food.
Updated to add: 2019 - after more research I am not entirely confident that I can promote the edibility of Sedum Autumn Joy. However, the information is quite ambivalent. A commenter sent me a link which declares it is poisonous and also edible in the same article, and this is from the North Carolina State University..
So all I can say is.. I am still alive, although I eat it very rarely. My garden is full of much more delicious plants. Probably best do your own research before snacking on it. Its botanical name is sedum spectabile, let me know what you find out:)