The Mint Family and Some New Blossoms

The sugar snap peas are finally blossoming. Apparently they take a lot longer to blossom than the beans do. Here’s one of the pea blossoms

Sugar Snap Pea Blossom

This flower is Henbit. It’s in the mint family as are many plants that are commonly regarded as weeds

Henbit

There’s a member of the mint family that is extremely prolific in our yard and gardens, called Florida Betony, that has a tuberous root. The root is essentially the same thing as what is known as Crosne (plural Crosnes) or Chinese Artichoke. Crosnes are regarded as a delicacy in many parts of the world. We have tried the Florida Betony roots and they are very tasty. They can be eaten either raw or cooked. They are so prolific that we could eat quite well off of them, except that I appear to be allergic to them. So they remain a weed that I pull from the garden beds. They aren’t blooming yet, but when they do, I’ll post pictures of the roots and blossoms.

The mint family is represented by many plants that are useful and in many cases, helpful. The obvious ones are peppermint and spearmint. Catnip and lavendar are also in the mint family, as are the culinary herbs, basil, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. There are several members of the mint family that are regarded as weeds and/or wildflowers that are also useful. Some have healing properties and some make nice teas, such as Bee Balm, Lemon Balm, and Bergamot (this is not the same bergamot that shows up in Earl Grey tea).

When I was in my teens, the grandfather of one of my friends was a botanist. One day he decided to give us a start in being able to identify plants. He explained that we could usually tell a member of the mint family by its square stem and opposite leaves. And he explained that legumes, such as the sugar snap peas, could usually be told by their rounded stems and alternate leaves. Since then, I have enjoyed identifying hundreds of different species of wildflower in academic and professional contexts, and on my own, but I always remember what he told us about the mints and legumes.

Update 12/5/11:

My dear husband has reminded me that we first learned that Florida Betony is edible from someone who said that he eats it all the time himself, but when we questioned him about it, he said that anyone who is considering eating it should check with an expert first. So I pass that along to anyone who is considering eating Florida Betony tubers. Before doing so, check with an expert and make sure it’s ok.

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