As we know, history repeats itself and when it comes to food there is no exception. Culinary habits are becoming more interesting with the reintroduction of ancient grains into the diet along with salad herbs that haven't been seen since the sixteenth century.
Back then the diversity of textures, flavours and colours might have come from 50 or more different flowers, leaves, seeds, buds, blanched stems, and even pickled roots.
Following is a list of unusual but delicious salad ingredients you might like to experiment with.
Borage Flowers (Borago officinalis) - Use these pretty star shaped blue flowers to add colour to salads.
Calendula petals (Calendula officinalis) - Sprinkle the petals through a salad to add a mild flavour and vibrant colour.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) - The tender leaves of this lovely herb add a lovely texture to salad greens.
Chive flowers (Allium schoenoprasum) - For a mild onion flavour gently toss the flower petals of chives through salads. Add a mild garlic flavour by using the white flowers of Chinese chives.
Endive (Cichorium endivia) - A lovely salad green but best blanched or picked young to avoid its bitter flavour.
Garden cress (Lepidium sativum) - In its early stage of growth this herb is usually considered to be 'mustard and cress' but if it's let to grow it becomes a pretty salad green, especially if you want to add a little heat.
Garden pansy (Viola x Wittrockiana) - The pretty flowers of this plant can be used to add vibrant colour to most salads.
Jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata) - This wild plant has a very mild garlic flavour - chop young tender leaves and add to salad.
Lawn Daisy (Bellis perennis) - Young leaves and flowers can be added to salads; small flowers can be used whole or the petals can be separated.
Meadow crane's bill (Geranium pratense) - This is a delightful plant that has mild flavoured crimson-veined blue or blue flowers that bloom most of the summer. Add the flowers to salads for colour and flavour.
Mizuna mustard greens (Brassica japonica) - Grows all year when re-sown. The stalk is tasty and both the stalk and leaves have a fresh mild flavour that makes them very useful as a salad green.
Orach (Atriplex hortensis) - Leaves are purple or gold and should be harvested when young and tender to add colour and a mild flavour to salads.
Rape cabbage (Brassica napus) - Grow as a seedling crop and use young leaves to add a mustard/cabbage flavour to salads.
Rose Petals (Rosa species) - Any scented rose petals can be used to add flavour and colour to a salad but remove the white heel at the base of the flower because it is bitter.
Salad rocket (Eruca vesicaria) - Most of us are quite familiar with this herb with its hot spicy flavour. The flowers can be tossed in a salad but be sure to use young leaves as those that are older become quite bitter.
Summer purslane (Portulaca oleracea) - A prolific herb with leaves that add a delicious crunchy and nutty flavour to salads.
Variegated nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) - This is another well-known salad herb with leaves that add a sharp peppery flavour to salads. The flowers and buds can also be used but have a milder flavour.
Viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare) - The flowers of this herb are small and are either blue or pink. They contain a sweet nectar and although they have a very mild taste they are an attractive addition to many types of salads.
Winter purslane (Montia perfoliata) - You can cut this herb and it will grow again to give you an almost constant supply of an ideal salad green.
Begin a salad by making the base with leaves that have a mild flavour such as chickweed, summer purslane, lettuce, and dandelion. Next, add small amounts of shredded leaves with sharp or pungent flavours such as nasturtium and basil then add flowers choosing those that have colours that go well together - blue and yellow, orange and yellow, pink and white, or yellow, blue and white. Finally, add small amounts of other culinary herbs such as chervil, thyme, tarragon, parsley, and lemon balm.
Apart from adding flavour and colour to food herbs also have health benefits when used regularly.
Proprietor, author, and tutor of The Home Herbalist Online Course.