Cooking with Celosia
As the first frost approaches, you’re no doubt gifting extra tomatoes and peppers to the neighbors, blanching broccoli to pop into the freezer and wondering if you can drink enough green juice to deal with all of the kale varieties you decided to grow. Some will let the frost come, naturally petrifying their gardens until spring, while others start pulling and composting… Have you considered the edibles that may still be blooming in your flower garden?
Celosia. Vibrant, wispy and still alive in your upstate New York gardens until the first frost. Belonging to the edible and ornamental amaranth family, celosia is characterized by a soft, wooly, flamed bloom or a fascinating, cockscomb tip. While bright celosia finds its (debatable) roots in Africa, it’s eaten throughout the world: South Americans, Chinese, Italians, Indians and Indonesians all enjoy the leafy greens and flowers.
Like many leafy varieties of edible plants, celosia is quite independent in the garden, growing effortlessly like a common garden weed not particularly subject to pests or diseases. Celosia is so easy-going it doesn’t even prefer a soil type. The leaves offer a spinach-like flavor with basil-like texture while the flowers vary depending on the soil they’re grown in.
I haven’t seen celosia on many restaurant menus, but have observed it growing in local restaurant gardens. Pro-tip: While other local restaurant dishes return to heavy pastas, lentils and risottos, add celosia to the menu to keep circulation and digestion flowing during the colder days. And because those shorter days mean less sunlight, the vibrancy will be welcomed by any diner. In my private practice I use the traditional Chinese medical indication of the seeds (referred to as Qing Xiang Zi) to help manage high blood pressure. Instead of marigold dressings this year, add celosia to citrus or balsamic salad dressings. It’s also awesome in date palm or coconut oil.
Before the first frost arrives cut celosia, and wash and trim the leaves and flowers. Dry well and preserve in oil of choice. Can be frozen. A few weeks later, after the first couple frosts rabbit season is prime, add cockscomb in a slow-cooked rabbit stew served over toasted quinoa and celosia leaves. If you prefer vegetarian fare, add chopped leaves and flowers to sauteed artichokes.
Note: If your garden has been treated with synthetic chemicals, avoid consuming this plant.
Sautéed Baby Artichoke and Celosia
12 baby artichokes
4 handfuls flaming celosia (1 or 2 flowers to divide for garnish)
1 teaspoon white pepper
¼ cup rosemary leaves
Scrub artichokes, cutting away tough outer leaves and stem. Cut in half, allow water to drain by placing in colander.
While artichokes drain, wash celosia, separating flowers from leaves into two separate bowls.
Over a medium flame, heat grapeseed oil in a sauté pan. Once pan is hot, add artichokes and pepper, sautéing for approximately 15 minutes.
Add rosemary after first 5 minutes while continuing to sauté artichokes.
Add celosia leaves the last 5 minutes of sautéing.
Divide into shallow dishes, garnish with celosia flowers and serve.
Christine Dionese, integrative health and food therapy specialist, medical and food journalist, is the co-founder of Garden Eats, an organic modern lifestyle blog and business. Find her latest food creations on Instagram.