The great thing about botany is that it helps you identify wild edibles even when you don’t know quite what species you’re looking at. Whenever you see a plant with four petals arranged like a cross, as this blossom is, and it has seed pods swirling around the stem in a spiral staircase, then you know you’re looking at a mustard. And the good news is, every mustard is edible!
That’s why, if you get Lunaria confused with the similar looking Dame’s Rocket, Hesperis matronalis, it’s no big deal. Both are mustards. The flowers of both plants look alike, but the leaves and seed pods are different shapes. Lunaria leaves are heart-shaped with branching veins and serrated edges, and the stems are fuzzy with a purplish tinge.
When I first noticed Lunaria appearing around town, the seed pods hadn’t yet appeared, so I wasn’t sure which brassica it was. I crowd-sourced the question with a cell-phone pic on Twitter and Facebook. Then I checked out the botanical descriptions of all the suggested possibilities and determined that it was the money plant, a common ornamental that escapes gardens. You might recognize its dead form, with those unique, gray-colored “coins.”
I’ve been eating Lunaria a lot lately and really enjoying it. The flowers are sweet, the leaves are very mild tasting and the seed pods are super spicy. If you see it around, definitely give it a munch! It’s my new favorite wild edible.
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