By: Amy Grant
Asters are one of the last flowers in bloom for the summer season, with many blooming well into fall. They are prized primarily for their late season beauty in a landscape that has begun to wither and dieback prior to winter, but there are other uses for aster plants. Keep reading to learn more about the edibility of aster flowers.
Asters are gorgeous autumn perennials that can be found wild in North America and southern Europe. Also called starworts or frost flowers, the genus Aster includes about 600 species. The word ‘aster’ is derived from the Greek in reference to the multi-hued star-like blooms.
The aster root has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. How about eating the rest of the aster plant? Are asters edible? Yes, the leaves and flowers of asters are edible and are purported to have a number of health benefits.
The flowers and leaves can be eaten fresh or dried when eating aster plants. The Native American people harvested wild aster for a multitude of uses. The roots of the plant were used in soups and young leaves were cooked lightly and used as greens. The Iroquois people combined aster with bloodroot and other medicinal plants to make a laxative. The Ojibwa used an infusion of aster root topically to aid with headaches. Portions of the flower were also used to treat venereal diseases.
Eating aster plants is no longer a common practice, but it does have its place among indigenous people. Today, while the edibility of aster flowers is not in question, they are more commonly used added to tea blends, eaten fresh in salads, or used as garnish.
Asters should be harvested in full bloom in the early morning after the dew has dried. Cut the stem about 4 inches (10 cm.) from above the soil level. Hang the stems upside down in a cool, dark area until the plant crumbles easily. The flowers will become white and fluffy but are still usable. Store the dried aster leaves and flowers in a sealed glass container out of sunlight. Use within one year.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using or ingesting ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes or otherwise, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.
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Asters (Aster spp.) make up a group of more than 600 species and cultivars that are perhaps best known for their colorful fall blooms. Most grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, although some do well in warmer climates. Most asters tend to be resilient and aren't prone to many diseases or pests. A few pests or problems may kill your asters, or make the plants look like they're dying.
Ranking first on the list of powerhouse host plants, goldenrod feeds over 100 different species of native caterpillars. Goldenrod, genus Solidago, also provides adult butterflies with an excellent source of nectar, giving you even more bang for the butterfly garden buck. A lot of people steer clear of goldenrod, believing it brings hay fever with its blooms. This is an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Goldenrod looks similar to the allergy-triggering ragweed, but won't have you reaching for the antihistamines.
Caterpillars that feed on goldenrod include the asteroid, the brown-hooded owlet, the camouflaged looper, the common pug, the striped garden caterpillar, and the goldenrod gall moth.
You can never have too many tips for keeping deer and rabbits away from our plants. Even if we find something that works, the animals often get used to that technique and we have to try something else.
Here are a bunch of tips. One is from me, but the rest are ones that local gardeners have shared with me.
(These tips are often shared in quick conversations, so I often don’t have the name of the person who gave me the tip. I apologize for not being able to credit each gardener, but I do appreciate their help!)
We’ve talked before about how soap can keep deer away from your plants. But you don’t have to go out and buy a bar of soap to use in your garden.
Recycle those slivers left over from bars of soap, or especially from decorative soaps.
I love those pretty little soaps, and I actually use them to wash my hands. But when the soap starts out so small, before you know it, the soap is too small to grip.
When it’s our everyday deodorant soap that gets too small to hold, my husband mashes the old sliver into a fresh bar.
I’m certainly not going to do that with a pretty decorative soap!
It’s hard to see the wire mesh that protects this clematis from rabbits. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
But we don’t need to throw those slivers away. Save them up and set them around your plants. Especially if they have a strong scent, they should help keep critters away.
Here’s an even better tip for soap that I got from another gardener. She suggested taking those slivers and threading them on a string. You can hang them high in a shrub that a deer is chomping on or hang them above shorter plants.
Air freshener on a dowel
Another gardener suggested using solid Renuzit air freshener. She said the container has a dimple on the bottom so you can set it on top of a dowel or stick. She situates it in her garden so the air freshener is above her hostas or whatever plant the deer are bothering. When the deer bend over to browse, they encounter smell of the air freshener, which they don’t like, and will back off.
Place mint around targeted plants
This tip also uses scent to keep deer away from the plants deer love. Another gardener said she plants mint around daylilies to protect her flowers.
This summer, Ron Krebs of Lancaster told us how he filled his landscape with trees and shrubs he picked out of the trash. Today he shares two tips on how he deals with rabbits.
The first tip is how Krebs uses wire mesh to protect his clematis. In the spring, the clematis would grow waist high, then the leaves and stems would be dead. When he investigated, he saw the stems had been snapped off at the bottom by rabbits. Rabbits don’t especially like clematis, but the baby rabbits don’t know what is good to eat, so they chomp on everything, he said. To protect the plant, he installed wire mesh. It’s not very noticeable.
You can use barriers around a plant that you hope people won’t notice, and you can use barriers that are decorative as well. In his second tip, Krebs shows how a barrier can be attractive. Krebs had morning glories that kept getting nibbled by rabbits. He put the plant inside a old decorative parrot cage.
A decorative parrot cage can be used to protect a plant from rabbits. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
Old cassette tapes
Use old cassette tapes, suggested another gardener. Pull out the tape and string it around your garden. It will reflect the sunlight, sending out flashes that the deer don’t like.
This is a great way to use something that might otherwise find its way into a landfill, too.
Plastic forks on sticks
Attach plastic forks to sticks or dowels, tine side up, and set them around a new plant, said another gardener. When the deer bends down to eat the plant, the tines of the fork poke the deer.
You can find more tips elsewhere on Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com. At right, under Popular Topics, click on Pests & Weeds. In addition to tips on deer and rabbits, you’ll see articles about plant diseases, harmful insects and invasive plants as well as tips on other critters such as herons, squirrels and cats.
Above the Popular Topics, you’ll see the Search box. If you’re looking for something more specific, type “deer” or “rabbits” or another search word into the search box. After typing your search word, hit enter.
Do you have a favorite tips on dealing with critters in your garden? Please leave a comment below.