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Himalayan Balsam - Free food

Himalayan Balsam is a tasty plant commonly eaten as curry in its native Northern India. By foraging for this free food you can help your budget and the environment. The more seeds we eat, the fewer seeds there will remain to spread this plant. This plant is the least harmful of our three main invasive species. Bees adore it and we can eat it but when it gets to be too abundant it crowds out our natives.

Collect the flowers once they appear in the summer and the seeds in Autumn, August/September. Just DON'T plant them!

Immature seed pods (before they reach the 'explosive' stage) are edible whole, and can be cooked like radish pods or mangetout (snow peas) and used in stir-fries and curries.

The seeds themselves can be eaten raw and have a nutty taste that is variously described as being like hazelnuts or walnuts. Collect the seeds by covering the whole seed head with flowers and all in a bag. Touching the seeds through the bag will make the seeds explode into it. Both unripe cream coloured seeds and the dark brown/black ripe seeds are edible. Seeds can be eaten whole, toasted and ground to make flour, crushed and used as a spice or substituted in any recipe that calls for hazelnuts. They are excellent baked in cakes, breads and biscuits and make a welcome addition to soup, stews and curries. When collecting the seeds, you need not be too particular in removing all bits of the seed pods that you collect with them as the pods are edible. The seeds require a period of cold to activate from dormancy, as a result mature seeds (if carefully picked over) can be stored in an air-tight jar as a store-cupboard standby. They are useful for substituting in cakes instead of nuts for those with nut allergies and ground himalayan balsam seeds can be substituted for ground almonds.

The flowers can also be used to make floral jams and jellies or added to salads.

The young shoots and stems are edible, when cooked, but care should be taken as they contain high concentrations of calcium oxalate (which is broken down and leached out on cooking) but it is recommended that they are not consumed too frequently.

A wonderful web site for lots of recipe ideas can be found at Celtnet. To see how to make a curry from them, try Eat Weeds.