Skunk cabbage is an iconic plant for many reasons. It’s easily identifiable with its purple-spotted leaves, has a strong smell that resembles skunk spray when the leaves are crushed, and even looks like a small version of a skunk. In addition to all these interesting qualities, it also grows in abundance through much of the country. With such great characteristics and ease of access, you might think skunk cabbage would make for excellent table fare. However, most people would probably hesitate before eating it due to its appearance and smell; although both of these properties are what makes it so memorable. Being something of an acquired taste, this unusual plant won’t appeal to everyone. However, if you know where to look or have access to them in your own garden, it can be quite useful as well as fun to grow. Let’s take a closer look at whether or not skunk cabbage is edible and if so – how you can use it in your diet.
Is Skunk Cabbage Edible?
No, skunk cabbage is not edible and should be avoided. The plant is toxic and should never be consumed. Skunk cabbage grows in wet, swampy conditions and produces large white flowers in the spring. The flowers give way to white bulbous roots and dark green leaves that somewhat resemble cabbage. The plant has a pungent smell that is reminiscent of rancid cabbage, which earned it the name skunk cabbage.
Why Is Not Skunk Cabbage Edible?
1. It Is Toxic
The plant produces a pungent odor that is reminiscent of rancid cabbage. When you crush the leaves, the odor is even stronger, and the leaves are toxic. The stench can be so strong that it will linger in your clothes for days. In addition to its unpleasant smell, the plant can also cause skin irritation and blistering.
2. It Is Difficult To Identify As A Crop
The plant is small and grows in wet, swampy conditions. When you look at it, you might think it’s a cabbage because of its leaves. However, it is not a cabbage and should not be eaten. It produces large white flowers in the spring that are followed by white bulbous roots and dark green leaves that somewhat resemble cabbage.
3. It Is Not Easy To Grow
Skunk cabbage can be difficult to grow if you don’t know what you are doing. If you try growing skunk cabbage from seed, the seeds will likely not germinate or grow properly because of their small size and the difficulty of handling them effectively during germination process. Once they have germinated, they will take months to mature and reach harvestable size (usually about eight inches tall).
4. It Has No Practical Value
In addition to being considered toxic, skunk cabbagers white flowers in the spring and then produces white bulbous roots and leaves that somewhat resemble cabbage. igious growth in wet, swampy conditions makes it difficult to identify as a crop.
5. It Is Not A Crop
Although it is called a “cabbage”, skunk cabbage is not a crop at all. It is actually a weed and should be treated as such. igious growth habit makes it hard to distinguish from other plants.
6. It Is Not A Native Species
Skunk cabbage is not native to the United States and was introduced from Europe in the late 19th century. It is a non-native species that has no natural predators in the wild, which means it will spread quickly.
7. It Is Difficult To Identify As A Plant
The plant produces white flowers in the spring and white bulbous roots that resemble cabbages. The leaves are also dark green, but they are not edible and are just like those of other plants growing in wet areas with a lot of moisture and nutrients.
8. It’s Inedible Because Of Its Smell And Taste
The plant produces a pungent odor that is reminiscent of rancid cabbage when crushed, especially when compared to other types of cabbages grown in temperate climates with more sunlight. The smell can be so strong that ituses white flowers in the spring, but they are insignificant and do not produce seeds.
How To Eat Skunk Cabbage?
Eat the Leaves
The leaves may be stinky, but they’re also full of vitamins and minerals. The leaves taste like a mix between broccoli and kale and can be eaten raw as a salad green or steamed like broccoli. If you can’t get past the smell, don’t fret: the scent disappears when the leaves are cooked. If you find a patch of skunk cabbage, you may want to harvest a few leaves for cooking, but leave the rest for wildlife and other foragers. Skunk cabbage is a common food source for many animals, like bears and deer, and you don’t want to deplete the supply.
Cook the Stalk and Root
The stalk is usually peeled and chopped before being added to soups, stews, and stir-fries. The root can be peeled or sliced and eaten raw in salads or steamed like potatoes. The plant’s root is slightly sweet, with a texture similar to jicama. The stalk and root are also edible when they’re young, with the root tasting like a mix between a carrot and a radish. As they age, the stalks become fibrous and the root becomes woody.
Try It Raw
The leaves of the skunk cabbage plant can be eaten raw, but they taste better cooked. However, some people enjoy them raw as a nibble at cocktail parties. If you want to try eating skunk cabbage raw, you need to make sure you’re harvesting it from a clean area where it hasn’t been contaminated by livestock or other plants. The leaves are covered in tiny, sticky hairs that secrete a white, smelly liquid when they come into contact with other plants. Some people enjoy eating the flowers raw, but most find that the “cabbage” taste is too overpowering. The flowers can be added to salads and sandwiches, but they’re best enjoyed with a squirt of lemon juice to cut through the strong taste.
Make a Leaf Curry
Skunk cabbage is perfect for a curry, but you can use the leaves from any plant. Try a recipe that uses the leaves of other plants, like the skunk cabbage leaf curry from The Forager’s Kitchen. If you’re not up for making a curry from scratch, try a premade jar of skunk cabbage jam from Grillo’s Pickles.
Prepare It Like You Would Collard Greens
If you’d like to eat skunk cabbage but you aren’t keen on the taste, try boiling or steaming the leaves until they’re tender. Then, sauté the leaves in a little oil or butter with some salt, pepper, and onion powder. This will give it a milder flavor that tastes similar to collard greens. Skunk cabbage can also be preserved by pressure-canning it or by making a syrup with it. It can be used to make jam, syrup, or even be mixed into cocktails.
Tastes Like Chicken? Try Roasting The Seeds!
The seeds of the skunk cabbage plant are edible when they mature in the fall, but they should be harvested while they’re still green, like a bean. They can be eaten raw like nuts, or roasted like coffee beans. The seeds are also a great source of protein and can be used in place of chickpeas in hummus. You can also use the dried seeds in baked goods, like biscuits or muffins.
Don’t Forget: This Is Still A Flower… Sort Of.
The skunk cabbage plant, like all flowering plants, has male and female flowers. The male flowers are the ones with the large, bright petals and the female flowers are the small, green buds at the base of the flower. The male flowers are inedible and are best left for pollination. The female flowers can be eaten, but they’re smaller and less noticeable. If you want to harvest the female flowers, wait until the plant is mature and brown, and then pick them off the stalk, leaving the male flowers behind. The flowers can be eaten raw or cooked like broccoli.
As we’ve covered in the above section, we know that skunk cabbage is edible. We also know that it can be used in both salads and stir-fries. But what else is there to know about this unusual plant? Now that we’ve covered the basics of whether or not skunk cabbage is edible and how to eat it, let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of consuming skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are good for the body.