As human beings have evolved over time, so have their taste palates and food choices. There are many things in nature that are actually edible and have been consumed by our forefathers but forgotten over time. Or. on the other hand, there are some species of plants, flowers, and other food items that surround us and are used daily. but we ignore or throw them away. Here is a list of 11 strange things that are actually edible.
1. A rare Chinese delicacy, the edible bird’s nest is known for its flavor and high nutritional value. They are the most expensive animal product consumed by humans valued at $3,000 per pound.
The edible bird’s nest is made out of swiftlets from a small bird found mostly in Southeast Asia. These swiftlets are made out of solidified saliva and are harvested for human consumption. They are highly prized in China, where they are coveted for their rarity and high nutritional value. They have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years and over time have gained in popularity.
Today, they are highly valued and are one of the most expensive animal products consumed by humans. They are valued at $3,000 per pound. There are different types of edible bird’s nests and their price varies based on the grade, color, and shape of the nest and type of bird. The nest is usually white in color, but sometimes a red one is found too and is named the “blood” nest.
Their most common use is for soup preparation in Chinese culture. The soup has a delicate, gelatinous texture when dissolved in water. Although the swiftlets are expensive and precious, they must be served in large quantities in order to all an experience of its flavor in full. They are also cooked with rice or added to egg tarts and other deserts to add flavor. Bird’s nest jelly is also popular and is sold in jars commercially. (source)
2. Gold has been used in small quantities in deserts and food mainly for aesthetic reasons. Edible gold has to be pure and has the E-number E175 which permits its use. It is flavorless and has no nutritional value.
Gold leaf is a gold hammered into thin sheets which are then used in food. It is mostly used to add aesthetic value to the food and has no nutritional value or taste of its own. It was used for centuries in Japan pounded into its green tea. In Europe, tiny gold leaves have been used in liquors since the sixteenth century. In India, gold is sprinkled upon sweets making them an expensive delicacy during festive seasons and special occasions.
For the gold to be edible, it must be 23-24 carat and is not the same gold which we find at the jewelers that is mixed with other metals. So, when gold is used in food it has the E-number E175. E-numbers are codes for substances that are permitted to be used as food additives for use within the European Union. Scientifically, gold is chemically inert, which means it just passes through your body as waste and does not break down in digestion.
Gold is also used in medications, especially in a treatment for rheumatism. Some studies also show that it has anti-inflammatory properties. The consumption of gold and its effects on us is still under study, and so one must exercise caution while consuming it. (1, 2)
3. The cockscomb that adorns a chickens’ head is actually edible. It is used in French cuisine as a garnish and as an important ingredient for the famous Italian sauce, cibreo. It is also, served in dim-sums in China.
The fleshy growth or crest that adorns the gallinaceous bird, like the chicken, is called a “comb.” They are most commonly known as “cockscomb.” These are edible and used in cooking along with wattles and chicken kidneys. They have been used for a long time in French cooking as a garnish. They are usually used to prepare salpicons and as fillings in profiteroles. The cockscomb makes for an important ingredient in the Italian cuisine to prepare the famous sauce called “cibreo.” This is used as a sauce for preparing pasta and ricotta. They can be prepared by parboiling, skinning, and then poaching in broth called “court-bouillon.” The Chinese use it as a filling in their dim-sums. Although red in color, the cockscomb becomes greyish after cooking. (source)
4. Recently, cactus has become a new food trend. They are used in making jams, teas, and cocktails. It is full of antioxidants and good to reduce stress, fatigue, and blood-sugar levels.
Opuntia, a type of cactus plant, has gained popularity as a superfood in early 2018 in a part of the culinary world. But the fruit traditionally called the “nopales” has been a part of the Mexican food culture for hundreds of years. The fruit has a similar taste as the sour green beans. They can be eaten raw or boiled. Once the thorns and spines of the cactus are removed, it can be added into any preparation like stew, egg, or salad. They are prepared in many ways—grilled or served as pickled cactus fries.
Also, it is used to prepare jams, pickles, tea, candies, and cocktails. As a fruit, it has antioxidant properties and has good medicinal value. It is used to control blood-sugar levels, and reduce stress, intestinal issues, and headaches. Due to its growing popularity, the nopales are easily available at many Mexican stores online too. (1, 2)
5. A parasitic ascomycete fungus that grows on certain species of mushrooms gives it a red color on the outside which causes it to be named the “lobster mushroom fungus.” A fungus, not a mushroom, it is eaten widely and commercially marketed.
Scientifically classified as Hypomyces lactifluorum but widely known as Lobster Mushroom, it, unlike its name, is not a mushroom. It is a parasitic fungus that grows on the mushrooms. The ascomycete parasite transforms the exterior of its host, the mushroom, from white to a bright red or orange. Although they are a fungus, they are edible and widely enjoyed. They are also sold in packets at supermarkets around the world.
The lobster mushroom has been known to be consumed for hundreds of years without it being harmful. It is used in fish preparations or in a stew, and its crunchy texture adds to the flavor of the dish. Also, it can be used while preparing lobster chowder. (1, 2)