Goldenrods burst into sunny bloom as the days grow shorter, saving their fireworks for the season when asters and jewelweed grow riotously here in the Northeast.
There are many dozens of species within the genus Solidago, which includes plants that bloom in conditions ranging from full sun on sandy and salty shorelines, to shaded and dry woodlands. Most goldenrods tolerate poor soil. Their tiny yellow flowers are born in clusters, and are loved by pollinators. Some species are very good eating for humans, too.
Read on to learn more about these cheery, low maintenance and biodiversity-boosting perennials—and for my recipe for a goldenrod marinade for grilled meats.
Photography by Marie Viljoen.
A quick image search on Google includes pictures of goldenrod illustrating articles that confidently call it ragweed. While both plants belong to the Asteraceae family, goldenrod produces far less pollen than ragweed. Goldenrod’s pollen is also heavier as it is insect-pollinated, while ragweed relies on wind dispersal, with a finer (and more irritating) payload, as a consequence. But because its bright yellow flowers are so conspicuous at the time when ragweed’s tiny and demure blooms open sneakily, goldenrod is often blamed.
Larger species’ breezy habits and rhizomatous spreading tendencies make goldenrods a good choice for wild gardens and meadows. But I have found that even statuesque S. canadensis grows well in roomy, well-drained pots (16 inches or more in diameter), as long the plants are divided every few years. This is a native perennial that keeps on giving.
All goldenrod plants produce seed loved by birds, but in this species a built-in perch makes it a good choice for feeding migrants en route south.
Its foliage and flowers are intensely scented, with strong anise notes. Young leaves of all goldenrods can be eaten raw or cooked (older they are too fibrous), but these two species are flavorful and aromatic.
Goldenrod Marinade for Grilled Meats
This a spectacularly pretty rub for a butterflied lamb or a spatchcocked chicken, cooked over glowing coals.
- 1.5 cups Greek yogurt
- 1.5 cups gray or sweet goldenrod flowers
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and massage into the lamb or chicken. Allow to marinate for at least an hour, and optimally, 12, before cooking.
N.B.: For more of Marie’s autumn recipes, see:
- Garden-to-Table: Fall Fennel Recipes from 66 Square Feet.
- Sweet Season: Persimmons, from Fall through Frost.
- Garden-to-Table: Spiced Squash for Two.