Cosmos, wild cosmos or Ulam Raja, Cosmos caudatus, is an incredibly productive edible/medicinal plant. This plant is an annual, but can be regularly managed as a short-lived perennial. The leaves are eaten for their high mineral and antioxidant content, which is believed to contribute to increased blood circulation, bone strength and general good health. Wild cosmos creates a lot of biomass and can reach up to nine feet tall by about four feet wide. The plant starts off slowly, growing to a height of about two feet in the first few weeks, and then takes off to become the giant it wants to be. They usually don’t start flowering until they are four to five feet tall and flower continually until their death.
Wild cosmos is grown from its prolific seeds. Seeds are sown at the soil surface. However, they will sprout through fine textured mulch as well.
This plant is carefree. Sprinkle around seeds, wait and watch them grow. Their lifecycle seems to be about nine months if left unchecked. To prolong their life, I usually allow them to seed heavily for a little while, collect all the seeds and then cut the plant back to waist height. This will spark them to regrow vigorously, again; this process can be done continuously.
The tender young leaves and stems are commonly eaten raw. Eat from a plant that has not yet flowered as the flavor becomes more intense after flowering. If managed by regularly pruning off flower stalks, the plant will continue to grow leafy material suitable for consumption.
Where to obtain planting materials
Ask a friend for some seeds. I’ve never seen this plant for sale, and I only recently discovered that it’s edible, and what its scientific name is.
Wild cosmos is one of my staple biomass-creating plants in my systems. I typically create successional cover crop mixes creating a continuous blanket of biomass to protect soils and to create living mulch to cut and feed to my other cropped plants. Where I have it growing as a hedge, it helps with weed suppression, by shading and preventing germination of less desirable seedlings. Cosmos flowers attract lots of bees and other pollinators!