The last reporting period, we were impressed by how many families reported harvests of wild foraged foods. There were the usual blood-purifying delicacies of old like young poke-weed and dandelion greens, but there were also harvests less commonly known like guomi berries. Other delicacies like morel and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms were reported but their harvest locations shrouded in mystery.
Folks shared the way they learned of these foods. A grandmother, a dear friend or a book were all sources for this wild abundance. Others cautioned against look a likes and improper forms of preparation. Some of these foods are inedible at certain stages of growth and care should be taken by the harvester to ensure that no flowers or berries have formed before consuming.
The following will profile some of these wild harvested foods from harvest to supper. If you choose to try your hand at foraging, remember the following:
Know what you’re harvesting – Use reliable sources to properly identify plants before handling and consuming like this one.
Harvest in safe areas – Do not harvest from roadsides, abandoned building sites or any other area that could have contaminants.
Do not over harvest – Take no more than 1/3 of a standing plant population so that the plant can set flower and seed for next year.
Prepare wild food properly – Some plants contains toxins in their raw form, so research the safest way to enjoy wild foods.
Try a small amount first – Before eating an entire meal’s worth of wild food, try small amounts to see how or if it will affect you.
Poke Weed (Phytolacea americana)
Old-timers will tell you that the new spring arrival of poke, when properly prepared, will purify your winter blood. All parts of this plant contain toxins; however, native peoples have been preparing this food and consuming it as medicine for centuries. This plant can grow upwards of 8 feet and spreads rapidly. Check out how to identify and safely prepare this springtime treat.
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)
Sometimes called poor man’s spinach, this plant is a highly nutritious and readily available wild food that is likely growing in your garden now. It too contains small amounts of toxins in its raw form, so eat it raw only in moderation. You can enjoy it cooked well until frost. You can learn more about this lovely plant here.
Creasy Greens (Barbarea venna, brassicaceae)
This wild plant has become somewhat domesticated with several seed companies offering this wild delight in a cultivated form. If you look closely, you can find this treat tucked away in newly plowed fields. In the hay-day of tobacco production, creasy greens could be found in the early spring down each row. This early and nutritious food sustained mountain families during the “hungr-gap” when larders were low from difficult winters. Find your own creasy green patch by following this comprehensive guide.
Dandelion (Taxacacum officinale)
Unfortunately, this little plant has gotten a bad reputation in suburban neighborhoods across America. Homeowners seeking the picturesque green lawn use tons of chemicals each year to destroy this well meaning plant. Dandelions are not only edible to humans but play a vital role in early food sources for pollinator species of insects that will stick around to pollinate your squashes and tomatoes. If you need further convincing regarding the merits of this little yellow plant, check out this article.
Purslane (Portulaea Oleracea)
Said to be a staple of Ghandi’s raw diet, purslane is a crawling succulent that can be found in your garden. With red stems and dark green leaves, this plant offers a sweet and sour taste experience. It can be eaten raw or cooked. If cooking this plant, be aware that the sour will cook out of it. Like most plants, it is low in calories and high in valuable nutrition like Vitamin A, Vitamin C and B Vitamins like riboflavin, pyridoxine, folate and niacin. Check out this handy resource for harvesting and preparing purslane for your table.
What other wild foods do you like to eat? Who taught you this skills? What fun stories do you have from foraging with family and friends?