Wednesday food post: Foraging, Part 1

One of my big goals over the next couple of years is to get better at identifying local edible plants and harvesting them. I have visions of baskets of morels and wild asparagus, but we’ll see. Until then, I have my backyard. This time of year is a gold mine for finding fresh, local, amazingly nutritious foods just a few steps from your door. I am totally new at this, but I hope to do some interesting things with foraged foods this year. I’ll post about my adventures and discoveries through the season. As of the beginning of May, here’s what I’m seeing:

Pictured above are two edible plants in my area. 

Clover is very nutritious and the whole plant can be eaten (flower, leaves, and roots). The young leaves are good in salads, but can be cooked as well. I mostly have had clover as a tea- but I’d like to try incorporating it into other foods. Anyway, it’s said to be really high in protein and is a good source of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine and vitamin C.

Violets (although not African violets, those are not edible) are a beautiful flower that I see in almost everyone’s yard this time of year. Pansies are also related to this genus of plants. The flower and the leaves are both edible, although the roots are toxic if eaten. Many people candy violets and use them for decorations on cakes and things. You can also make a beautiful jam or syrup out of them. Otherwise they can be put in salads, dried, used for tea, or cooked like spinach. It’s a really good source of vitamin C. It is also said to enhance the medicinal effects of other herbs.

Dandelions. I love these. Did you know that the definition of a "weed" is just a plant that people don’t value? I would not consider the dandelion a weed… and it’s a shame that it is largely considered one. For one thing, it’s super nutritious. It’s got more beta carotene than carrots, more iron and calcium than spinach, and is a good source for vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. They are kind of bitter, but they can be cooked and incorporated into other things if you don’t like bitter greens. This plant is very versatile, too. You can eat the whole thing raw, cook with it in a variety of ways (sautee the flowers in butter, steam the greens, put it into soups, etc.). You can also make jelly (which is really tasty! We got a jar last year from our old CSA), and many people like to make dandelion wine. I also recently tried dandelion root as a tea. It’s delicious and kind of nutty tasting. I plant to try to use this plant in a variety of ways over the next few weeks- I read that you can batter and fry the flowers like fritters! Weed? Nah.

And last, lamb’s quarters (or I’ve also heard it called "pigweed"). This plant is delicious as a young plant in salads or cooked like spinach and added to a variety of things. It’s a good source of niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, dietary fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese.

This is just scratching the surface. I got a book recently called Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants. I have so much to learn! I’m not a fan of supplements. I think they are hard on people’s bodies and organ systems, and are often times not even able to be absorbed properly. It’s my opinion that food is the way by which we are supposed to get all these vitamins and nutrients, and we should be eating according to our nutritional needs. Basically, people need to eat a lot more green foods. All of these plants I talk about are extremely nutritious and they are free and better used by your body than a multivitamin. I also am of the mind that if you don’t like leafy green foods, then you will grow a taste for them as your body becomes better nourished. Just a theory, but I find greens to be extremely satisfying to eat, and I didn’t always.

Oh also, remember how I had all that volunteer kale that I had to use? Well, we turned them into chips! Jeff, Vera and I finished off the whole bowl, and Jeff couldn’t stop saying how cool they were. Basically, you just take the leafy part of the kale, wash it, cut it into uniform sizes, lightly coat with olive oil and salt, and roast at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until just crispy and browned on the edges. They were great. I’m definitely doing these again. Recipes online have the addition of a little vinegar with the oil, or sometimes parmesan or other seasonings… I think we could have fun with these.



I’ve got some water on to make some of my pregnancy tea blend (which has clover in it), and tonight I’ll be making a pigweed/dandelion potato dish, to go alongside some grilled steak and artichokes with butter. Mmm. 

Gracie
Gracie

Latest posts by Gracie (see all)

Comments (18)

  1. ladyfaith3

    every time I purchase a spring mix salad my husband sort of makes a face, and says “why don’t you just graze in the front yard?” Now I guess I can do that too LOL!
    I have eaten dandilions before, and I think I’ll have to try it again. I have been wanting to learn about this as well but I am not as familiar with plants in NY. The kids would likely get a kick out of picking their salad too 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Haha, that’s great. You should totally make a “front yard salad” and tell him you took his advice!

      Reply
  2. purerandomness

    Babyslime posted recently about making a dandelion honey. It used something like 2 pounds of dandelion flowers plus another kilo of sugar or something, but they used it as a glaze on meat and apparently was very tasty!

    Ben’s daycare sent home a sheet recently about toxic and non-toxic household and local plants. I was glad to see that dandelions and daylilies are not toxic, as those are the most common flowers we have around the house!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Oh, do you happen to remember the toxic ones?

      Reply
      1. purerandomness

        Hmmm… I’ll have to check our paper recycling bag and send you a list! I can’t remember any of them right now.

        Reply
  3. pithy_epigrams

    Those kale chips look amazing! I have been getting SO many greens, and I don’t know what to do with all. So I will have to try this. I wonder if it would work with chard…What do you think?

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I was thinking that it would be a great way to use excess of any of the heartier greens- definitely let me know how it turns out! I would imagine it would be delicious.

      Reply
  4. 93_millionmiles

    Ohh, I love kale chips. I make mine with red wine vinegar, olive oil and granulated garlic.

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Mmm… I’m totally going to experiment.

      Reply
  5. brigittefires

    I used to pick dandelions and lilacs from my backyard as a kid and sprinkle them on salads. Om nom.

    Also, I regularly get iron-deficiency anemia, and supplements don’t help. The all-natural ones from WF and the like (the ones that are labeled as food-source supplements) help somewhat, but significantly slower than simply making a point to eat foods that are high in iron. I’m glad my IUD stopped my monthly cycle so the anemia is less severe and less frequent, but it’s still frustrating sometimes when people say “that’s why you should take a multivitnamin!” Uhmmm… no. That’s why I should eat normally!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Lilacs! I’ll have to throw them on a salad before they all turn brown. Oooh, I could make some stunning salads this time of year.

      That’s so interesting what you say about your anemia. Having learned what I have about the way that the body works to absorb nutrients, supplements just don’t make much sense (except for cod liver oil, I do take that sometimes). They are actually somewhat harmful. I love that you have personal experience with food being more healing! I’ve heard that regularly cooking with a cast iron pan can help with anemia too. Have you tried that?

      Reply
      1. brigittefires

        I used to use cast iron almost exclusively, and after I stopped bleeding it out every month the cast iron pans and my average diet was enough to keep me from being anemic. But since I moved out here and haven’t been using cast iron, I can definitely see the difference in the last month or so. Energy levels, irritability, and deep gross bruising. Had the clinic do a blood test last time I was in for suspected strep, and they said I was borderline anemic for the standard measurement, which is solidly anemic for women in general, and seems to be a serious problem level for me. They of course handed me a list of foods that are high in iron and told me to eat properly.

        Reply
  6. impeccablyme

    Hi there! Our mutual friend said that she thought you and I would get along, and I think she’s right! 🙂

    Do you mind if I add you as a friend?

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      I don’t mind at all. 🙂 I’ll add you back.

      Reply
  7. pearlstreetdiva

    oh yea kale chips are a favorite over here!! i want to eat these local edibles too but part of me sorta cringes. its surprising but i just wonder what crap has gotten all over them…i know i can wash them. anyways its fun and we did eat some dandelion greens a few weeks ago. im very interested in the violets too. thanks for all the researched info on them i wouldn’t have known otherwise!

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      Oh yeah, there’s that pesky pollution problem… I see it as somewhat unavoidable and am just glad to get good food for free. At least I haven’t sprayed them with anything! Plus, I figure dandelion greens, etc. are a safe bet (at least in terms of herbicides/pesticides) because people that care about their grass and stuff would have gotten rid of them. 😉

      Reply
  8. malimizu

    I wish you taught courses on cooking/food/health. I would gladly pay for something like that. You just have so much wonderful information! Let me know if you ever do and I’ll fly out to Michigan for it 😀 Haha

    Reply
    1. Gracie (Post author)

      How sweet of you to say! I don’t think I’m qualified… I do a lot of googling and experimenting- I’m by no means an expert. 🙂 Anyway, it’s really awesome to hear that people are liking this stuff and finding it interesting- I know I love it!

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *