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Old 04-09-2010, 04:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Foraging for springtime edible wild plants

As you may or may not know, there are plenty of edible wild plants few take advantage of, so I wanted to take some time to educate interested parties. Right around now is when to look out for a smorgasbord of edible wild greens. This year I decided to try a plant referred to as Winter cress or "Creecy Greens". It is similar to broccoli in flavor with a hint of the hot and/or bitter flavor found in arugula or radish. (It's no wonder because it, along with all mustards like it belong to the same Brassicaceae family that broccoli, radish, cabbage, and bok choy belong to.)
Here's what it looks like:

Notice the Broccoli-like floret:

These plants should be harvested for consumption or preservation by freezing not long after the formation of the florets. Before too long, the stalks get long and woody - no longer tender and delicious.
Here is some Garlic Mustard. It has a similar flavor, but when cooked alone does not have the "al dente" texture the winter cress does, but then again Garlic Mustard is everywhere and more free greens can't hurt.

This is trout lily. A nice little yellow flower will eventually grow alongside of this leaf. The leaves are a nice (free) addition to salads.

This is a japanese knotweed sprout. The sprouts of this highly invasive, difficult to kill species can be used like rhubarb - adds a nice sour compliment to various recipes, and is actually very nutritious.

These are wild onions, wild leeks, or "ramps". They are a lot like chives (or "onion grass"), sometimes with a small added "hot" flavor.

Here's my bounty for the day - a mix of winter cress and garlic mustard.

To prepare, make sure to wash it well in a large vessel of water. These just push up through the soil, and carry a bunch of it on the leaves.

A salad spinner is a handy tool for this job:

Make sure to prepare quite a bit, because they cook down a great deal. I started off with a few cloves or garlic and enough olive oil to liberally cover the bottom of the pan. Use more if cooking with a wok.

Just as the garlic starts smelling real good, stuff as much of it as you can into your cooking vessel and cover. Wait a bit for it to cook down, and add some more. Add a little water or cooking wine to it at this point and cover to create a steaming effect within the pan.

When everything in the pan is bright green, I chose to add a bit of salt, but you could choose to be done, or add some soy sauce.

I had some leftover quinoa so I put it on that and ate it. Using it on rice, pasta, as a side dish, with some some bread, or as a pizza topping works too.


Here's a huge list of edible wild plant recipes to dig into if you're interested. Happy experimenting, and don't eat poison ivy or things that don't taste good to you. Some of these things are not for the faint of pallet. With my recent love affair with locally brewed IPAs, adding bitter food as well is all the more delightful. Going to try to brew some IPA with my own hops this summer...more on that later!

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Old 04-09-2010, 07:23 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I just wanted to give sorel a mention here thanks.
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Old 04-09-2010, 08:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Got any recipes for tumbleweed?
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Old 04-09-2010, 09:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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in maine there is a stuff called fiddleheads. It nearly killed me, but alot of people can eat it. (It changed my bowels to the point of not processing normal food correctly for a long time after- I would rather drink hydrochloric acid.)

the mention of poison ivy is a bizarre coincidence. I awoke with an itchy belly button, a strange feeling in my gut. I looked over at my inner arms... an exact bumpy run of poison ivy looking stuff. I have no clue where I got it. On another thread here, I spoke of a neighbors roof staying green in february...one of all time records broken for warm winter, no snow. I could only put two and two together..

I'd go for greens in a controlled environment, the northeast is thrashed this year, hard telling what will be good.
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Old 04-09-2010, 09:48 PM   #5 (permalink)
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UP here in wisconsin and likely michigan there are basically just your wintergreen (which you guessed it is also around in the winter)
Your cowslips (which aren't really cowslips, need them before the yellow flower) and must be boiled then have the water changed and reboiled 3 times (my grandfather fed his family off the land in the U.P.)

The last are leaks (speelled wronish) which are easy to find.

I also know morrels pop up as well did asparagus, sadly our country crews hate aspargus and kill it with their unnecessary crap.
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Old 04-10-2010, 02:39 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I started eating Stinging Nettle because my new friends made a tradition of eating the 1st green thing to come up. The previous year, I hadn't been able to walk through the tall grass behind my shop without using a respirator and then washing up to avoid major hay fever. With the Nettles, I had no symptoms at all, and there sure wasn't a placebo effect, either. I found that it always took 5-7 days for the Nettles to work, but ended up just needing 3 or 4 cups of tea per week. I'd use a dozen or so half-grown top leaves, simmered for ten minutes. They can also be just thrown in with a stir-fry or other vegetable matter.
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Old 04-10-2010, 07:24 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I've been adding wild garlic to my salads. It grows in lawns and pastures (except where my sheep have access to it, they clean it out), but I have been encouraging it to grow in my garden, where it gets much larger than do the wild-grown lawn specimens. The best thing about eating wild garlic is that it repels ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers. The ticks will crawl all over me without attaching, mosquitoes will land/take off,land/take off without ever biting, and I can work in chigger infested areas with only the rare chigger bite.
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Old 04-10-2010, 01:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Don't forget your dandilion greens, either.
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Old 04-11-2010, 12:19 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Of course there are many others well worth mentioning including our old dandelion friend. I wish people would spend less to no time trying to eradicate dandelions - I think they are beautiful. I just posted this and expanded upon it a bit because I hadn't tried or heard of winter cress before. I was excited about trying it and thought "Well, while I'm at it why not take photos of a few more recognizable plants during the hunt, and the whole process." That link in my first post has a nearly exhaustive list of stuff you can find while wandering about. I've never tried fiddleheads before, nor wild morel mushrooms, so I plan on doing so and may post pictures of that too if people could benefit from such a pictorial.

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The best thing about eating wild garlic is that it repels ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers.
That's brilliant! Are you talking about "ramps" wild garlic or chives? They don't seem to like a human with a stinky onion-y flavor eh? I would gladly exchange an aura of onion stench for immunity from ticks, mosquitos, et al.
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Old 04-11-2010, 01:38 PM   #10 (permalink)
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When I lived in Colorado and Utah, I used to pick up to 65 lbs of wild Asparagus each Spring. It grew along roadside irrigation ditches, and riverbanks.

Here in California, two of the first flowering plants are wild mustard and wild radish. I don't like radishes, and it seems like too much work to crush mustard seeds to make mustard. I think I will try it one day, just to say I tried it. One spring edible I've tried is wild artichoke. It tastes good enough, but the thorns are awful, and the rewards are small. Thank goodness the commercial varieties have their thorns inbred into little incurved nubs.

Every Spring, someone locally gets severely poisoned by cooking up Ammonita (deathcap) mushrooms. I don't like mushrooms, but if I did, that's one I'd be very wary of.

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