Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Foraging Adventures Part 2:

Weed Salad!

The earliest greens to arrive in spring are, incidentally, weeds that grow in our garden, yard and field. The most ubiquitous of these edibles is probably the dandelion. The one pictured is growing in my garden. I left it there on purpose last year, and now I have been rewarded with a source of very early salad and cooking greens. They are a little tougher than cultivated plants, but if you pick them before the hot weather, they are quite tasty and loaded with vitamins and minerals. This is probably due to the deep taproot that mines the soil for nutrients. This root can be harvested as well, and roasted to make a coffee substitute. I've never tried this, but the Prodigal Gardens site tells how. The buds and flowers are also delicious, though once the flowers are open, the green parts have to be removed.

Field garlic is another well known weed. I remember picking the pungent stems as a kid- I think we called it onion grass or something. All the wild alliums are edible, and their distinguishing feature is that strong, garlicky, oniony odor. There are some poisonous look- alikes in the lily family, but none of them smell like onions. So sniff before you eat. The bulbs and leaves are both edible. They are great in spaghetti sauce and the stems can be finely chopped into a salad like chives.

I know wood sorrel very well, because I have been pulling it out of my garden for years. They have three, heart shaped leaflets, resembling a shamrock, as they are sometimes called. The heart shape distinguishes it from clover, which it is often confused with. Later in the spring and summer, yellow flowers bloom, then form pods that later explode when the seeds are mature. Which explains why I have so much in my garden. The leaves and flowers are edible, and have a lovely, lemony tang. They are high in vitamin C, but they also contain oxalic acid, like spinach, which inhibits iron absorption, so it should be used in moderation. But I think it's tart taste renders it more a salad seasoning than a main ingredient.

Always be sure of any wild plant you use for food. Check several sources. You can look up varieties on Google image and also check out books from the library. I will try and add some links to our collection on the right side. Also, don't gather on roadsides, pesticide sprayed lawns, or any other polluted areas, but often you need look no further than your own backyard.

The three examples I chose are pretty easy to identify, as they are common and well known. We enjoyed all three in our salad last night!


hewhocutsdown said...

Just swung over here from Jesus Manifesto..thanks for the resource!

Melanie said...

Nothing tastes better than "Free" Fresh, Food!

Sara said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Hannah said...

Oooh, I am impressed about the dandelion greens. Dh has said we should harvest the dandelion greens in our yard (there are certainly enough), but I've never wanted to take on the task, particularly the getting-them-clean part!