Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wild Foraging in April

I just did my third Edible Weeds class with Melany Vorass through Sustainable Burien. There are still lots of greens to be foraged, though as many of them start to flower the leaves become a bit less palatable. While April is too early for berries around here, there were a surprising amount of edible plants that we found on our short walk at this urban park. Some of my photos didn't turn out so great, so please use this information in combination with Google or Wikipedia to find out how to more thoroughly identify these plants. Pfaf.org is another website where you can obtain info on plant edibility. Also, check out my previous post on edible foraging in February.

wild foraging edible weeds
Melany demonstrates how to remove the "hula skirts" from horsetail stems. This papery layer must be removed from the stalks before they are safe to eat. Younger plants, before they branch out, contain less silica and are safer.
horsetail edible weeds
A stalk of horsetail with a few "skirts" removed.

horsetail edible weeds
Horsetail (Equisetum) also called "scourbrush", can be used to scrub dishes as well as burnish wood and polish metal. These plants are just a bit too mature to eat. The leaves around it are salmonberry, which can be eaten like spinach.


salmonberry wild foraging
Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) flowers, leaves, and berries are all delicious.

dandelion edible weeds
Dandelions (Taraxacum) are edible in their entirety. The midrib of the leaves is a bit bitter and can be easily removed. Use the leaves in salads or smoothies, toss the flowers in salads or fritters, or make a batch of dandelion wine! The roots can be roasted and brewed like coffee.

bedstraw edible weeds
Bedstraw (Galium) is a bit bristly, but somehow succulent and tender at the same time. My kids call it "cat tongue" because of its scratchy surface, and they eat it straight out of the garden. I've used it in salads and smoothies. When it matures, you will find horrible bristly seeds stuck to your pants, socks, shoelaces, and to your cat.

shotweed edible weeds
This is shotweed (Cardamine hirsuta). This is not a great photo of it, but most people would recognize it as the weed that shoots its seeds everywhere when you barely brush it with your hand. The leaves taste like watercress, but they diminish in size as the plant flowers and diverts its energy to making seeds.

maple leaves wild foraging
The young leaves of a maple tree (Acer) are such a treat! Just pick and eat, they are so good. Also, I recently read that any type of maple can be tapped for syrup.

buttercup poisonous plants
Poisonous: Buttercup (Ranunculus)... nothing about this plant is edible. I am in the process of removing it from the shady parts of my yard, where it has been taking over.

catsear edible weeds
Catsear (Hypochaeris radicata) flowers are similar to dandelion, but the stalk is solid, while the dandelion flower has a hollow stem, and of course the leaves are covered in fuzz, while dandelions have smooth leaves. They are also slower to to to seed than a dandelion.

nipplewort edible weeds
Nipplewort (Lapsana) has edible leaves. The leaves change shape dramatically as the plant forms its flower, going from this rounded heart shape to pointed spear shaped leaves on the flower stalk.

sow thistle edible weeds
Sow thistle (Sonchus) is a bit rough around the edges, but no real thorns. It has thick succulent, edible leaves.

sow thistle edible weeds
Full frontal shot of sow thistle. You can see some nearly mature shotweed seeds on the left, and some glossy beach strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) leaves on the lower right.

rosehips wild foraging
April is a bit late for harvesting rosehips (Rosa)... and this is a pretty lousy picture of them ;) Collect anytime after the first frost, and store in freezer for later use. Remove seeds through a strainer before using the fruit. Rosehips are super high in vitamin C.

clover edible weeds
Pink and white clovers (Trifolium) are edible, both the flowers and leaves, raw or cooked.

fireweed edible weeds
Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) makes a delicious, tender salad green.

dock edible weeds
Dock (Rumex crispus) leaves, and their seeds later in summer, are edible. The seeds can be used in baking to replace up to 1/4 of whatever grains you're using. The have a husk which is a bit tough and impossible to remove, but it incorporates fine into bread or crackers. New leaves, still tightly curled inside a sheath, can be used like asparagus after removing their sheath. My rabbits devour this nutritious plant.

common groundsel poisonous plants
Don't eat this plant. Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) is reported to be both toxic and medicinal.

nettles wild foraging edible weeds
And of course, our favorite this year, stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). We've been living off these lovely leaves for months, in our green smoothies, and in the winter we enjoy them in an infusion. They are delicious and tender, once you get past that pesky sting (click here for my smoothie recipe and here for the nettle tea).

I'm linking an Amazon ad below to Melany's book on eating weeds. If you use my ad link to make a purchase, it benefits our family as well as the author. Thanks in advance!


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42 comments

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Anonymous
April 26, 2012 at 4:42 PM

Can you eat catsear like dandelions? My garden has been full of shotweed ghis spring. It's interesting how the weeds rotate-- one year is all purple dead-nettle, the next, shotweed-- but the buttercup never goes away. I love my nettle soup this time of year.

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Anonymous
April 26, 2012 at 4:46 PM

That was me, btw-- Melissa K.

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April 26, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Hey Melissa, try raw catsear in salads, or sauteed with butter & garlic. I use pretty much any greens in my green smoothies as well.

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Rebecca Dare
April 26, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Thanks for this great blog piece. I love the pictures and links.

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April 26, 2012 at 10:01 PM

Great description of our foraging that day, and much more descriptive than my write-up, complete with latin names!

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April 26, 2012 at 10:02 PM

Ooh, where can I find yours? I'd love to read it.

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May 2, 2012 at 5:36 PM

Very informative! Thank you for sharing your experience. I'd love to have a class like this in my area!

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May 3, 2012 at 4:32 AM

This class looks great...I'm having nettle soup for lunch made with foraged nettles from the woods at the end of the garden. I don't so much mind the tingling...then I'm sure that I've collected the right leaves and not something poisenous!!
Deb

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May 4, 2012 at 4:20 AM

Wow, what an informative post. We have been foraging in our yard for dandelions this spring for the first time. I love it!

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May 4, 2012 at 9:00 AM

The stinging doesn't really bother me, either, but I think it's worse when you get a large area of sensitive skin. It just feels tingly on my hands. Maybe we're less sensitive to it than some people? Yum, I wish I had nettles in the woods at the edge of my garden, instead of just neighbors' houses ;)

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May 5, 2012 at 11:09 PM

Thanks for all this information in one post! I've shared it on my facebook page. I had no idea that salmonberries, flower, and leaves were edible, and I have never thought about eating clover. Who needs lettuce when you can forage for greens in your own neighbourhood!

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May 6, 2012 at 7:50 AM

I know! We've stopped buying greens these days, with so much we can just go out and harvest.

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May 8, 2012 at 7:19 AM

This is a great post. I wish I could find a class like that here! I sure never would have thought of eating what we call "sticky weed"!

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May 8, 2012 at 7:19 AM

Terrific post! Thanks for sharing so much good information along with pictures to identify each plant.

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May 8, 2012 at 8:15 AM

Thanks you guys! Yes, it is a great class and I feel lucky to have such a generous & knowledgeable teacher.

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May 8, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Gret information! Looks like you had a great time.

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May 9, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

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May 17, 2012 at 10:33 AM

I loved this. Thanks for linking to Your Green Resource. I featured it and pinned it.

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June 19, 2012 at 8:52 AM

What a great resource of information. I know my readers will be so happy to have found this. Thanks for sharing it with us at Whole Food Wednesdays. http://www.beyondthepeel.net/2012/06/mostimportanttoremember.html

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July 26, 2012 at 9:41 AM

How fun to take a class like that. You learned a lot!

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July 26, 2012 at 11:26 AM

I'll have to try some Dandelions.

http://theapels.blogspot.com/2012/07/digging-potatoes.html

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July 27, 2012 at 4:46 AM

Oh this is so interesting, but I wouldn't be brave enough to eat these as I'm allergic to so many things. Thank you for sharing!

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August 9, 2012 at 12:15 PM

What an informative post...........Thanks for linking it up @ CountryMommaCooks link and greet party.....hope to see you again tomorrow : )

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Jen
August 31, 2012 at 6:45 AM

Someone at my co-op was just telling me about a foraging class in our area. I am going to look this up because I definitely don't trust myself to figure this stuff out on my own. :) Great post. I think I saw this before but sometimes I think I need a reminder. :)

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August 31, 2012 at 7:53 AM

I took a couple of foraging classes before I felt comfortable, and confident, foraging for more than berries. But over time, learning this stuff has totally transformed the way we eat! Good luck!

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September 17, 2012 at 12:59 AM

What an interesting post! I have never been foraging, but I know that more and more people are enjoying it!

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September 24, 2012 at 5:21 AM

Very cool to learn about this!! I tweeted and pinned this post!!

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October 11, 2012 at 9:22 PM

What a great post! I shared on my facebook page.

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February 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM

I'm so interested in foraging, but nervous about plant identification. While people have been foraging for a long time, region specific information can be difficult to find. Thanks for posting this - I do see a lot of overlap between our plants.

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February 11, 2013 at 6:25 AM

There are some great books that will have region-specific plant information. Check your library to see what foraging or plant id books they have; there are new ones coming out all the time, and some are really helpful!

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March 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM

I'm so glad you've been sharing these posts on foraging, you've actually inspired me to take a class on foraging at my local co-op :) I've pinned this on the Waste Not Want Not Wednesday board, too.

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March 10, 2013 at 12:59 PM

That's so great! Thanks for letting me know. Early spring is a great time to get into wild foraging.

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April 18, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this at my Pin Me Party!

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April 20, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Great photos. Thanks for sharing at Wildcrafting Wed.
Jennifer

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April 24, 2013 at 6:12 AM

Congrats on your feature on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Great info! I'm sharing this :)

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May 3, 2013 at 8:53 AM

Lots of very good information here. I actually think your pictures are great! It is so important to learn what is safe to eat and what is not. I agree, especially if you have children or grandchildren, that poisonous plants shouldn't be allowed to grow near a possible harvesting area on your own property. Of course, out in the wild that's another story! Around here there is a lot of wild mustard growing in the orchards and I see a lot of people harvesting it. Perhaps I should try harvesting these edible plants also! Thanks for sharing!

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May 21, 2013 at 8:04 PM

I love nettle tea! Had my first cup last year! So much great info here...I will be back!
Linda
mysewwhatblog

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June 3, 2013 at 5:51 PM

This is fascinating. I'd love to learn more about this, and maybe find some benefit to the weeds in my backyard.

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June 14, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Hope you have a wonderful week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen

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June 19, 2013 at 8:03 AM

Such wonderful photos, pretty and informative! It looks like your class was great.
Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday!

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