Eating Wild; you might be surprised...
what's edible in your own garden. Do you try to eradicate those dandelions? Do you have wild greens in your garden?
» CAUTION! If you have any health problems or conditions, consult your physician before eating any wild food. For example, dandelion is a diuretic similar to the drug Frusemide. If you are taking a prescription diuretic, consuming dandelion could be dangerous!
There are some foods that are commonly found growing wild in many gardens. Of course, they should be well cleaned and you should avoid spraying them. Here is a short list
- Dandelion; young leaves and flowers/buds before opening, leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, buds can be sautéed in butter or olive oil with a pinch of salt
- Stinging nettle; leaves before flowering (this is the nettle that causes a rash if it touches your skin - special handling is needed - see below*)
- Arugula; a wild bitter green, leaves and flowers are edible, leaves can be raw or cooked, flowers eaten raw as garnish in salads or on sandwiches
- Nasturtium; leaves and flowers, use leaves raw in cheese spreads, salads, as a base for appetizer trays, flowers are wonderful in salads or with desserts
- Borage; a beautiful herb with edible leaves and flowers which taste like cucumber, young leaves in salads or beverages, cooked as spinach, flowers in salads or dessert garnish
- Wild plums; tiny with little flesh but delicious made into jam
- Blackberries; pesky, thorny vining plants with wonderful fruit for eating fresh, baking, making jam, etc. Check out our recipe for wild blackberry cobbler. Be sure to pick only from unsprayed berry vines.
*A note about stinging nettle. Stinging nettle leaves and stems have tiny little hairs with formic acid on them. If they touch your skin you will get at the least a small rash which goes away fairly quickly. At worst, you could have a more severe allergic reaction. To harvest stinging nettle you need to wear heavy gloves as if you were pruning roses. Cover your arms by wearing something with heavy sleeves while cutting the stems. Still wearing gloves, pick the leaves off the stems and rinse with cool water either in a salad spinner or sink. Boil a large pot of water with a bit of salt and blanch the leaves just for about 1-2 minutes. At this point they can be handled as spinach or other cooked greens. You can just harvest the very tips of the branches with tender stems which eliminates having to pick off the leaves.
The above list is simply a few of the more delicious wild foods. Here are links to articles about the foods listed above and to recipes using them. It's a good idea to read about the food prior to deciding if you would care to try it.
Stinging Nettle info.
June 2, 2012: Stinging Nettle take a little care when harvesting, but are well worth the efforts. I suggest both freezing and drying at this time of year. Wear gloves and long sleeves to pick because the stalks and leaves are covered with very tiny hairs that have formic acid. When touched to bare skin, they produce a stinging sensation and often red, irritated skin. The formic acid dissipates as soon as the leaves are cooked or dried. *The stems can retain some of the sting after drying, so discard them.
To freeze stinging nettle, harvest the tops of the stalks and remove the leaves with scissors. Discard stalks and blanch the leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking. Press out water and store in freezer containers to use in any recipe as you would frozen spinach.
Alternatively, you can dry stinging nettle to use for a delicious tea which is a wonderful source of strength and support for the whole body. To dry, harvest as above and prepare as above, then lay them out on a tablecloth in a single layer. Allow to dry in a dry, dark room at moderate temperature. When dry the formic acid doesn't affect the skin so you can handle them easily. Separate the leaves and store in glass in a dark cupboard. Use 1 tbl coarsly crushed leaves per 1 cup of boiling water and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
Wild Plum info.
Wild Blackberry info.
Stinging Nettle recipes
Wild Plum recipe
Wild Blackberry recipe