Monday, October 17, 2011

Edible Weeds from Your Lawn to the Table

The very weeds that sprout in your lawn, like dandelions and chicory, were purposely brought to the United States by our immigrant forefathers as edible plants. Italians, along with the Greek and Spanish, are one of the few western cultures that continue to forage for wild food to this day. 

Any culture which has had to face hunger and famine, took to explore the "wild" for edible plants. The Italians, in particular, have a history of foraging that goes back to Roman and, even, Celtic origins.

Edible weeds are high in nutrients and minerals (like iron, and vitamins). Unlike cultivated herbs that you would grow in your garden or buy at the store, they don't need pesticides or artificial chemicals to grow. They just find a place they like nestled between coastal rocks, protected in a forest, ect., and grow!

Learning from an Expert
For details and recipes, consult a cookbook designed to cook edible weeds from untouched and uncontaminated nature. Many people have learned and taught others how to live off herbs, love them, and heal with them. There are many books written on the subject of edible and curative herbs, and I suggest that you check your library for field guides.

Your Weeds
You can collect edible weeds, but keep this in mind: 
  • Never eat part of any plant unless you have positively identified the plant and know that it is edible.
  • Before collecting dandelions or other edible plants from your lawn or park, find out if they were treated with herbicides. If so, plants themselves will have absorbed some of the poison and they will be unsafe to eat.
  • If you see decaying pet waste near the plants, avoid collecting from that area. Dangerous bacteria grow on these decaying wastes.
  • When harvesting edible plants, do not take them all. Leaving some untouched will help ensure that there will be another crop of wild foods in the future.
The beginner should collect foraging books, or attend courses, so they can learn to recognize the most common edible weeds. If you're not absolutely sure that you have the right flower or plant, it's best to pass it up. There are few poisonous herbs, but like mushrooms, it's better to be careful.

There was a time when it was really easy to find wild plants and flowers, especially for therapeutic uses. Now many of these weeds grow in the wild with difficulty, due to the poisons used in the environment or they have become endangered.

Cooking with Weeds
Experiment with traditional recipes that call for edible weeds. You may be delightfully surprised and actually like them.

Dandelion Picking with Clara

(YouTube link)

Recipes with Dandelion
Clara's Dandelion Salad
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

After preparing dandelion rosettes by cleaning and allowing to soak an hour in water, dry the leaves. Cover leaves with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Stir or mix with your hands.

Note: They are approximate amounts, since she didn't say how much. (A little bit of this, a little bit of that!)

Boiled Egg Salad with Dandelion
4 boiled eggs              
14 oz of tender dandelion rosettes
1 onion, chopped into rings
1 handful of chopped wild mint
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Cut the boiled eggs into coins, and place them in a salad bowl with the dandelion leaves and chopped onion rings. Add the mint and dress with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Final Note
Please be aware that some countries have foraging laws. Within the U.S., most county, state, and federal lands cannot be used for foraging.

I recommend that you look inside the book before purchasing it. The feature is part of the listing.

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