Skip to comments.Edible weeds
Posted on 02/14/2009 10:03:07 AM PST by djf
I have decided to start a thread focusing on edible weeds. Many of the common plants we see everyday are edible, and while most are not hugely palatable or nutritious, a few are truly very good.
If you would like to post a recipe, please post recipes related to these plants only.
As always, an extreme amount of caution is advised. It's probably true that 90 percent or so of plants are actually edible, there is a small percentage that if you eat them, you WON'T have to worry about eating again!
Oleander comes to mind, it would take less than two leaves to kill an average person.
So be careful.
The classic book on edible wild plants is Euell Gibbon’s “Stalking the Wild Asparagus”.
Some of you may remember the commercial he did for Post Grape Nuts back in the 70’s: “Ever eat a pine cone? Some parts are edible.”
Several years ago an older couple two houses up from us invited us to join 'em with other friends for New Years Eve....we noticed the fireplace was stoked up with his oleander trimmings.
We didn't stay long.....the older couple stopped getting older a few years afterwards (unrelated, I hope....we don't generally use fireplaces here in the desert).
“James Dickey says in his poem “Kudzu” -
That you must close your windows
At night to keep it out of the house. “
Generic Dr Pepper!
One of my cousins used to barbeque a goat for the family reunion each year. Thankfully, it was a pot luck event, so I never ate the goat. lol.
However, if times get really hard it’s good to know that we have our means of survival at hand.
That’s ok. I like spinach. Ha.
This is a topic I could write about at some length. There are a tremendous number of edible wild plants. Fifteen years ago when I was out of work and going through a divorce, I had about $10 left every month for groceries, so I supplanted my menu with pond fish and wild plants.
There is a big difference between ‘edible’ and ‘nutritious’. Things like dandelions and purslane are fine salad greens, vitamin rich, but have few calories. Some of my favorites are:
One of the best greens is lambsquarters, which is tasty, and does not get tough in hot summer weather like most other greens do. The seeds are nutrient rich as well.
Dandelion flowers should be considered a food source, as well. The pollen-rich flowers have more nutrients and calories than the leaves. You can use them in stir-fries, or as a generic vegetable filler in breads, meat-loafs, etc.
Sassafras leaves can be dried and powdered, and used as a thickening agent in stews.
Acorns are very nutritious, full of fat, carbs and protein. They also have a lot of tannic acid, so they must be crushed and soaked for some days before consumption. Ground, they can be mixed with flour in breads and biscuits.
Walnuts and hickory nuts. A bit labor intensive to open, but very calorie-rich.
Cat-tails are tremendously useful. The tuberous roots are starchy, and the catkin pollen is a good flour substitute.
Blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, raspberries, serviceberries, strawberries, sumac berries, elderberries, rose hips, ground cherries. ‘Nuff said. Not every wild berry is edible, some are poisonous, make a positive ID before you eat.
The inner bark on some trees is edible. Hickory, poplar, birch, and white pine are a couple. In winter, this may be the only food source you can find.
Any grass seed is edible. Foxtail grows anywhere. It’s very high fiber, but can provide starches.
Day Lily roots - related to the onion. Not every lily root is edible, wait until the bloom to make a positive ID.
Wild asparagus - a good springtime veg.
THe problem with wild plants as a food source is that they are pretty calorie-poor They are a good vitamin source, but hard to get enough calories from them. They can supplement salads, stir-fries and stews, but you really need a primary calorie source.
In an survival situation, look for unconventional sources. Pumpkins are something often overlooked. On November 1st, you can get all you want for free. The pumpkin meat is very nutritious, and the seeds rich in fat and protein. You can thin-slice the flesh and dry it to preserve it.
Plain old corn is great. If you live near a corn field you can forage a quick meal in an emergency (I do not advocate theft!) THe young ears can be eaten whole when the kernals are just forming. The stalks are full of sugar-rich sap. Dried field corn can be roasted in oil, where it pops somewhat like popcorn. Salted, it is a great snack. You can make hominy from corn by boiiling it with wood-ashes. THis loosens the hull, and converts the amino acids to make it more nutritious.
There is also a lot of wild game, although hunting in an urban or suburban environment is not always appreciated!
Read up on the American Indians. They were better nourished than the Europeans of the day, and they really knew what they were doing.
Huckleberries grow in the South. My grandmother and I use to go huckleberry pickin’, and blackberry pickin’. Yum.
My daddy loved eating it just as you describe. My m-i-l cooked it for years until she turned cooking duties over to the young’uns. She is in her late eighties.
I’ve enjoyed cattail often.
Best time to harvest the edible tips is when the upper half (pollen stick) is about exposed from the green sheath in the spring and the lower half is still wrapped in the sheath. Harvest both if you are hungry or the supply of cattails is sparse, harvest only the pollen top if you are picky. Use snippers.
Boil them in lightly salted water for 4 or so minutes until tender, like Asparagus in a large frying pan. They will be soft, almost to where the pollen fibers fall off. Drain and serve.
Add a little butter, maybe sprinkle on spices, and enjoy while they are hot on the stick. The flavor is really nice, on par with good corn on the cob but richer. You can get an appetite for it, and every spring it becomes a craving. The pollen tips are easier to eat, you get more good food for less picking, while the lower parts are a little different flavor, more like spinach than corn. Still very good.
The trick is to catch them on the day the tops are out but the bottom parts are still in the sheath. LIke strawberries or Zuccini, you have to pick them on the day they are ready. It calls for watching the patch you want to pick.
I didn’t know that is how hominy is made - neat!
Meanwhile, this kudzu site is so funny, I was in tears -
Something also to consider is to keep in mind location of old abandoned farmhouses. Many of these will have perennials like roses, asparagus, rhubarb, blackberries, chives, still growing in long-forgotten garden beds.
Great post. I knew much of the info, but it was good to be reminded of that and good to learn the other.
Thanks! I know where there is quite a large group near here in uncontaminated water, and I was planning on trying them this spring.
Never heard them be called cow parnips. Wild parsnip, yes.
The juice does cause blisters which later leave scars and take months to disappear.
The trick to picking parsnips is to do it at sunset or sunrise. Never in full sun or in high humidity. Sweat activates the blistering also.
I found the best and easiest time to pick them is during or right after a rainstorm while wearing gloves. Never had a case of blisters using this method. The scent that wild parnips emit is delightfully refreshing. This is the only part I enjoy about wild parsnips.
I guess I have been taught that for so long, I just do it now without thinking. One time I didn’t do it but once and I had a bad case of the loosey gooseys. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but it made me real particular about it.
Could have been the area we were in though, like some DDT or something sprayed a few decades back. No idea.
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