There you are—craving a fresh salad but you don’t want to drive to the grocery store, and the only thing in your refrigerator even resembling a green vegetable is a slice of molding bread.
What can you do?
Break out the pioneer spirit and head to the backyard. Look around the edges of your property for spots that have escaped the vicious blades of the lawnmower. No matter where you live—and especially if it’s springtime—chances are you can find the salad you crave right there. And it will be fresher, tastier and probably safer to eat than anything the grocer has to offer.
You may call them “weeds,” but those who are in the know think otherwise. For the savvy grazer, those pesky and tenacious plants can be a welcome addition to the supper table. You will be amazed at the food sources you’ve been overlooking. Even nettles and daisies are edible.
Are you worried about eating something poisonous?
With the application of a little intelligent discretion, you aren’t going to require a trip to the emergency room. Sure, you need to be cautious. Some of the things growing in the wild will make you wish you hadn’t eaten them. Come to think of it, though, I felt like that after my last trip to a restaurant.
There is no need for me to describe what the good, tasty, safe-to-eat plants look like. This is the information age. Just type the name of these wild growing things into a search engine query box. Then take a close look at the photos that pop up.
These are just a few of the possibilities. Do they look familiar? I’ll bet they do. You’ve been stepping on them, digging them up, mowing them down and generally mistreating those treasures for years.
Stop doing that!
Grab a bowl, a paring knife and head out back on a grand adventure. And once you have mastered the skill in your own backyard, you will begin seeing those delectable plants everywhere you go—even in the midst of the city.
Rules for staying alive and eating well
- Read the descriptions you find on the Internet carefully. Better yet, buy a wild edible plants book that focuses on your region. If there are potentially harmful look-alike plants, a good book or proper website will alert you. Make sure to correctly identify anything you plan to eat. Don’t be afraid, but do be cautious.
- Generally speaking, the younger the plant is, the tastier it will be. Neophyte grazers sometimes choose the mature leaves instead of the new sprouts and end up with a bitter taste that puts a quick end to their nature-loving desires. Read the descriptions well and choose the best tasting portions of the plant. Sometimes, the best part isn’t the leaves at all, but the roots. Give yourself a chance to adjust to the pleasures of cutting the middleman out of your dining experiences. Pretty soon you’ll be heading out back, instead of to the market, and letting portions of your lawn grow wild.
- You don’t get to see the pesticides that get sprayed on commercial foods (but it would probably wake you up, if you did). And you may not use pesticides or herbicides on your own lawn—good for you, if that is the case. You could be getting chemical drift from your neighbor’s lawn care practices, though, not to mention potential crop watering from neighborhood dogs. The plants you gather may be wild and free—but wash them thoroughly before eating. Mix your own food-washing detergent to help remove any spray residue.
If you need another reason to study up on wild edible plants, consider this: Knowing how to eat off the land could save your life in a survival situation. Should you become stranded in the mountains or perhaps find yourself the victim of a hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster that forces the grocery stores to sell out and close up, most people will be in big trouble—but you’ll be fine. You could even become a lifesaver by showing others how to live off the land. Stranger things have happened, you know.
Do you need yet another reason to go natural? Which do you think would be more valuable to your children—they play video games while you wade through your email inbox… or taking them outside for a family lesson on identifying wild edible plants?
Enough said. Go forth and forage.
Lane Goodberry concentrates on health and wellness issues. Find Lane somewhere in the mountains writing in a journal.