Sunday, May 23, 2010

Edible Urban Wild Plants

All around you are urban wild plants that you can eat. Some of these are more nutritious than the produce in the grocery store!

Dandelions: little, young leaves are good in salads, older leaves you'd probably want to boil because they get bitter. The petals of the flowers can make dandelion wine. Basically you make a tea out of the petals (best to cut off the white part at the bottom, it's bitter), then you add sugar, and then yeast (when it's cooled down), and it turns into wine. Also you can dry the roots out and make tea from them, the same way chicory root is used to extend coffee.

Chicory: Use the dried root to extend coffee (or substitute for it). This is that tall plant that the leaves look a little like a dandelion with branches, but it has blue daisy-like flowers.

Violets: the flowers can be candied (boil in sugar water, then spread out to dry). The leaves have a TON of Vitamin A, but you don't want to eat a whole lot of them, for the same reason.

Purslane: this is the sidewalk-crack-growing stuff that looks like a scrappy jade tree with red stems. This stuff is GREAT raw, in salads. Foodies like a version that has bigger leaves, but why pay for something that's just growing wild?

Lamb's Quarter: this plant grows in poor soil or sidewalk cracks. It has a spinach-leaf shaped leaf, but only about 1.5 to 2 inches long. The underside of the leaves is silver. It's in the spinach family and is more nutritious than spinach. If you let it, the plant will get taller than you.

Poke: this is the tall bushy weed with big leaves and the column of black, blueberry-sized berries on a red stem. If you know where a poke plant grows, you can get its leaves when they're young, i.e. before it makes those berries. The leaves are good boiled.

Mulberry Trees: The berries make a good pie. Soak them in salt water to get the bugs out, then rinse them off before making the pie. There is a white mulberry as well as a black one. The white ones look funny but taste like the black ones.

Day Lilies: The flowers are edible. Don't get mixed up with irises! Irises are poisonous.

Cat Tails: the roots and the young catkins are edible.

Wood Sorrel: This is that shamrock-looking plant with the yellow flowers that grows in poor soil. The leaves are sour. You can make a cream soup with this, or just add some to a salad for zing.

Paw Paw: This tree grows in the woods. It is skinnier and shorter than the big trees. The fruit of a paw paw looks like a green and brown, lumpy mini potato and has big black seeds in it. It tastes a little like banana custard. The fruit goes ripe pretty much all at once and doesn't keep, so you have to be out at the right time (fall sometime) to get any. I'm including this one even though I'm trying to stick to an urban setting, because sometimes you have parks with woods and you might have these trees there.

Raspberry: Well, duh. But the leaves are also good for making tea. Raspberry leaf is often used as the backbone of an herbal tea, and it's good for women.

Clover: The leaf makes a good tea. The petals of the pink ones are sweet.

Crabapples: You can make a jelly from them.

Rose Hips: Also duh. You can make tea or jam from them. I guess you can eat them raw if you like really sour things. They have a lot of Vitamin C.

Acorns: To make flour, you shell them, then grind them up with water to make a mush (use blender), then rinse the mush (while encased in a cloth) until it's not bitter anymore. Then you dry it out and voila! Flour! I found a good step by step instructions at You can mix it half and half with regular flour to make pancakes, etc.

Kudzu: Most of the plant is edible. The leaves can be eaten like spinach, and the flowers are also edible. The root is the best part though: you can dry it out and pulverize it and use it like a starch.

Chives: Some people's lawns have wild chives growing in them. They taste like - Chives! (duh) You can tell them because they look like grass only round, and they're usually darker and a little taller than the surrounding grass.

Wild Carrot: Apparently this plant (also known as Queen Anne's Lace) has an edible root. BUT I'd say DON'T TRY IT because it looks like HEMLOCK, which of course is poisonous! There's plenty of other edibles that are easily identifiable.

I am sure I've forgotten something important and obvious, but there's at least some plants to look out for.

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