Foraging weeds is hot right now. In fact, if you stopped “weeding” your lawn, you soon would have a supermarket surrounding your home. This is great news – our planet would be a healthier place without all that fertilizer, pesticide and weedkiller used to keep lawns looking “good.”
Wild edible plants are the purest expression of unprocessed, organic, nutrient-rich plant foods. Did you know that the vegetables you buy in the market have declined in nutrient value since first tested in the 1950s? There are studies which track the decline in nutritional values of vegetables and fruits as the practice of monoculture expands. Many of the wild plants readily available all around us have more nutritional value than anything that we can by in a market, including organic grown!
Spring wild greens are the very first of the juice of the Earth coming back into new life. Spring is a great time to detoxify and deep clean the liver, gallbladder and digestive tract with the wild weeds popping up all around us. We Americans have a lack of bitter foods in our diet.
Lack of sufficient bile in the diet can result in so many digestive complaints, including general indigestion, heartburn, gas, bloating, constipation, hard stool, hemorrhoids and more. Emotionally, we may frustrated, angry, easily annoyed or impatient. Energetically we may feel sluggish, tired or bloated.
A rundown of some of the top wild foods around:
Purslane (portulaca oleracea), for example, is a very tenacious and delicious weed that I have seen growing even in the cracks of sidewalks in our cities. Purslane might be the richest source of plant-based omega-3 fats, as well as being loaded with vitamins A, C and E.
In addition to its bounty of omega-3 fatty acids, purslane has other nutritional benefits: six times more vitamin E than spinach, seven times more beta carotene than carrots, provides 1320 IU/100g of vitamin A (44 percent of the RDA), which is one of the highest among green leafy vegetables; 25 mg of vitamin C per cup (20 percent of the RDA) and is rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorous and manganese. How’s that for fabulous and free? The flavor is very mildly tangy and juicy. I eat this raw, plucked right from the ground.
Stinging nettle (urtica dioica) is another magnificent wild plant with a bad rap. Sure it stings you if mishandled, but that’s only because every living thing would munch it right out of existence! Nettle greens are delicious and harmless when cooked, steamed, dried or blended into a pesto. As an herbalist, this is one plant I use for almost everyone in their herbal formulas. Nettle is nutritious and gently anti-inflammatory for the entire body. As an added benefit, nettle root has been shown effective in keeping male hormones potent. What’s not to like?
Before you go out harvesting, however, follow these guidelines:
n Always be certain of what you’re eating before you eat anything wild. There are a few wild plants that can make you very sick and even kill you. Forage with a knowledgeable person, a good guide book or learn to ID wild plants yourself. Every year I teach classes about the benefits of local plants as food and medicine. This weekend I will be offering plant ID walks at the North American Bushcraft School’s event: The Outdoor Enthusiast Festival.
Later in April I will hold a weekend workshop on the identification, harvest, preparation and cooking of wild edibles. If you cannot make that one, there are wild edible and medicinal herb classes available all year.
Dandelions and wild onion are two easily identifiable spring plants, so here is a recipe to get you started with eating your weeds. These plants are coming up everywhere right now.
Good revenge too – eating those pesky weeds we pull all year.
Wild & Domestic Greens Sauté
Combining wild edibles with domestic greens make dishes taste familiar and good to the family, and helps avoid any minor tummy upset by ingesting too many vibrant wild weeds. You may of course use all wild greens if you wish. This is also a great recipe for any greens.
OK, pick some dandelion greens. Go into the yard, and find some dandelions that have not yet flowered. Why? Once the stem emerges and the flower opens, the plant becomes really bitter! Pick the leaves in the basal rosette. Knock off any dust or dirt – keeps the sink cleaner. Pick a big fistful for this recipe.
Now find some wild onion. It looks like green onion tops, only a bit thinner or finer. Pinch the greens and sniff. If it smells strongly like onion or garlic, BINGO! Use a spade to dig up the bulbs. Shake off the dirt. Get a palm full of these or more if you like onion flavor.
Bring them in the house. Wash ‘em. You can use the entire onion, top and bulb, but I am persnickety and only use the bulb and 1 to 2 inches of the stem, just what is white. Roughly chop the greens and onions.
Find a medium onion in the pantry and chop it. Chop 2 cloves of garlic or more, to taste. Garlic and onion are powerful blood cleansers. I eat onion, garlic and peppers every day if possible. Garlic is our most potent and broad spectrum natural antibiotic. Truly a gift from Gaia.
Roughly chop your domestic greens. Today, I am using a bunch of beet greens and my favorite – a bunch of collards. Beet greens have deep liver cleansing properties so don’t discard them. Use your family’s favorite greens – spinach, chard, kale. You’ll reduce the cooking time for softer greens like spinach & chard.
Heat a large pot and cook 1 strip of bacon until brown. Pour off the extra fat. If I am cooking for vegetarian friends, I use ghee or coconut oil instead. The fat in the meat or oil softens the fibrous tissues in the plants and makes it palatable for us. Let’s face it – if it tastes good we will eat more of it! If you use ghee you’ll never even miss the bacon.
Add onions, both wild and domestic. Saute on med-low heat until they begin to brown slightly and become transparent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Then add the garlic and saute a few more minutes. Add the greens and toss well to mix it all up.
Pour in 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth. You can use water if you prefer. Cover, turn heat to low/simmer, and cook for at least 20 minutes until the greens are soft. Mix everything up once or twice and add a bit more broth if it gets too dry on the bottom of the pan.
Serve the greens with toasted pine nuts for a bit of protein. A chopped, boiled egg on top is yummy too.
Enjoy, friends! Go pick your weeds!
— Kristen Dorsey (above) is a herbalist who offers classes in wild edible and medicinal plants as well as private consultations, energy session, drum circles, dance classes and other events. You can connect with her on Facebook at Divine Journeys and on the web at Divine-Journeys.com.