There are many benefits to seeking out edible wilds:
🧺 It’s free;
🧺 It challenges your culinary skills in the kitchen;
🧺 You get to try new flavours and textures; and …
🧺 it encourages you to get ouside.
^ to name just a few!
We want to point out a few edible wilds that might be lurking in your yard. You might even walk past them on your morning stroll to the bus stop!
#1 – Dandelions
Dandelion (also know as Lentodon taraxacum, bitterwort, blow-ball, cankerwort, clockflower, common dandelion, Irish daisy, lion’s tooth, piss-in-bed, pissinlit, priest’s crown, puffball, swine’s snout, telltime, yellow gowan) are native to Eurasia, but have been introduced to North America, South America, India, Australia, New Zealand and probably anywhere else where Europeans, thepeople, have migrated!
How can you identify it?
Dandelions show as cheery tufts of yellow in your yard, they have leaves which grow from the bottom of the stem only. Dandelion flowers grow on single, hollow stems which produce a milky sap when snapped.
Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins.
What’s the best way to eat it?
We’re not sure where to begin – the leaves and flowers of dandelions have SO many culinary uses. We’re passing this one over to Random Acts of Green business members and super-food, super-cooks RicherEarth Vegan Eats for their insight…
Recipe #1: Dandelion Root Vinegar
HOW TO MAKE DANDELION ROOT VINEGAR:
Apple cider vinegar helps to extract the high mineral content in dandelion root. Use this herbal vinegar to make your own salad dressing, as part of a marinade, or even as a digestive (try a tablespoon diluted in water) prior to eating a meal.
INSTRUCTIONS: Fill a jar with finely chopped fresh dandelion root. Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar. Cover with a glass or plastic lid. If using a metal lid, place parchment or wax paper between the lid and the jar (vinegar will corrode metal).
If using dried dandelion root, fill the jar 1/3 full to leave room for the root to expand.
Infuse for 2 weeks, shaking once daily. Strain when ready. Use within a year.
RECIPE NOTES: This recipe allows you to choose the amount you want to make and shows you how easy it is to prepare.
Recipe #2: Watermelon and Greens Salad
This salad is a complete summer delight!
800g seedless watermelon
40g pine nuts (or substitute with toasted walnuts)
2 large handfuls of arugula
1 large handful of young dandelion leaves
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
Cashew cheese, to serve
Pomegranate seeds, to serve
For the dressing: Mix together a ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon sea salt (or to taste).
Add the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Toss to coat with the dressing.
Prep time: 15 minutes
RECIPE TIPS To make your salad leaves nice and crisp, place them in a bowl of iced water for 5 – 10 minutes. Drain and dry the leaves before serving. Dandelion leaves can be found more and more readily in grocery stores. Dandelions can be eaten in salads when young, but quickly become too bitter to eat raw, and are then best stir-fried, with soy sauce or garlic and lemon. When preparing dandelion, wash well to eliminate sand.
#2 – Chickweed
Chickweed (otherwise know as chickenwort, craches, maruns, and winterweed) grows throughout North America and Europe. It’s regularly classified as a low growing (and spreading) weed in most lawns – if you just finished No Mow May you probably chopped a load of it down to size!
How can you idendify it?
Chickweed has broadleaves with small white flowers and elongated petals (a little like a stretched daisy flower). It has large, egg-shaped leaves with pointy tips.
If you’re unsure how to identify chickweed, this YouTube video is super helpful (thank you Trillium: Wild Edibles!).
What’s the best way to eat it?
This lawn-lurking edible is quite adaptable. You can enjoy it either raw or cooked. Both the leaves and flowers can be used in salads (prettiest salae ever!) and in cooked dishes like soup or stew – you could even make a chickweed pesto by ommiting basil over chickweed leaves.
A GREAT picnic snack would be some fresh veggies (think Nature Knows sustainably packaged and sourced veg.) with a Chickweed Pesto dip!
Be sure to remove root-ends and only use the greenest leaves – wash thoroughly before eating.
This ‘weed’ contains vitamins A, D, B complex, C, rutin (a bioflavinoid), calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, sodium, copper, iron and silica. It’s on par with spinach for iron content.
Our 3 Edible Wilds You Can Eat – Nettles
This blog writer is from the UK where stinging nettles were feared by all kids!
Otherise known as gracilis, Urtica gracilis, Urtica procera, Urtica viridis, American stinging nettle, slender nettle, tall nettle, tall wild nettle, wild nettle: Many-a-hike was spent rubbing doc leaves over a prickled leg or arm, or hand, or foot (with minimal actual results but a heady placebo effect!). I was pleased to find that stinging nettles are a wild edible you can eat and that I can now seek my revenge on this childhood traumatizing leaf.
The thing about nettles is, it’s best to eat them before they age too much – they become coarse and straw-like once they’re past their infancy. Famed UK chef and master-forager, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests only eating the top 4 to 6 leaves and not eating nettles once they’ve started to flower.
How to identify?
Nettles can grow to one to two metres. Opposite toothed leaves reach a few inches long and can be ovate to cordate in shape, with widths varying from quite wide to narrow (the native species are narrower). Flowers are small greeny-white clusters that hang from the leaf axil. Both stems and leaves are covered in thin hairs that sting. (Canadian Wildlife Federation)
What’s the best way to eat it?
Similar to spinach you can boil it, fry it, saute it or steam it – cooking this nettle will disarm it’s sting. As the weather warms, being stuck inside cooking becomes increasingly less appealing! Pick up a ready-to-go meal kit (like a tasty chili from Everything Nice) and ‘up’ the nutritional value by adding some sauted leaves.
Has vitamins A, B, C, chlorophyll and minerals like calcium, iron, silica and potassium. Stinging nettles are also very high in protein.
#4 – Lilacs
How could we put together a blog post about 6 Edible Wilds You Didn’t Know You Could Eat without mentioning Random Acts of Green fave, Lilacs?
Incase you missed it RAOG staffer, Alannah, wrote a whole blog post about this delightful purple flower. You can read it here.
We also didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to show how beautiful lilacs look in this colour coordinated jar from Random Acts of Green business member La Dee Da Gourmet Sauces.
#5 – Clover
Clovers are a member of the legume or pea family.
Much like Chickweed, they’re a lawn dwelling ‘weed’ that happen to go well in a salad!
A warning for this edible, according to askinglot.com: White clover in colder climates is generally non-poisonous, but the same white clover in warmer climates can be poisonous. All clover with white flowers should be avoided except in the northern states and Canada.
How do you identify Clover?
Clovers (Trifolium species), identifiable by their trefoil leaves. They are lawn green in colour. If you find a 4 leaf clover – hold it tight; only 1 in 10,000 shamrocks have four leaves.
How do you prepare Clover?
Like most Edible Wilds You Can Eat – Clovers can be eaten raw or cooked. As with most greenery, it’s advised you eat the leaves as fresh as possible. Pop together a salad using some of the above edibles you can eat and enjoy it with a takeout pizza for a nice porch dinner.
It’s said that clovers are high in protein and vitamins.
#6 – Broadleaf Plantain
Broadleaf Plantain otherwise known as Common plantain, Doorweed, Dooryard plantain, Plantain, Whiteman’s foot, grand plantain, plantain majeur. Grows wildly all over most of North America, Europe and Asia.
How to identify?
Broadleaf plantain has green, oval to egg-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette. These leaves have thick stems that meet at a base. When these stems are broken, they reveal string-like veins that resemble those in celery. Long-pointed, green, petite flowers grow from the base; these also contain a small pod housing dark seeds. (EdibleWildfood.com)
How to prepare?
As with most of the edible wilds you can eat, broadleaf plantain can be eaten raw if the leaves are a little older, it’s recommended you cook them as they can be a bit bitter. Add fresh leaves to salads or sandwiches. Show off your vast cooking expertise this BBQ season by topping burgers with plantain leaves over spinach (or lettuce) – it’ll blow your neighbours socks off – you’ll be talk of the town.
High in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K.
If you really want to boost your foraging game, equip yourself with a foraging basket! There are some amazing tutorials online that use natural materials like: grasses, bamboo, vines, oak, willow, reeds, and honeysuckle.
You could also use recycled rope to make a netted foraging tote.
As with most things you’d ingest – we recommend doing your due dilligence before chowing down. Cross reference your finds with online imagery to make sure you’ve fond the ‘right’ thing.
Have we inspired you to forage for edibles you can eat this spring?