Last month Survival Summit interviewed Nicole Telkes, an herbalist from The Wildflower School in middle Texas. Her definition has nothing to do with growing marijuana, but rather means foraging for, eating, and growing plants that we may have considered annoying weeds. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can create foraging space, even in urban areas. As people interested in using the plants we have and in conserving our environment, the first step is becoming aware of the plants growing around you. There are lots of useful and edible plants in your neighbor-hood. With only a few plants sprouting as spring begins, it is a good time to acquire a plant identification book or two to study before you start eating wild plants. Learn to recognize the poisonous plants first.* Here are a few edible plants to look for:
- Wild onions and wild garlic – these will have smaller bulbs than garden grown ones and will have a distinctive onion scent. They pack a lot of nutrients. Best cooked in soups.
- Chickweed – as one of the first spring weeds, it has small, white flowers that have five deeply lobed petals, a single row of hairs on the stem and opposite smooth edged leaves. High in vitamins A&C, it is also a good source of iron and anti-oxidants. Can be eaten raw as salad greens or cooked like spinach.
- Dandelions – the leaves, flowers and roots of this ubiquitous plant with toothed edged leaves and yellow flowers are edible. Young leaves are best when picked before the flowers appear. Serve them in salads or wilted with a hot dressing. Flowers can be cooked as fritters, and the roots used for tea.
There are too many people in the US to survive off wild plants. If we needed to forage for 100% of our food, we would need to get creative and very accurate in plant identification. In addition, we would be spending most of our days finding food. That’s why agriculture became so popular. Challenge: make a list of the top ten weeds in your neighborhood. Study them and learn their uses.
*Note: Never eat any part of a plant unless you are 100% positive of it’s identification. Plants along roadsides may have been treated with herbicides. Use common sense and reasonable caution when foraging. As you compare the book’s description with a real plant, do not mentally force the plant to fit the description. This can become a dangerous habit. A good reference is: The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer (http://www.ForagersHarvest.com)