Monday, April 25, 2011

First Spring Forage

Yesterday this was the first course of supper, a salad of dandelion greens and kale, all found on a short walk in the backyard. In a matter of minutes and by sheer accident I found last years kale stalks with some baby growth on the edge of the garden. I was out of spinach but now inspired to put together a salad highlighting my foraged treasures. Sure it would be small, most of this spring's growth was crushed flat by heavy rain or trampled by happy kids, but it would be something. Free food to nourish my family.

Last May Healthy Treasures hosted an edible weeds lecture on this property to teach people that they only have to look in their natural surroundings for good food. Finding these few tasty weeds and greens reminded me of how much I remembered from my research and how I would like to work this year on keeping my knowledge with me. You have to use it or loose it.

Granted, I have a lot of property (which mostly translates to hours and hours of mowing) but I want to assure you that acres are not needed to start harvesting in your own backyards. Baby steps to wild foraging... let's start with dandelions. Most yards in North America do not appreciate these weeds. Dandelion greens are available in gourmet salads and specialty grocery stores and they are not cheap. It is hard to swallow that such a simple and sometimes despised plant found in front yards everywhere could ever be considered fancy. (I use the term "yard" and "lawn" loosely because not much of my lawn is grass but what most people would consider undesirables. Yet my weeds are edible and tasty and grass is not, so who cares?) I send the kids out to pick those sunny yellow flowers when they pop up in our lawn and we dip them in pancake batter and fry them. They are too sweet for my taste and the kids can only handle a few each but it is just the idea that I can take something that people consider a nusiance and make it edible that makes me smile.

The most popular of our foraging efforts was put into harvesting lamb's quarter. It is an easily identifiable weed that grew rampant in the garden for years and we pulled it like mad. At least until last summer when we discovered its second name: wild spinach. Suddenly the obnoxious overgrowth became a huge blessing when our true spinach crop failed. I'm noticing more and more now of all the things on this earth that grow without out help for our nourishment. We till, water and exert all amounts of energy to grow our own idea of food when these have been here all along.

(This blue house is in the process of making our foraging more formal with some new fruit and nut bearing shrubs and trees around the perimeter of the property. Is this cheating? We don't think so. Even though the word forage means to wander is search of provisions nothing states how far you have to wander from your back door, right? These new perennial plants will require little maintenance after the first couple years and we are looking forward to providing for our family in the future with our efforts now.)

Foraging is all just about being aware of our surroundings and using what we have access to. Being a forager is a lot like making something out of nothing. You can see the possibility in an unkept lawn or promise in an overgrown field. It is amazing really. There are bellies to fill and along a casual walk you can gather several key ingredients to compose or compliment a meal. You don't need the title of farmer just a few good books, a sense of adventure and a lazy afternoon.

At the end of the day being able to identify wild foods is just another accomplishment on the road to self sufficiency.


We joined up again with the amazing Barn Hop. If you are stopping over welcome and please leave us a comment if you see something you like. We would love to hear from you! Feel free to look around and stay awhile. Welcome again neighbor.


  1. Yum , your salad looks delicious ! I love kale in my salads.

  2. You are absolutely right! Yummy herbs and greens are growing everywhere around us and we have to have the knowledge to recognize and harvest them. Wonderful post!


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