After the success of last month’s post on using garden weeds for food and medicine, I am so happy to have my new friend, Assya, guest blogging today to share her three favorite wild edibles that can replace some of your grocery staples!
Many people start foraging because they are interested in exploring a world of new flavors. But the surprising truth is that wild edibles can also offer the familiar grocery store flavors that you know and love!
This post will be talking about three fabulous plants which you can forage in place of buying three grocery staples. There are lots of good reasons to do so:
- Wild edibles are typically much more nutrient dense and healthier than food from a grocery store. This is because they have to produce their own defenses against insects. To humans, these defenses are what we call vitamins and antioxidants. As local food guru Michael Pollan writes in his book, Food Rules, “Make frequent use of wild greens, they are their own natural defenders and tend to be higher in antioxidants”. Ain’t that the truth!
- Because I’m a sustainability nerd, I also must mention how very environmentally friendly it is to forage for your groceries! Foraged foods require no fertilizers, herbicides, or really any outside inputs other than naturally occurring rain and sun. You don’t even need to drive to find them – just step outside! How’s that for a local food movement?
- Foraged foods are free. Save cash!
But first, a disclaimer!
Carefully follow identification guides before ingesting a foraged plant. For extra help, there are great Facebook groups where you can post pictures of unknown plants and members will help you identify them.
Eat a little bit at first, and watch carefully to see if you get nauseous or sick. If not, then eat a bit more, and watch how you feel. If in doubt, do not eat the plant and find an herbalist who will help you identify the plant in question.
3 Wild Edibles To Replace Grocery Staples
Now let’s get into the foraging fun! Can you find the following wild edibles in your city or town? If so, you can cross these grocery staples off your shopping list!
Chickweed = Lettuce
So-called because chickens love it, chickweed is a ubiquitous plant that typically invades sidewalk cracks, lawns, garden beds – heck, just about anywhere and everywhere! Which is PERFECT because you need lots of chickweed to replace the lettuce in all of those salads that you eat. That’s right, chickweed has a nice and mild flavor, much like romaine lettuce, which makes it great as a salad base. You can typically find chickweed growing in garden beds, especially ones that are well-watered.
Chickweed is easy to identify (read here for a great article on how to identify chickweed). Some varieties of chickweed are hairy and don’t make for a delightful salad experience, so stick to the smooth versions and saute the hairy ones.
Lamb’s Quarters = Spinach
Lamb’s Quarters are a forager’s favorite. It grows like crazy, tastes great throughout the season and is easy to find. It tastes so much like spinach that another common name for Lamb’s Quarters is…wait for it…Wild Spinach!
Raw, Lamb’s Quarters has a close-to-spinach flavour. Cooked, it tastes exactly like spinach. I’ve used it to replace spinach in spanakopita, quiche and cream of spinach soup. I imagine it would lend itself perfectly to an Indian palak paneer. I love it because I never have to buy a huge bunch of spinach only to have a portion of it rot away in the fridge. Lamb’s quarters can also be frozen, so you can enjoy this wild edible all year long.
Learn how to ID Lamb’s Quarters here.
Chamomile = Chamomile Tea
I love relaxing with a cup of chamomile tea before settling down for the night. You know what I love even more? Foraging for that chamomile myself! Chamomile might be a little harder to find than the two edible weeds above, but is definitely widely available.
You can find chamomile in large open fields, like abandoned, overgrown parking lots. The key is to not confuse chamomile with daisies, which are edible but do not make great, chamomile-level tea. A distinguishing trait of chamomile is that the leaves look like little green hairs sticking out of the stem; daisies have larger leaves.
You can steep the fresh flower directly to make tea, or you can dry the flowers for later use. This is a great blog post about doing just that. Some people even do crazy delicious things like make chamomile ice cream. Drool.
So there you have it! Three grocery staples you’ll never need to buy again, at least during the spring and summer seasons. By foraging for your groceries, you get some healthier produce, you get it for free and in the most eco-friendly way possible. High five!
Have you ever gone foraging for wild edibles? What are your favorites and how do you use them?
Assya is the author behind the sustainability blog, GreenHighFive.com, which helps people lead more fun and environmentally sustainable lives. GreenHighFive.com is launching June 30th, 2015. Sign up for her blog today, and get her bonus report on the Number One Thing You Can Do Today To Live More Sustainably.