Pictorial Tour of the Wild, Sometimes Edible Plants in my Yard


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Unidentified wild plant. I do believe I've seen pictures of it in books but don't know the name. And so it is NOT EDIBLE until identified.

Unidentified wild plant. I do believe I’ve seen pictures of it in books but don’t know the name. And so it is NOT EDIBLE until identified.

For legal reasons this blog cannot recommend the consumption of any wild plant unless you can reliably identify it, your doctor or Primary Care Provider approves of your eating it, Obama has issued a presidential decree including it in the MyPlate food guidelines, and the zombie apocalypse has occurred and it’s eat wild things or die for you.

For several decades I’ve had a certain curiosity about wild plants, particularly the edible ones. I’ve learned to identify a few reliable species that grow around here. Some of them are edible— like the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers that I cooked in an omelet for supper last night. (Be warned: Queen Anne’s Lace seeds, listed as useful for a flavoring, is believed to be a contraceptive/abortifacient herb and so is NOT SAFE.)

Queen Anne's Lace, or Wild Carrot. This plant looks vaguely like Poison Hemlock, do not use unless you can identify.

Queen Anne’s Lace, or Wild Carrot. This plant looks vaguely like Poison Hemlock, do not use unless you can identify.

The omelet with the Queen Anne’s Lace turned out quite delicious. I’m certainly planning on gathering more, and perhaps preserving some for winter use.

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Stinging nettle, at the early stage of growth, is a good cooked vegetable and can also be dried for tea. Very nutritious.

I once bought some Stinging Nettle seed for an herb garden. The plant has spread all over the place, mostly in semi-shady nooks. The nettle plant is good food for people and livestock, but the fresh plant WILL STING YOU. Though the stings are supposed to be good for arthritis, I’d recommend wearing gloves to gather it. It has many culinary uses, and in addition, when dried is a good livestock hay with lots of protein.

Stinging nettle gone to seed. Leaves not very tasty at this point.

Stinging nettle gone to seed. Leaves not very tasty at this point.

If your stinging nettle has all gone to seed, cut the plants down at the bottom and wait a week or two. Regrowth will be tender and good.

Red clover.

Red clover.

Red clover is a common edible plant for humans and livestock. I have read that too much red clover harms the fertility of breeding animals, so I wouldn’t cook up big messes of cooked clover for humans food on a daily basis. The flowers, if fresh and newly opened, are good raw.

Wild Burdock, in the early, friendly stage.

Wild Burdock, in the early, friendly stage.

At the early stages Wild Burdock root can be eaten. Burdock root is a common table vegetable in Japan. The small leaves of the first year plant are also edible, mostly in spring. I understand they can be bitter, though. For bitter plants, one usually cooks it in several changes of water to make it milder.

Second-year burdock--- the evil, burr-filled plant we all know and hate.

Second-year burdock— the evil, burr-filled plant we all know and hate.

In the second year, or perhaps in the fall of the first year sometimes, burdock develop burrs that stick to everything. Escaped sheep with fine, valuable wool have a natural instinct to seek out the nearest burdock patch so they can come home covered with burrs. At this stage the plant is not eaten, so feel free to cut it down and burn it. You might save some seeds to plant in a favored location for your burdock leaf or root crop next year.

I don't know what this plant is, therefore it's NOT EDIBLE until identified, but it does look familiar.

I don’t know what this plant is, therefore it’s NOT EDIBLE until identified, but it does look familiar.

Here is an unidentified (so far) plant. I think it looks like an illustration in one of my plant books but even if it’s an edible I’m going to have to do some research to make sure I can identify it reliably.

Plantain--- not the same as that banana-type plantain. Edible.

Plantain— not the same as that banana-type plantain. Edible.

I have a bumper crop of plantain around the edges of my newly graveled driveway, but it has the seed heads and will likely be bitter. The solution is to shade the plant with newspaper or lawn clippings for a week or so. This blanches it. The same trick is used for dandelion leaves that have passed their prime.

The interesting thing I’ve learned about wild plants is that many of the wild edibles are more nutritious than garden vegetables. When man adapted plants for agricultural use, some of the nutrition was lost in the effort to make bigger, tastier plants. Many easy-to-find wild plants are a health boost to your diet. But be sure to use a good field guide to learn to identify the plants. You might also watch some of the many YouTube videos on wild plants to see videos of these plants in natural settings. And a copy of an old Euell Gibbons book is great to learn some good recipes for wild plants— though many will have to be adapted to remove ingredients like sugar, honey, maple syrup and grain-based flour if you are really interested in healthy eating.

Repeat of warning: this blog does not endorse the eating of wild plants and I bear no legal responsibility if you do so.

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