Since the Mother Earth News Fair, I've had some requests for a recap of my presentation, Eating Wild: Identifying the Wild Edible Plants in Your Own Backyard. Here is that to follow. Please know that this summary is not complete with edible, inedible, and poisonous look-a-like information. Therefore, do not rely upon this summary alone before you go out picking in your yard. This is meant only as a recap. Thank you to all who attended!
|Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) - This species now includes several species once thought to be distinct. As a result, the flower color can range from purple to purple and white to pure white. Leaves will be long-stalked and basal.|
|The Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia) with a purple and white coloration|
|Typical heart shaped leaves of the Violet|
|The lobed leaves of the Early Blue Violet (Viola palmata)|
|Marsh Blue Violet (Viola cucllata) - look for this species beside streams, rivers, and seepage areas. The flower perches atop a particularly long stalk reaching above its still long-stalked basal leaves.|
|Canadian Violet (Viola Canadensis) - Look for this species at higher elevation, in woods, oftentimes amidst thick vegetation. This Violet will bear alternate leaves and can grow particularly tall, reaching 8" in height|
All species of Violet (Viola spp.), except for those that bear yellow flowers, are edible. Even these may sometimes be consumed, but they cause some folks nausea and I find them to be more rare, so simply better to be left alone.
|Viola sororia adorning deviled eggs with paprika and dill|
Violet flowers can range in flavor from sweet to spicy to minty and are best eaten raw. They make a fresh decoration to cakes, pasta dishes, salads, or as you can see here, deviled eggs. You may coat them in egg wash and sugar them for candied Violet. They look lovely frozen in ice cubes and added to lemon water or an herbal iced tea.
Leaves may be eaten raw or cooked (this is preferable later in the season when they become more fibrous), and have a spinach-like quality. Steam or sauté and add them to pasta, eggs, stir-frys, or bake in lasagna, quiche, or croissants. If you are picking leaves without the presence of a flower, worry not about discerning the yellow Violets from the other species. The 3 species in our region have very distinct leaves that look less desirable anyway, being hairy, rounded, or mottled, and simply tough.
|The basal rosette of Garlic Mustard (Alliara officinalis)|
|Flower buds of Garlic Mustard (Alliara officinalis)|
As many of the gardeners probably already know all too well, Garlic Mustard is highly invasive, taking over the edges of lawns, lining hedges or fence-lines, and lining roadsides. Originally from Europe, there are no insects here that naturally feed on it. It also produces a chemical that suppresses the mycorrhizal fungi that other plants require for health. This chemical of course does not affect native fungi. Deer also have no interest in this plant and do a good job of trampling the soil while eating all the plants surrounding it, and planting the seeds that the plant has flung.
|Orzo pasta salad with Garlic Mustard pesto, cherry tomatoes, and black olives|
|Creeping Bluets (Houstonia serpyllifolia)|
Look for Bluets amongst grassy areas, such as meadows, lawns, grassy trails, or amongst tufts of grass at the bases of trees. I tend to use these like sprouts, and it is easy to harvest a clump of them, given that they will often grow in mats or at least abundance. All above grounds parts are edible. Simply grab a handful and with a sharp knife, slice at base of stems. They are best added raw to salads or sandwiches, as they will not hold up to cooking.
|Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)|
|Great Chickweed (Stellaria pubera) - found in woods, oftentimes at higher elevations.|
|Mouse-ear Chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum) - this species is best consumed cooked unless you don't mind a mouthful of fine fur, which covers the plant.|
|Cleavers (Galium aparine)|
Find this plant along the edges of your lawn or garden, and in thickets of weeds. Cleavers will create tall-standing carpets.
All above ground parts of edible and should be cooked so as to not irritate the throat. However, they may be eaten raw if rolled into a tight pill-ball first and then eaten. Otherwise, sauté or steam and add to eggs, stir-frys, oats or grits. Ol' timers considered it a spring cleanser as well and would stew it in oats to "increase lankness."
|Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)|
Roots may be sautéed, boiled, or roasted and served with sweet veggies to balance their inherent bitterness. They possess inulin, a pre-biotic, when harvested in the fall.
Leaves may be eaten raw in salads or sandwiches when young or sautéed, steamed, or boiled as they age and become a bit tougher. They will become more bitter after the plant has flowered, however boiling in a couple changes of water will decrease this flavor, although you will also sacrifice its nutritional value. Dandelion leaves possesses Vit. C, B, E, D, biotin, inositol, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
|Veggie quiche with Dandelion leaves, florets, and Violet leaves|
|Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis)|
|Fine needle-like hairs of Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis)|
The leaves of this plant are incredibly edible once cooked rendering them harmless. Sautee, steam, or boil the leaves adding them to stews, stir-frys, eggs, casseroles, or croissants. Use as you would cooked spinach. They have a very mild green pleasant taste. They possess calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, sodium, sulfur, Vit. C, A, and B.
The trick to harvesting Wood Nettle is to pluck with confidence! Or wear gloves. Check out my post: http://thebotanicalhiker.blogspot.com/2011/06/nettles.html for more information on Wood Nettle.