Wondering where the best places to find wild edibles are? Look no further than this chapter!
Chapter 7: Best Places To Find Wild Edibles
You can see the plants that are mentioned in this guide in certain areas during certain times of the year. Since most of them are also cosmopolitan, most of them will be near you; it is your job to identify what they look like, which plants are the lookalikes and how you can locate them. There are several different environments that plants reside in. The best place you can start is in your neighborhood! Look in neighboring lawns or parks. In some cities, shrub or wooded area walks are held. If you go a bit further out your area, you can visit wetland areas and the seashore to forage. If you plan on traveling or are already an explorer, you can continue to go plant hunting and find all types of exotic plants you otherwise never would have seen where you reside.
7.1 – You Don’t Have To Venture Far To Forage
Once you step outside on a beautiful sunny summer or spring day, you are bound to catch a glance of some weeds. In the sidewalks, it is usual to find purslane and dandelions in urban locations. Some lawns may appear as if you are looking at nothing except for grass, but upon closer examination you will find beds of clovers and bundled up leaves. Some of the common cosmopolitan weeds and those that are the best to incorporate in your soups such as salads and stir-fry dishes, are likely just a few feet away from you regardless of where you live. Of course, before you start collecting you want to know first whether or not the plants contain pesticides and herbicides. In the early spring, it is the best time for you to find wild garlic that sprout out from bulbs. You can also find dandelions on lawns, those that appear first are the best to consume. Violets are just as common as dandelions are and are clearly visible once they bloom. Little clovers can take over the grounds of many yards and the wood sorrel begins to appear. Curly docks with your rounded, tooth also leave sprout in the early spring. You can also catch peppergrass, catnip and Shepherd’s purse in most yards and byways. Purslane is most noticeable at the end of spring where it opens its bright, five-petaled flowers against the sun. During the other seasons, most of these weeds will vanish, though some stick around. Purslane, clovers, and wood sorrel, for example, will still be there.
Plenty of wild plants are all around parks and open spaces too, especially in urban and suburban areas. You can find them on the periphery of park benches and the border areas that are sun-drenched and others around the shade. You will see plants living on disturbed or moist soil. In the early spring, the most common wild plant you will find is the garlic mustard that is visible to see with their violet leaves and mustardy taste. Around the same time, you could find shoots of daylily and the red sheep sorrel leaves hat have a lemony flavor and are excellent to use as a beverage or for soups and salads. The most favorable spring green is the stinging nettle that you will want to make sure you wear gloves before handling. There are plants that are extremely popular and get over picked a lot such as wild ramps. During the end of April and the middle of May, you could come across the tall Japanese knotweeds that resemble fat asparagus spears. Pokeweed comes up around mid-May as well as milkweed. In the summertime, you are likely to find sumac that are soft and fuzzy, with red fruiting cones that make the tastiest of lemon-flavored drinks.
Some of the best edible wild plants are grown on trees and shrubs. The parks around urban and suburban areas contain many of them. They are very ornamental and have fancy flowers or fruits that not only attract us, but birds and many other predators as well. In the early spring, one of the first trees to flower is the cornelian cherry. There are mulberries that trees produce in bulk and these fruits can be sugary sweet to sour and tart. Juneberries, or serviceberries, are woody plants that are easily noticeable when they begin to flower and show off their fruit. You can see highbush blueberries from a distance with their small, white and bell-shaped flowers that produce ripe fruit in the start of summer. The Linden trees are popular in several northern counties for their extremely sensational and fragrant flowers in early summer and make wonderful tea beverages. Summer is also the time for black raspberries, wineberries, blackberries, and strawberries. When autumn comes, be ready to search for ripe and tasty crabapples and hawthorn fruit. In the middle of the fall, ginkgo nut begins to appear on many pathways where most Chinese people will begin gathering it.
7.2 – Time To Explore
Many forests have a vast amount of edible foods that grow on trees, shrubs, and beneath the ground. Some of the pines in forests are large in quantity and can even go up to par with those commercially made. Most forests have acorns, hickory nuts, black walnuts, and chestnuts. Depending on what area you live in, there are also woodland trees that produce fruit like persimmon or pawpaw, fox grapes and wild apples. The United States is infamous for its sassafras trees that make refreshing beer-like drinks when you boil their roots. Ground fruit plants like the mayapples possess a tropical flavor that goes great in pies and other baked goods.
Plants can also thrive in wetland areas like ponds, brooks, creeks, swamps, lakes and rivers. If you wanted to visit a swamp during late winter, chances are you would come across skunk cabbage that sticks out on the surface of the ice. By spring, you will see the sweet flag, cattail stalks, arrowhead and ostrich fern fiddlehead. By mid-spring, most still water areas are surrounded with duckweed, a type of pond scum. Within moving waters, such as rivers; you are bound to come across the popular watercress. You can also discover wild rice in wetland areas, which are scattered all throughout the US.
The last place you would think about foraging would be around seashores, but they are a great spot too. You can hit two birds with one stone and have fun enjoying yourself at the beach, while gathering fresh food. The shores can wash up all kinds of edible goodies for you, especially seaweed. Seaweed comes in all sorts of colors and shapes. The most common green colored species that looks just like lettuce is called exactly that: sea lettuce. There are also red and brown seaweed, all of which can be eaten or made into seasoning. Along the tide line, you might also find glassworts, a green plant that looks like green beans. It is crisp and salty, but if you wait too long to pick it, such as during the fall, it will become rough. When you move further up along the beach, there are shrubby plants that are salt tolerant. There are three that people often collect along the Atlantic seaboard: bayberry, beach plums, and the seaside rose.
Although there are over one hundred edible plants right in your area, that number is tenfold when you travel to other countries like India, which has more than five hundred plants. New Zealand has over one hundred types of edible plants you’ve probably never seen, let alone heard of. You would think there are little to no new plants in a place that is so far distant from East Asia, North America and Europe. Another interesting fact is that the same type of species grown in one area can look vastly different in another. The New Zealand spinach is a species of the Tetragoniagenus. You can now find it in certain Northern Hemisphere groceries.
The Foragers Bible
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