Now that you know the ethics & ‘how-to’ of foraging for wild edibles from the previous blog post, here are 12 easy-to-identify wild edibles you can find in midtown in the spring and summer season.
- Violet (Viola) – The leaves make dark green additons to spring salads, and the delicate purple flowers can decorate cakes, salads, and have traditionally been candied to help preserve them.
- Dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) – The sunny yellow flowers can be added into cookies, or chopped into egg dishes. The young green leaves can be turned into pesto, and spring roots can be roasted for making a spiced chai tea.
- Plantain (Plantago) – The deeply veined green leaves make a nutritious addition to your favourite green smoothie.
- Burdock (Actium lappa)– The young roots can be be stir-fried, roasted, or added into stews. The taste is hearty, savoury and texture is slightly reminiscent of dense mushrooms.
- Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) – The leaves and purple flowers can be tossed into salads.
- Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)– The leaves can be used fresh or dried as tea (especially good for women), and the berries are of course a familiar delicious treat.
- Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) – Nettles should be carefully harvested using gloves, as the tiny hairs along the stem and leaves will sting bare skin. However, this plant is well worth the effort of picking for it brings rich minerals to soups and our personal favourite “nettle-kopita” (you can replace spinach with nettle).
- Wild Grape (Vitis vinifera)– The early summer leaves of wild grape are tender enough to use for making classic dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). Simply pick a large grape leaf, fill with your favourite grain dish (e.g. rice with fresh herbs), roll up like a burrito, and steam for a few minutes until softened. Serve sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt.
- Day Lily (Hemerocallis)– Have you ever made day lily icecream? Day lilies can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, or pickled, and yes, added into homemade desserts like ice cream!
- Chickweed (Stellaria media) – Chickweed has characteristic tiny white star-shaped flowers and grows commonly in most gardens. Add it to smoothies, pestos, sandwiches and salads.
- Wild Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) – Wild chamomile is often seen growing in the most unlikely places, for example in between sidewalk crevices. Use the flowers to make fragrant chamomile tea or an infused honey.
- Lilac (Syringa) – Flowering lilacs, are a sure sign of spring! Lilac flowers can be used to make syrups and jelly, and they are a fancy garnish for drinks and desserts. They are not sweet, so use sparingly (or sweeten to taste).
Also, don’t forget, we have an abundance of fruit trees and berries in public spaces around our neighbourhood. For example, many of our Midtown streets are lined with sweet service berries (also known as saskatoons), and in forgotten sections of parks (or former orchards and backyards) you can find mulberry, apple and pear trees. To further the idea of abundant free food in our city, the concept of “food forests” is taking off. Already there are at least three parks in Kitchener (Forest Heights, Weber Park, and Victoria Park) where neighbourhood associations have worked with volunteers to install these public “food forests”. Here fruit trees, berries and herbs are allowed to mingle with the other wild edibles around them, available for everyone’s benefit!
Perhaps we here in Midtown can work on a plan for a neighbourhood food forest, to increase the availability of abundant free healthful food for all.
For More Information:
Find more wild foraged recipe ideas go to Little City Farm’s website. If you would like to learn more about wild foraging consider taking a Wild Edibles Foraging Workshop at Little City Farm on Saturday, June 3. Registration is required in advance.
Please note – this article is for educational purposes only. Always follow proper harvesting and identification guidelines in order to use wild plants safely. The Region of Waterloo offers an extensive list of what are considered to be noxious weeds (see resources below), and this is a helpful resource for clearly outlining local wild plants you do not want to consume. Several of the plants on the list are extremely dangerous (e.g. giant hogweed can cause serious burns, poison hemlock is extremely toxic, and eating as few as two berries from deadly nightshade can be fatal to a child) so it must be stated again that only plants you have positively identified as safe should be eaten.
Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification.
Elpel, Thomas J. Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids 9 to 99.
Henderson, Robert. The Neighbourhood Forager.
Silverman, Maida. A City Herbal.
Thayer, Samuel. The Forager’s Harvest.
Tilford, Gregory L. From Earth to Herbalist.
Zachos, Ellen. The Backyard Forager: 65 Familiar Plants you didn’t know you could eat.
Plant Identification Books:
Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Plants of Eastern North America.
Newcombes Wildflower Guide.
Lone Pine Guide to Edible and Medicinal Plants of North America.