Eating Weeds

by Karen A.

Sometimes I miss the big, beautiful views when I am out hiking because I am looking down at the ground.  Why, you ask?  Because even when I am hiking I am thinking about food, and I don’t want to walk right over something tasty!  There is something deeply rewarding in the process of finding food in the wild outdoors.  It connects us to the earth in an intimate way, a way (I like to believe) that was meant to be. 

Obviously, it is not a hobby without risk, as not all plants are edible.  But there are books designed to teach you the basics like Foraging Washington which covers foraging etiquette, plant identification and preparation.  Another guide focusing on regional plants, with great illustrations is Pacific Northwest Foraging. The great thing about wild edibles is that many of the best have spread to every corner of the country, and you can find them wherever you go, even in your own backyard. Backyard Foraging will introduce you to these.

Once you have harvested your wild produce, learning how to process, store and prepare your food is the next step.   Wild food is becoming increasingly more popular, and even highlighted in many restaurants.  There are books with old country favorites like Nettle Soup, and others that get fancy with recipes for Sheep Sorrel Risotto or Scallops Seared with Sweet White Clover and Cattail Pollen from Marie Viljoen’s Forage, Harvest, Feast.

Of course, it doesn’t have to end there.  My obsession with wild edible plants has led me to wild medicinal plants and I have found Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants to be pretty comprehensive.  Many wild medicinals that help with simple ailments like a cold, or an upset stomach, can be taken as a tea.  Healing Herbal Teas is filled with delicious and healthy recipes, many with ingredients that you could harvest locally.  I highly recommend the Summer Solstice Tea with fir tips and rose petals.

And if you have enjoyed the cocktail renaissance that is a happening thing these days, you will be excited to see (as I most certainly was!) that wild edibles can be used for this too!  I have a bottle of Douglas Fir Liqueur from Wild Drinks and Cocktails that has been a treasured addition to my home bar; intriguing on its own or as part of a more complex concoction. The rosehip syrup found in The Wildcrafted Cocktail is delicious in cocktails, in sparkling water for a non-alcoholic drink, or over vanilla ice cream. Take it a step further and learn to brew your own wild alcoholic beverages with The Wildcrafting Brewer.

If you are more of an armchair forager you can delight in reading about the adventures of other foragers, some as wild as the food they harvest. Dandelion Hunter and Fat of the Land describe journeys in both wild and urban landscapes, looking for every tasty treasure that nature offers up.  A little nervous about actually picking and eating your first weed? Just keep on reading, there are so many books on this subject.  And then, of course, there is gentle wisdom from the man who started me on this journey years ago, Euell Gibbons, in his book, Stalking the Healthful Herbs.

I hope this entices you to go forth and forage.  Do you have a favorite foraging book?  Please share it in the comments below.

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