I am a newbie to wild foods, but the bits I know are precious to me now. To walk across an uncultivated field and see ~food~ growing everywhere is a piece of mammalian wisdom that has been unintentionally lost to humans as we have grown accustomed to cultivated and manufactured foods. Foraging for wild foods is becoming more popular and there are growing resources online, in books and locally to help us reacquaint ourselves with the food in our environment. See a few resource suggestions below, and if you are going to begin foraging, I find this to be a helpful website and set of guidelines.
In the springtime in North Carolina, there are a few basic and colorful wild foods so exciting that I can’t help but mention them.
“Compared to spinach, one of our present-day “superfoods,” dandelion leaves have eight times more antioxidants, two times more calcium, three times more vitamin A, and five times more vitamin K and vitamin E.” says Jo Robinson, author of one of my favorite food books, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health. You can eat the flowers, leaves and roots of this high-value plant that’s been so weirdly rejected in favor of bermuda grass lawns. Make sure to find plants that haven’t been contaminated with pollution or pesticides and get to know this powerful ally for health.
This year they are absolutely everywhere, with their heart-shaped leaves and their delicate little flowers. The easiest way to eat these is to use the leaves and flowers in a salad (which is generally about as far as I get!), but you can also dry the flowers, add them to teas and syrups and even candy. Let us know if you try any of that!
The south is alight with Eastern Redbud blossoms right now, which is a visual delight. What we might miss is the flavor and nutritional delight packed into those delicious little sweet/tart blossoms! The young leaves and young pods are also edible, I think, but you’ll have to learn more on your own about that! I introduced red bud flowers to my 2-year-old son last year, and you’d think he was pulling candy off every tree he could find. I don’t recommend stripping the branches, and always when you’re trying something new, try a a little at first and see what you think (and what your body tells you). But I bet you’ll love these gorgeous little flowers, a great addition to anything from a bowl of oatmeal to a bowl of salad.
Resources I like:
Will’s Wild Herbs is run by a wonderful Hillsborough NC herbalist and wildcrafter. He puts on local events and classes and more. If this lights you up, check him out!
Edible Wild Food is a simple, straightforward online resource to take a quick peek.