The Salad in Your Front Yard: Edible Plants You Didn't Even Know About
Wild Food Foraging: The Frugal Food Gatherer is Well Fed
The price of groceries continues to rise and the Recession seems to be unending. Ways to reduce your spending can come from anywhere; unplugging household utilities like televisions and computers for instance, saves energy and reduces your electric bills. Keeping the refrigerator freezer full, while seeming like non-Recessionary good times will actually makes the refrigerator run less often. The cold bulk takes less energy to maintain than an empty freezer does at the same setting. Ironic, huh?
Cutting grocery bills is a good way to save money. Most people think this means 'buy less, buy not, buy in bulk or on-sale and day-old bakery goods.'
Other ways are when in season, collecting natural foods. Thinking ahead, where will you be collecting these edible plants? If the lawn has been sprayed with pesticides or weed-killer, it's no good.
But some lawns and fields are pesticide-free and remain excellent sources of collectible wild and natural foods. Items such as milkweed stalks and milkweed leaves, and the stir-fried seed-pods, flower buds and even opened flowers and rhizomes from such beauties as some tiger lily plants with their nutty-flavored potato-like texture are excellent budget-balancing wild foods.
Edible Plants: Source of Boiled Dandelion Greens With Butter
A natural lawn that produces decent-sized dandelion leaves is a valuable source of edible greens. Boiled dandelion greens are like spinach but have several times more vitamins and minerals. Add a little cider vinegar added to them while boiling to give it a zest and you've got a nice healthy side dish, served salted and with a pat of butter you've got something yummy.
Used in Asia and Europe for centuries as a therapeutic herb, the dandelion root is used as a stimulant for the internal organs like the liver and for cleansing the blood. Dandelion greens are very high in vitamin-A. The unopened buds of the flower are edible, too, in salads, and boiled along with the tender leaves. The yellow flowers can even be used to make wine! In case you are wondering; -no, the stems are not edible.
Viola, Sweet Violet
Did you notice the purple flowers in the above image with the dandelion flowers and leaves? A two-fer! These are wild violets called "Viola" or "Sweet Violet" and are edible too, both the leaves and the purple flowers. The leaves can be used in salads or boiled with other greens for a hot steamy nutritious side dish. It used to be a turn-of-the-century confection; chocolate-covered or sugar-coated viola flowers as a gift for your sweetie.
Day Lillies, Buds, Flowers and Tubers
(image source) (Daylily, "hemercallis fulva")
Do you have tiger lilies (we called them "tiger lilies") growing in your yard or accessible nearby? The unopened buds are edible and have a delightful warm, peppery flavor. These can be eaten raw in salads, or stir-fried with other vegetables. Even the opened flowers themselves are edible and are often used in raw Asian salads.
Digging the roots of the tiger lily provides you with little thumb-sized tubers that have a sweet nutty flavor. These can be eaten raw, boiled or baked just like potatoes.
Food From the Wild: Burdock Root
As long as you are digging, the root of the common burdock is edible too. This very large root can be baked or boiled until tender and eaten like a parsnip. The burdock root is used in a Japanese appetizer called kinpira gob? and this mighty root has nutritional benefits also as it contains calcium, potassium and amino acids.
Cattail Stalks, also known as “Cossack Asparagus”
I am quite fond of cattail stalks. Pulling on the green trunk of stems of a cattail plant close to where it sticks out of the water will cause the slender white stem to break-off and slide up. This reveals a slender, crisp and delicate white stalk. It snaps easily like young carrots. Snow white and with a taste that is hard to describe but perhaps a bit like cucumber. Again, raw chopped in salads is excellent. Pickled, they are excellent and steamed they taste a bit like boiled cabbage. The root of the cattail can be dug as well and baked, and even ground into a form of glutinous flour and can be dry-roasted for a coffee substitute but I have never tried this. Somehow, I draw the line there. Real coffee for me.
Fox Grapes for Wild Grape Juice
Fox grapes grow everywhere. Those wild grapes that are exceedingly bitter when eaten raw and thus, often overlooked when foraging for wild foods. A large pot of fox grapes when boiled with a few liters of water and mashed, strained and sweetened with sugar makes a shockingly delicious grape juice.