Although spring is finally here and gardens are being put in, there are still no fresh greens to enjoy. But rather than going to the store to buy fresh greens, I look around my yard and did some wild food foraging of edible wild greens to stir fry up for my supper.
Why would I use edible wild greens?
After a long winter of eating foods lacking in nutrients, the edible wild greens and perennials vegetables growing in my yard are packed with nutrients. Because their root systems are typically deeper, they are able to access the micro and macro nutrients that a garden vegetable can not and put it into a usable form via the greens. As a result, edible wild greens are definitely more nutrient dense than the store bought greens that have been picked for days and/or traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to make it to the store shelves. By adding edible wild greens to your diet, you are supplying a nutrient dense addition to any meal you are having.
Are all wild greens edible?
The short answer is no. Some wild greens will not be that palatable and others will only have amazing medicinal properties but there are also plenty of edible wild greens that nature provides.
How to know which edible wild greens are safe
There are a couple ways to learn which wild greens are are safe to eat. The first is to mentor with someone who already goes wild food foraging as the experience will be extremely valuable. The second way to learn which wild greens are safe is to get yourself some great plant ID books and identify the plants you are thinking of wild food foraging. Although the internet is a great tool to help you identify which plants are edible, identifying them is the first order of business. For the purpose of IDing and usability, I have a few go to's that I use:
- Wildflowers across the prairies by F.R. Vance, J.R.Jowsey and J.S.McLean
- Plants of the Western Boreal Forest & Aspen Parkland by Johnson MacKinnon and Kershaw Pojar
- Field Guide to Wild Herbs by the editors of Rodale Press Inc.
- Weed Seedling Identification by Saskatchewan Agriculture
- Nutritional Herbology, A reference guide to herbs by Mark Pedersen
- The Homesteader's Herbal Companion by Amy K. Fewell
- The Native American Herbalist Mastery by Enola Hill
With my background in forestry, I have spent many years learning to identify the various plants in nature. I have my go to edible wild greens that I enjoy each year but I also continually add new ones to the list.
What edible wild greens did I wild food forage for supper
1. Lambs quarter (Chenopodium album) also known as White goosefoot or wild spinach
This common garden weed can be found growing almost anywhere throughout the growing season. One of the first plants to emerge in the spring, it is a wonderful nutrient dense addition to your diet. I enjoy a small amount of it added to my salads but due to it containing oxalic acid I limit my consumption in its raw form. However, as cooking removes the oxalic acid, I use quite a bit of it in stir fry meal sides and in omelette's. To learn more about Lambs quarter click here.
2. Fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium)
This wild edible green is typically found growing in the forest right after a forest fire has gone through an area, but it can also be found growing in sites that have been disturbed such as in my boreal homestead. Although fireweed has many medicinal uses, as tender young shoots it is a wonderful addition to a stir fry or salad. It has a mild flavor and must be eaten while young as older stems become to woody to consume. To learn more about fireweed, click here.
3. Fiddle heads from Ostritch fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Although the ostrich fern grows wild in the forest, many people have them growing in their gardens to help fill low light areas. Every spring they send out new fronds wrapped in a brown tissue paper type coating that once the coating is removed provide a delicious, nutrient dense addition to a stir fry, steamed or just eaten raw. Eating too many of them raw will give you a stomach ache so it is recommended to not eat too many.They call them fiddleheads because they look like the head of a fiddlehead and although they recommend eating when tightly curled, I will eat them when they have opened a bit as well. They have a flavor reminiscent of asparagus. For more information on fiddle heads, click here.
4. Dandelion (Taraxacum)
This "weed" needs no introduction. It graces the country side with its early bright flowers that every child has picked for that someone special. But what a lot of people don't know is what a wonderful plant it is for you, the soil and the environment With its long tap root, it allows the plant to access the macro and micro nutrients from deep within the soil and bring it to the surface where it is accessible to the shallow rooted plants and to humans or animals when they consume it. The root can also be dried and ground into a coffee-like substitute, although I have not tried it. For my wild food foraging of edible wild greens for supper, I picked the leaves and a few flowers for color. The taste and texture is very similar to other greens, but these greens contain 112% of your daily requirement of Vitamin A and 535% of your daily requirement of Vitamin K, to mention a few. For more information on this wonderful plant, click here.
Although asparagus is technically not a foraged wild green at my boreal homestead, it can grow wild in parts of the province. I planted a patch about 20 years ago and have enjoyed it every spring since, both in the raw and cooked form. Because the roots of asparagus run deep within the soil, it is another of the plants that mines the macro and micro nutrients from deep within the soil and puts them into the tender shoots that emerge making this a nutrient dense addition to my supper.
Again, not a foraged wild green as they sprouted up in my garden this spring. A rogue onion, if you will. Regardless, a nice addition to my edible wild greens for supper.
How did I prepare my foraged edible wild greens
I could have washed everything, but to be honest with you, the only thing I washed was the fiddle heads to remove the brown papery skin. And the onion, I peeled. Otherwise everything was clean or clean enough for me. I gathered it all together and coarsely chopped it to my personal taste.
To my warmed, well seasoned cast iron fry pan (check out this great post on stripping and seasoning a cast iron pan by clicking here), I added some olive oil to start. To this pan I added the onion and asparagus first as they take a little longer to cook.
Cook for a few minutes until tenderness preference and then add the fiddleheads. I added a little salt and pepper at this time.
Cook the asparagus, onions and fiddle heads to the desired thickness. Then add the dandelion greens, dandelion flowers, fireweed and lambs quarter.
Wilt the edible wild greens until desired level of doneness and then plate. For this supper of edible wild greens I served it with some rice, deer sausage, homemade corn relish and some fermented 2021 garden carrots. Not only were the edible wild greens extremely nutritious, they were delicious. As was the whole meal, if I do say so myself.
After this delicious meal, a dessert was necessary for me. Although I could have made something with the spring rhubarb, I decided on a simple bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with some of my homemade chokecherry syrup that I walked you through how to make in How to make chokecherry syrup. A perfect ending to a fantastic meal.
Have you tried wild food foraging for edible wild greens? If you have not, I would encourage you to give it a try. Edible wild greens are a wonderful addition to your diet, require no garden to grow and help establish food security through the growing season. Be sure to follow along as we explore in future blog posts other meals made from wild food foraging of edible wild greens.
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