Friday, July 27, 2012

Scoping out the Buffet

Lately, wherever I go, I like to take a look around and see what's growing.

Such was the case this past week, when I was with my daughters at a National Dance Competition. I spent most of three straight days inside an auditorium or elsewhere in the building helping with costumes, etc, and finally, after too much time inside, I needed to take a walk.

I'm always impressed with the biodiversity I find in most places I go. Most people - and I am certainly guilty - look across a green meadow and see green. The individual plants tend to blend into one another, and most of us simply don't know or care to pick out the individuals in the group.

I don't know a lot of plants, but I do know enough that, if I'd had to, I could have scrounged a small meal. Among the options that I noticed right away were dandelion greens. At this point in the season, the greens are too bitter for most people to eat raw, but they can be added to other dishes, like thin-sliced and added to stir-fry, dried and added to soups or made into a delicious pesto.

I also found curly dock and cattail. The cattail flowers were already brown - too late to harvest the flowers and the stalks, but it's good to keep an eye on things as the season progressed. In the fall, we could harvest the rhizomes, or, if we found a less mature stand now, we could probably still get some edible stalks.

There were also lots of not-quite-ripe rose hips and some thistle sticking up in the tall grass.

I followed a trail back into the woods, and I found fully ripe choke cherries. The best was finding the green blackberries. I say it was the best, because if the berries are green there, the berries in my neglected neighborhood forage areas are probably green too, which means, unlike many of the plants I wanted to get to know this year, I haven't missed them.

I didn't bring home any foraged food on my short walk, and really it was just about recharging my batteries, which were feeling a bit drained after three days of sitting in an air-conditioned auditorium, but it was good to get out and look around and see how the season was progressing.

If the goal is to forage for food as a rule rather than an exception, it's important to always keep an eye out for what's available.


  1. Living in the city, it's hard to forage. But I did learn that if, for example, a fruit tree in a back yard extends out into the alley, the fruit in the public area is free for the taking.

  2. We live on a lane joining two farms, it is one and a quarter miles long.So far in the hedges I have found and identified nettles,sloes,blackberries,elderflowers and berries,wild raspberries, dandelion leaves,rose hips,and an abandoned apple tree.There is so much more there that I haven't identified yet but I'm making sure that I don't miss anything coming into season.I walk the dog down the lane each day so I get to check regularly what is growing and try to make the most of it.