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 excellent sources of collectible wild and natural foods.
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.
Tiger Lillies, Buds, Flowers and Tubers
Do you have tiger lilies growing in your yard or accessible nearby? The unopened buds are edible and have a delightful peppery flavor. These can be eaten raw in salads, or stir-fried with other vegetables. Even the 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.
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 mightly 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 here. 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 litres of water and mashed, strained and sweetened with sugar makes a shockingly delicious grape juice.
There are mushrooms, of course, best avoided unless you know the safe varieties. Some of my favorites are oyster mushrooms which make a great stir-fry item and flavor for soups. Puffball mushrooms if you find them small enough and have not ‘gone to seed’ are great sautéed in butter. The largest puffball I ever found was nearly the size of a basketball but it was gone to seed at that point. The best puffball mushrooms are maybe around the size of a walnut or slightly larger. Know your mushrooms. Eating a poisonous fungus by mistake is not worth taking the risk when foraging for wild foods. Unless you are certain what you have found–do not eat it. I won’t spend much time going into mushroom lore, it is too easy to make a mistake. I avoid all but the exceedingly obvious edible types.
Purlsane, a succulent Weed that is Great in Salads
Purlsane is an interesting succulent plant that is often available in oriental green markets, and it is a common weed as well. High in vitamin-C and omega-3 acids, it is an excellent ‘yard food’ to add to your foraging meal especially when steamed with a variety of other purloined yard edibles..
Milkweed Stalks When Boiled are as good as Asparagus
We also have an abundance of milkweed where I grew up. The unopened pods can be sliced or whole stir-fried and the young shoots too when about as big as your pinkie finger and tall as a pencil. These ‘wild asparagus’ stalks as they as sometimes called make an excellent main dish item when boiled and served under butter. The small young leaves are edible too. Boiled in salt water with oil, salted and with butter they are delicious.
For a Nutty Treat, Roasted Ginko Nuts
The female ginko tree produces a thumb-sized pear-shaped yellow fruit that is waxy, astringent and very bitter. Its flesh has a distinctly unpleasant pine-cleanser flavor and is mildly toxic. But the nut inside can be cleaned, roasted and eaten like pistaccios with a flavor that is indistinguishable from the pistaccio nut-proper. This is a labor-intensive chore to produce any usable quantity of these and deserving of a separate write-up so for now just know that they are on my menu of wild foods and leave it at that.
There are dozens upon dozens more wild and natural local food items out there. I could go on and on with this list of my favorites! Just be sure to positively identify anything that you gather as being edible, and that it comes from a pesticide-free location away from any industrial run-off or waste. Wash all the items thoroughly and enjoy the healthy meal on the cheap.
Original article: The Salad in Your Front Yard: Edible Plants You Didn’t Even Know About – written by thestickman on Factoidz