The Salad in Your Front Yard: Edible Plants You Didn’t Even Know About

Wild Borage Flower

Wild Borage Flower

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

Viola, or Sweet Violet

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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

wild tiger lillies, the flower, the unopened bud and the tubers on the roots are all edible

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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.

Burdock Root

burdock root can be dug up and used in frugal eating

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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

cattails in a swampy area and  Cossack Asparagus, the cattail stalk that is white and crisp. Tastes a bit like cucumber

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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, the common wild grapes of North America

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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.

Wild Mushrooms

puffball, wild fungus mushroom

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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, a edible succulent weed that probably grows in your yard or nearby forest

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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

milkweed plant

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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

Ginko tree with brilliant yellow Autumn foliage

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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

DISCLAIMER: The statements enclosed herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information mentioned on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information and statements found here are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional.

6 Responses to “The Salad in Your Front Yard: Edible Plants You Didn’t Even Know About”

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  1. Eat Healthy says:

    The university I went to had ginko trees planted everywhere. During the fruiting season the fruit were all over the footpaths, can’t miss ’em because they stink (they smell like vomit – ewww!). If only I had known then that the nut was edible, I would have been collecting them instead of cursing them. They are beautiful trees and seem to grow really well in our climate… okay I’m putting them on the ‘orchard trees list’. I’ll just remember to plant them in a corner that we don’t frequent too often 😉

  2. shelley says:

    Don’t forget the Plantain leaves growing in your lawn, the infertile Horsetails growing everywhere along the trail sides in spring, also known as wild asparagus. What about the tender young fiddle head ferns in spring, the peeled stalks of Fireweed (Willow Herb), wild Huckleberries and Oregon Grape? The world is a smorgasbord of edibles, and it makes good survival sense to educate one’s self on the wild edibles and medicinals available in your particular area. Just remember not to over harvest a particular area, or nature’s bounty might disappear.

    • Donna says:

      Hi Shelley, thank you for those additions. Plantain is nice in a green smoothie, the flavor is not too strong. I didn’t know that the Horsetails are wild asparagus. Are the infertile ones those that look like asparagus spears? I thought (from memory) that they were hollow inside. I completely agree with you about knowing the wild edibles in your area. There are entire families that have survived famines when most of their neighbors died, only because they knew about the wild edibles. That’s also very good advice you offer about not over-harvesting. Thank you so much for contributing this information.

  3. shelley says:

    Hi, Donna! Yes, the infertile Horsetails look sort of like asparagus spears. I don’t think they are actually related, and like most wild greens, you need to pick them when they’re young and tender. I think the nickname ‘wild asparagus’ is more because of their appearance rather than flavor, or any genetic connection. Horsetails are astringent though, and so should be eaten sparingly, or they can cause constipation.
    I hesitated to mention the beautiful wildflowers that offer tasty roots and bulbs. Unless I was starving, I would prefer to see the flowers multiply undisturbed.

  4. I think it would be a good idea to include scientific names to accompany the common names of plants because common names differ from place to place. For example you what you call “tigerlilies” is the name we here in MA call an inedible lilly that has black spots. We call the ones you pictured “daylillies”, so someone from MA who reads your post might be encouraged to try the wrong plant. Another case in point is the person who referred to horsetail as “wild asparagus”–this is misleading — horsetail ISN”T wild asparagus! Clearly common names vary greatly depending on where you live…

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