In a comment to yesterday's post, Thunder wrote:
I made a salad out of Cercis canadensis flowers yesterday.
Being a forager myself, I read this with a tear in my eye, and started chanting "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!" It's still pretty early in the foraging season, but I've already consumed quite a bit of stinging nettles (I boiled them, pureed them, and added them to a basic biscuit batter I make when I have milk that goes sour on me), and snacked a couple of young Japanese knotweed stalks that were poking up out of the ground (the knotweed is an aggressive invasive species, it has a pleasantly sour taste, much like rhubarb).
During the summer of 2009, I made a resolution to forage for at least one edible plant every week during the growing season. I've stuck by it all this time- once one develops an eye for the edible weeds, it's an easy hobby to pursue, and it cuts one's grocery bill by quite a bit. For me, though, the most important aspect of it is that it expands the variety of foods that are available- as author Michael Pollan observed:
Simplification has occurred at the level of species diversity, too. The astounding variety of foods on offer in the modern supermarket obscures the fact that the actual number of species in the modern diet is shrinking. For reasons of economics, the food industry prefers to tease its myriad processed offerings from a tiny group of plant species, corn and soybeans chief among them. Today, a mere four crops account for two-thirds of the calories humans eat. When you consider that humankind has historically consumed some 80,000 edible species, and that 3,000 of these have been in widespread use, this represents a radical simplification of the food web. Why should this matter? Because humans are omnivores, requiring somewhere between 50 and 100 different chemical compounds and elements to be healthy. It’s hard to believe that we can get everything we need from a diet consisting largely of processed corn, soybeans, wheat and rice.
I enjoy foraging, it's something I have done on an irregular basis since I was a little kid. My maternal grandmother was very knowledgeable about plants, and she'd teach us grandchildren while we went on walks through the woods. Whenever I'd weed the garden, I'd simply wash the purslane off and scarf it down. This year, though, I think I may have to ramp up the foraging... I typically only go for parts of the plant that can readily be picked- leaves, stalks, fruit. This year's the year I take it to another level, straight down... this is the year I'm going to start digging up gobo roots. We have a lot of burdock plants growing around one of my worksites, and they have gone uneaten for all too long.