I love to forage. It’s like a treasure hunt. Plus it combines a few of my favorite things: getting to know plants, and being outside for a “walk”.
It’s time I teach you two simple plants that are currently growing, so you can try your hand at this. If you’re successful in finding some, then you’ll have free greens for dinner!
First: wild garlic mustard. It can grow to be a few feet tall, has alternating branches off a round stem, with rounded heart-shaped leaves and a tiny cluster of white blossoms at the top. You’ll find it in fields or at the edge of woods, not so much in deep woods. You’ll also find it along roadways, in abandoned lots, you name it. I have some growing at the end of my driveway where the road dead ends.
Once you’ve gathered it, fill a sink or big pot with water, and pull all the leaves off, dropping them into the water to rinse off. Save the flowers! Swish the leaves around, then spin them in a salad spinner or just lay them out on clean hand towels to dry. Use them raw in salads or cook them as you would any other green (oil, garlic, onion). They smell more garlicky than they taste; I think they’re pretty mild.
Next: stinging nettle. This can also grow to be several feet tall, and you’ll find it in similar places, growing with the garlic mustard. There is a square stem with pointy, ruffled leaves in pairs along the stem. It’s really easy to know this plant is the right one–touch it bare handed and you’ll feel a burning sting. So, definitely need gloves on to both harvest it and clean it.
The patch pictured above is actually growing in my yard–I transplanted it there so I’d have a good source of greens that critters won’t touch! Don’t worry, once the leaves hit hot water, the sting goes away. NOT for eating raw in salad! I usually either cook it with some kale or other green, or put it in soup, with beans and mushrooms. If you harvest a LOT, you can dry the leaves and use them in tea—very nutritious! The leaves, roots and seeds all make different kinds of medicine as well.
What you see above is what I found on just an hour-long walk with my dog in fields off River Road in Yardley. Shared some with a neighbor who did us a favor, and the rest just might be dinner tonight!
Hope you liked this plant education. I’m sure if you go looking, you’ll be successful as well.