Wild Edible Plants - Greens and Vegetables
Milkweed, along with Daylily, and Cattail is one of the top three, most delicious wild edibles. The flower blossoms, still firm and tightly bunched as they appear in this photo, are a taste treat when properly prepared. Milkweed, like all other plants with a white milky sap, must be boiled in three changes of water to destroy toxins. It is imperative that the water be brought to a full boil before immersing the flowerheads. Then they must be boiled for 3 minutes, the water drained, then fresh boiling water added for another 3 minutes. Repeat one final time for another 3 minutes, then pour off the water, add butter and enjoy!
Failure to follow this procedure exactly as listed above will result in a night of intense nausea and vomiting!
Wintercress, Barbarea vulgaris, is one of the first wild greens available in the spring. Raw, it has a brocolli-like flavor, but is better cooked as a green. Get to knoiw this plant well over a couple of seasons. It can be hard to identify until the flowers appear, but once they do the leaves become somewhat bitter.
Highly nutritious and flavorful, Stinging Nettle soup is a favorite of many wild edible enthusiasts. Beware of nettle burn when picking!
Common Plantain is probably growing in your own lawn. Known as "White Man's Footprint" to the First Peoples of the Americas, and as "Englishman's Footprint" to native Australians, the seeds of this prolific plant spread across both continents on the boots of English explorers and colonists. Although somewhat bitter raw, the young leaves make nice green when boiled and served with vinegar and butter.
Are these the young leaves of Sow Thistle or Wild Yellow Lettuce? It can be difficult for the novice to tell. Although there are distinguishing characteristics, the leaves and multiple yellow flowers look very similar.
Generally, however, Sow Thistle comes earlier in late June and Wild Lettuce in late July and early August. Both greens have a milky white sap and must be prepared in the same manner as Milkweed for safety.
Ostrich Fern fiddleheads, appearing for just a few days in early May, are a special treat! They are easily identified by the brown, cellophane-like "wrapping" seen in the photo above, and by their emerald green color. Boiled or steamed for a few minutes, they taste like a combination of fresh peas and asparagus.
All clovers, like White Sweet
Clover above, are edible and high in protein, but they all must be boiled for about 20 minutes, else they cannot be digested.