The Raw Vegan: Foraging for Food, Part 1

A few days ago, I subscribed to the Veria channel. There is lots of programming of interest to the raw foodist. I was excited to see a raw pizza on the menu of one of the cooking shows. It was largely a disappointment when it started out something like “Two days before you plan to serve the pizza…” I’m too much of an “instant” person for that. Peel me a banana. I’ll be fine.

Over the weekend, I found a program about Euell Gibbons and foraging for wild food. The name of the series is The Genesis of Healing. Seems it is an assortment of programs about things that can promote health. While I may watch the others, I’ve been wanting to learn how to gather and eat free food that’s growing right here in my yard. Rather than being a “how to” program, this particular episode was about the man, himself. That still whetted my appetite, anyway, and gave me an incentive to find out what I can about what I have.

First off, I took inventory of what I know. The wild foods I have positively identified which grow right outside my front door are:

  1. Dandelion
  2. Tiger Lily
  3. Violets
  4. Wood Sorrel
  5. Poke Weed

Not an auspicious start, but a start. When you take poke weed off of the list, that only leaves four plants I know I can safely eat. Poke weed has to be thoroughly cooked. It was one of my springtime staples in years past but not an option any more.

DandelionsThere’s some disagreement about when dandelion greens are at their best. I have heard everything from when they first appear in the spring before they bloom until any time during the spring, summer, and on into the fall. I’m not crazy about them at any stage. There are people on my forum who like them in smoothies. I have bought them at the organic market and let them rot in my fridge so I still can’t give my opinion on the smoothie taste.

Tiger LilyA friend told me I could eat tiger lily buds raw. So…last spring I tried them. They taste sort of like garden peas. Not bad at all. I think they would go nicely in salad but I never got around to trying them that way. If I were eating cooked, the young blossoms would probably be good battered and fried. I will never know. To me, they are similar to squash blossoms. I’ve seen them served up in fancy restaurants on the Food Network.

VioletsNext on my list are violets and the leaves. I used to munch on these when I was a child. Both the leaves and flowers make a beautiful addition to salad. They are high in vitamins A, C and the antioxidant anthocyanin. Good stuff, I’d say. Plus, I’d like to think that if we don’t get over-enthused and wash them before eating, they could be a source of B-12. That could be true of anything listed here (except for poke).

Wood SorrelAnd now for my favorite of all. I wait until later on in the summer for wood sorrel. That’s when the little “pickles” appear. It has a lovely lemon-y taste and the seed pods have a satisfying crunch. There are a few patches in my side yard that I visit every few days. I’m thinking about transplanting some to a place where it will have more room to grow and spread. Evidently, it needs some shade to thrive because that’s the condition where it grows naturally. It’s probably just as well that I can’t eat lots and lots of it because it’s high in oxalic acid.

Lamb's QuartersI have looked in vain for lamb’s quarters on my property. Nancy, my farmer lady, is supposed to bring me some seed I can scatter and get a start of it. I would have to fence it in to keep my neighbors from mowing it down. They have a penchant for herbicides, too, so the wind would have to be blowing the other way to keep it safe. It’s said to be good in salad. The sample Nancy brought me was okay but I think it would be better mixed with other things. Hopefully, I’ll be better able to review its qualities later on in the spring.

PurslaneAnother one I want to be on the lookout for is purslane. It’s in the same family as the portulaca (moss rose) my mother used to plant every year. Who knew we could eat it? I have a lot to learn. The flowers on the little rubbery stems are beautiful and only bloom when the sun is hitting them directly. I can understand that. I feel most alive when I’m in the sun, too. It goes by other names, too. One of them is pigweed. Appetizing.

PokeweedThis shows pokeweed early in the spring when it is at it’s best for (cooked) eating. The dried hollow stems make it easy to spot. I’m including it here for the people who still indulge. My son is one of them and he loves poke. I have fixed it for him on more than one occasion because my DIL won’t touch it. It is a process to fix. There are people who won’t eat it unless it has been boiled and drained several times before it’s fried in (traditionally) bacon grease. Now, being a vegetarian, I fried it in vegetable oil and I’d boil it twice at most and usually once. I would also take the green stems (red is too mature), cut them in 1/2 inch lengths, bread in cornmeal and salt and fry. It was always yummy. The stems “pop” when you chew them. The popular way to fix it around here is “poke ‘n eggs”. My sister barely cooked some one time so she would get more nutrition from it. She never tried that again.

There are lots of articles on the Internet about edible weeds but they all have the qualifier somewhere about being VERY SURE before eating anything growing wild. With that in mind, I sat down and ordered Stalking the Wild Asparagus and The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants. The former is said to be an enjoyable read and the latter more of a nuts and bolts instructional book.

The pictures here are for beauty and not for teaching. It’s my hope that you will be inspired to learn more and make your diet more exciting and varied with the bounty that grows out there on God’s Green Earth. Happy munching!

3 Responses to The Raw Vegan: Foraging for Food, Part 1

  1. Lila February 26, 2008 at 10:15 pm #

    I just read your entry for today, and just want to commend you on it. It is very well done and also very attractive. Good luck with your wild greens! I don’t know that I’m that ambitious, but sounds like it will be an adventure for you.

  2. Marjorie February 29, 2008 at 8:17 pm #

    Hey Tommie,

    You can come and pull lambsquarters in my garden ANY TIME! I would consider before you scatter those seeds. Maybe go to it, and hope it never comes to you. LOL!


  3. Tommie February 29, 2008 at 10:26 pm #

    Thanks, Lila—and Marjorie, is it that much of a pest? I would scatter them in my yard and not the garden area. Are you saying it would take over?

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