Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wild Edibles Walk

Jason and I went on a walk to identify edible plants in Frick Park here in Pittsburgh last Saturday, April 17. The walk was led by Melissa and David Sokulski of The Birch Center and Food Under Foot. They educate people on the potential of weeds and wild plants to provide food and medicine. A lot of wild plants are wicked good for you! We didn't pick the fiddleheads in the park and will wait til we find a patch that will be just fine if we harvest a few. However, things like wild mustard that are invasive can be ripped out wherever they pop up and the parks encourage people to do so. Just make sure you have identified it correctly first, and that goes for eating any of these guys of course! Here are just a few of the things we saw...

PLANTAIN (plantago major): broad leaf plantain is a common weed that inhabits yards alongside dandelions, clover, and other edible weeds. The leaf, root, and seeds can all be eaten and the crushed leaves can be used to alleviate pain from bites, stings, and sunburn.

ONION GRASS: oniony...use it like chives or scallions! Since it is in the family Liliaceae, and some lilys are poisonous, just make sure it smells oniony before you eat it.

VIOLET: Mild flowers and leaves, both edible and pretty in salads.

MAY APPLE: Plants are poisonous but the fruit are edible, if the deer don't get them first.

BURDOCK: We have an infestation of this stuff in one of the lots we are gardening in. The root is most commonly used...grated, pickled like kraut or cooked but the stalks are also edible and can be peeled like celery. Melissa did not recommend eating the leaves and said the roots are best dug on small, first year plants like the one pictured here.

GARLIC MUSTARD is an invasive plant that is everywhere in Pittsburgh right now. The parks encourage people to rip it out wherever they spot it. The leaves and roots are both edible and Food Under Foot lists a Garlic Mustard Horseradish recipe that uses the root. The leaves turn more bitter once the plant flowers but mellow out if you use some vinegar and fat when cooking.

FIDDLEHEADS are unfurled fronds of young ferns that are tender and delicious. This website includes some recipes on pickling extra fiddleheads since they are only available for a brief moment in early spring.

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