Foraging in My Backyard

With my awareness turned toward the outdoors this month, three topics of interest came up for me, that I am curious about. All involve being in nature or at least, outside. I love following my curiosity, to see where it leads me.

Today, I learned about foraging.

Foraging in My Backyard

Foraging is defined as “searching for food or provisions”. Although we can search for food at the grocery store, foraging is the practice of gathering edible plants, flowers, leaves, roots, seeds and nuts in the wild. In this case, the wild may mean right outside your back door. Many of the plants that are called weeds can actually be served up for a meal.

I’ve gathered dandelion leaves and flowers from my yard and used them in salads and teas. I wondered what else was growing in the garden and yard that I could eat. I brought home two books from the library to serve as my guides.

Foraging in My Backyard Dandelion leaves are great added to salads or steamed with veggies.

I learned a few basics about foraging.

Know the plants. Identification is very important. Eating an unidentified or misidentified plant or the wrong part of a plant can cause serious and negative reactions. Which is why I picked up the books. The internet has photos and descriptions of edible plants as well. Learning to identify the correct plants is crucial.

Watch for soil contamination. Know the land and how it has been impacted, environmentally. Since I am foraging in the city, for now, my own backyard is the only area I completely trust. My yard was remediated after the 2011 tornado. I know my soil is free from lead, pollutants and debris. I would not forage on vacant lots in my neighborhood because the soil is contaminated. Be aware of the impact of pollutants, run offs, streams that are polluted, herbicides and pesticides on the land. A field is not a safe foraging place, unless the history of the land is known.

Introduce new foods in small amounts. It’s always a good idea to try something new in small amounts, to see how the body reacts.

For this first foraging adventure, I simply walked around my yard and garden, looking at and seeking to identify plants and weeds. I located 18 edible plants, although some of those are herbs I’ve intentionally planted.

Foraging in My Backyard

Those edible plants include bee balm, pictured above, lemon balm, catnip, honeysuckle, mint and surprisingly, the spring flowers from my redbud tree and lilac bush can also be eaten.

I also identified dock, nettle, plantain, violets, white clover, wild lettuce and tangy wood sorrel. I used to chew on that plant as a child. It has a sour citrusy flavor.

Foraging in My Backyard The leaves and flowers of the wild violet are edible.

Foraging in My Backyard The leaves of the plantain are edible, as are the brown seeds when they appear.

Using the books, I was able to identify four other plants that are edible, that appear in my yard in early spring only. I pull up handfuls of chickweed every spring and toss them in my weed bucket. I didn’t know this bright green plant makes a great addition to salads, smoothies or pesto.

Other edibles that show up in my yard in the spring. The orange day lilies come in later. I’ve tried to get rid of them, without success. Perhaps I’ll just eat them!

I chewed on wood sorrel as I walked thoughtfully around the yard, looking at plants. I’ve wondered about the white clover in the yard. Now I know it makes a great tea, just like red clover.

I think changing my diet to plant based has created this interest in wild foods. Food truly has become my medicine, and I have a deep appreciation for the healing benefits found in plants, herbs and flowers. I like the idea of supplementing my diet with these wild cousins of foods I purchase at the market. They are growing in the earth. As I pick them and use them in my teas and meals, the powerful nutrients will go straight into my cells, nourishing me.

I have more to learn. I want to be very confident about what I am picking and eating. I’m excited, however, to forage and include my finds in my meals. Greg inspected his veggie bowl that I prepared for dinner, and recognized everything. He wondered aloud if he would know what he was eating tomorrow night!

Foraging in My Backyard

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