wild edible plants

Finding Fibert (Corylus avellana) by Jade Bisson

Corylus avellana.

Corylus avellana.

Greetings! Thank you kind weather gods for this long, warm, dry fall! It is disgustingly perfect for collecting deliciously ripe edibles and being able to store them properly for winter. At this time of year, I like to look to my friends the squirrels for inspiration. These guys are pro-foragers and "storagers", as I like to call them. They know cold is coming and that now is the time to collect and save for thinner times. They know what's up! I should be more like a squirrel, really. 

Well today, the squirrel inside me stirred while I scavenged a near-by hazelnut tree for fallen fruit. Corylus avellana, the common Hazel, is not technically a 'wild' edible, but is so omnipresent that you can find them 'in the wild' on abandon homesteads or public parks, (note: we are not advertising trespassing here!). Many Hazel shrubs were planted as hedgerows to mark the boundary of a farm or property, which is why they are pretty common in all types of vegetation zones. Not to mention their wood is useful for fencing FULL STORY.

Johnny Jumpers / Viola pensylvanica by Jade Bisson

Hola Adventurers!

A beautiful Johnny Jumper!It's Spring! Whoop, whoop! Forget those roots and twigs you were foraging for this winter. It is that time of year again when abundance returns to the land and collecting edibles is such a joy. With so many choices, where do you start?!?Lots of Johnny Jumpers! Here is one beauty to look for: Viola pensylvanica, a member of the violaceae family, or more commonly known as, violets. These young guns are wild though. There are over 800 or so species in the genera, so imma just stick with these yellow ones I found in the meadow behind my house. You really can't miss 'em. Johnny Jumpers.They are one of the first colors to emerge from the dark forest floor. With heart-shaped green leaves and little yellow petaled flowers, how could you not pick a few? Pay attention when walking through a shaded meadow or on the edge of a forest. The plants can grow from 1-12 inches, producing a single yellow flower with 5 petals (3 lower, 2 side) rising above a carpet of heart-shaped leaves with sharp tips. This species spreads by rhizomes, so you will find them growing in dense clumps. I have yet to find a source which confirms the leaves as edible, so stick to eating the flowers only.Johnny Jumper.  A fun fact that I ran in to is that the flowers are the larval host and/or nectar source for the silver-bordered butterfly. I know, right! So don't pick all of the flowers, leave some for the larvae! So, in conclusion, you definitely CAN'T make a meal out of violets, but you CAN impress your friends by adding them to a dish you've made. Pretty up that bowl of wieners and beans that you made for your girlfriend by adding some edible wild violets, she'll thank you for it!!! Adios for now!

Chickweed (Stellaria media)-Jade

Winter Treats!  

Hello All. I've been doing quite a bit of road/trail walking this winter and there is a surprising amount of food to be found, well, in the ditch! Not just any ditch though. I am lucky to live in a place where most ditches, streams and creeks are clean enough to eat from. So, for all you city dwellers, be mindful of possible pollutants upstream or near to where you are picking. 

The first treat is Chickweed (stellaria media). This is definitely one of my favorite edibles because it is so abundant and easy to identify, making it a very good plant to keep in your "edible lexicon". You can REALLY find this just about everywhere; vacant lots, flower beds, compost piles, dirt roads, lawns. I have even spotted some growing in the cracks of sidewalks (might not want to eat those ones though). It thrives in disturbed and sandy soils from sea level to foothills. It is easy to identify in winter because it is the only bright green foliage around. The plant is 5-12 inches high with bright green egg-shaped leaves and sometimes little white flowers (even in winter). It is a succulent, meaning that it retains quite a bit of water, making it a nice juicy supplement for a winter salad or in pancakes! Yes, pancakes. Don't believe me? Try it! 

Next is the most popular and sought after of all foraged foods. WATERCRESS! It is part of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, along with its more cultivated cousins, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and arugula.Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum is an important edible to be able to identify, one for its lovely peppery taste and two, for its close growing proximity to the deadly poisonous water hemlock! Be very careful. If you are a novice forager, you should find an experienced picker to take you to find watercress. It is a perennial aquatic or semiaquatic herbaceous plant, growing in slow moving creeks and streams. It has a trailing characteristic with free-floating branches ranging from 3-15 inches. Little white flowers form in summertime. This is one of the most refreshing tastes in the wild, so please take the time to learn how to properly identify and pick. P.S Try some leaves in a cheddar cheese sandwich, MEOW!

Last is wintercress. Yes, not as showy or as tasty as watercress, but just as nutritious. It grows in the rich wet soils of your local meadows, streambanks and forests. Barbarea orthoceras has long, dark green lobed basal leaves that grow in a rosette or a layered whorl. During early spring, the long tap root can be harvested and tastes similar to horseradish. Add this zesty biennial to camp salads or wood stove pasta sauce while on a weekend adventure! 

Hopefully you are set for your winter treats. It is hard to find edibles at this time of year. So when you do, savor these "green treasures" and know that spring is just around the corner! 

-Jade Bisson