For the Food on Fridays carnival, any post remotely related to food is welcome—though we love to try new dishes, your post doesn’t have to be a recipe. We’re pretty relaxed over here, and stories and photos are as welcome as menus and recipes. When your Food on Fridays contribution is ready, just grab the button to include with your post. It ties us together visually. Then fill in the boxes of this linky tool to join the fun!
Food on Fridays with Ann
Last week I mentioned that I’d heard someone on the radio describe how she took her five-year-old son on a camping trip and taught him to forage. The little boy found wild strawberries, wild onions, and black walnuts.
Taking inspiration from this family’s creativity, I decided to hunt around for wild plants in my area that I can eat. I’ve written about snacking on succulents and pansies, but those were not exactly growing wild. The pansies are in my flower boxes, for crying out loud.
I remembered standing with my neighbor years ago, back when everyone was talking about Y2K, and she said, “My parents taught me how to find things to eat. There’s dandelions and wild kale and plenty of other stuff.” I could have sworn she gestured toward a weed that grows in my garden when she said “wild kale,” so for all these years I’ve always thought wild kale=that green weed with a grayish look on some of the leaves.
I decided to hunt down one of those plants. My husband was digging in the garden when I came out with my camera. “I’m hunting down an edible weed,” I announced.
“Be sure to research it!” he warned. He’s afraid I’ll eat something poisonous.
“I will! I promise! I think it’s called wild kale. Hey, there’s some!” I snapped a picture, pulled it up by the roots, and brought it inside.
As promised, I researched it. To my surprise, I discovered it was not wild kale. It’s known as “lamb’s quarters.” The man in the video below describes lamb’s quarters, reminding viewers: avoid eating unless you positively identified it, be certain it has not been sprayed with pesticide, and ensure it is growing more than 100 feet from the roadside.
Another writer warns, “beware of malodorous lookalikes — safe-to-eat lambsquarters does not emit a bad or resinous smell when you crush its leaves between your fingers.” He also claims that this plant is packed with nutrition: “Like its cousin quinoa, it’s sort of a super-food — high in Vitamins A and C, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, manganese, potassium and iron.”
About 98 percent certain I had discovered the real-deal lambsquarters* in my own back yard, I pulled all I could find, plucked off the leaves, and sauteed them to eat with eggs for brunch.
The lambsquarters tasted like spinach, only better. The flavor has more punch.
I thought of a neighbor I ran into at Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago, and how she said she was making salads from fresh spinach picked straight from her garden.
“Oh, I’m so jealous!” I blurted out. “I didn’t plant anything in time to be harvesting this early! I’ll bet that is delicious.” She conceded that it was indeed, and when we parted ways, I was longing for home-grown greens.
But then here I was eating something that tasted even better than spinach—growing wild, right in my own garden!
As I maneuvered the last of the greens onto my fork, I tried not to think about how many years I’ve been pulling and disposing of this plant in the compost heap instead of enjoying its health benefits. I chewed the final bite slowly. Yes, this tasted more flavorful than spinach and was mine to enjoy. And I didn’t plant a single seed.
I glanced at my husband working hard in the garden, preparing the soil for tomato and pepper plants. Then I swallowed my lambsquarters and gave thanks.
* I discovered and included several variations for the spelling of this plant’s common name: with and without the apostrophe and even as one word.
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Photos by Ann Kroeker. “Pin” these images in a way that links back to this particular page, giving proper credit.
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