Wild salad- why foraging is a good idea

by Sarah on March 2, 2011

Green salad with alyssum and mint leaves

Green salad with alyssum and mint leaves

My garden is a jumble of weeds. I thought I would invite a group of Israeli food bloggers to try to tame it under the guise of a backyard foraging event. We picked chickweed, nettle, mallow, henbit and shepherd’s purse but my yard still looks overgrown and wild. The green season may be exuberant, but it is all too brief, quickly dying back as if it never happened.  Instead of uprooting the stray plants I try to incorporate them into salads and stews, the best way to use up these natural foods.

fruit salad decorated with flowers

fruit salad decorated with violets, pansies, begunia and alyssum, right, henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)

These plants are threatened both by those who consider them a nuisance and others who ignore ethical foraging guidelines, picking them to the verge of extinction. The knowledge of wild edible plants and sustainable foraging was once part of daily life, passed on from mother to daughter. Those who were able to identify and use wild edibles survived during times of famine, a threat that is likely to reoccur even in the most prosperous countries.

wood sorrel bee

Bee and wood sorrel

The world’s food stability is dependent only on a few species, wheat, rice, corn and potatoes. A reduction of any of these crops will reverberates across the globe, causing wide spread food shortage, famine and social unrest. A classic example of this was the Irish potato famine of 1845- 1857. Millions starved to death or emigrated because of the decimation of the country’s main food crop by a single virus, Phytophthora infestans.

chickweed salad and wood sorrel

chickweed salad and wood sorrel

I do not advocate mass foraging but the incorporation of local species into the regional agriculture, increasing genetic variability.  Using plants that are naturally adapted to the climate and geography of an area broadens the food safety net and reduces dangerous dependence on only a handful of crops. In Israel za’atar, a wild aromatic, is grown commercially to supply the increasing demand, helping to preserve it in the wild (although this doesn’t stop those from illegaly picking and selling of this protected plant).

chicory and rose

wild chicory and garden rose, both edible

You don’t have to go far to forage as our last event demonstrated. In my garden and surroundings we found more than enough to feed six hungry bloggers. New food sources need to be found, preferably local and sustainable to add but not replace the standard items in most people’s diet. Learning to recognize and enjoy wild edible plants is the first step in that direction.

Read more about backyard foraging:

Ariella (from the new blog Ari Cooks) : Wild edibles

Liz: Winter weekend weed walk

Miriam: Forager’s Lunch

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Simcha March 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I totatlly agree with you that wild foraging is something we need to do. Some things may have been lost to us under the name of progress but we really do need to get back and learn some of the basics like knowing which plants we can eat, what is out there that we can harvest. Apart from reclaiming a lost skill these supposed weeds are very healthy being very high in minerals and vitamins.

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Sarah March 2, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Simcha, thanks! Many of the weeds are wonderfully nutritious. Others need to be specially treated before eating to remove harmful natural chemicals such as in cyclamen and arum.

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Yael March 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Wow, great photos! But sorry, i still fail to see the charm in eating those leaves, I can hardly eat lettuce. Besides, still didn’t find anything that beats a good pizza :)

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Sarah March 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Haha, love your honesty. My neighbor feels the same way and was bugged eyed shocked that we suggested he eat the weeds popping out of his garden.

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Grace @ Sandier Pastures March 2, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Those photos are amazing. I thought the wood sorrels were clovers. :-)

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Sarah March 4, 2011 at 12:01 am

Thank you Grace!

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Sally - My Custard Pie March 6, 2011 at 6:28 am

A beautiful post – how lovely to be able to forage with friends in your own garden. On the more serious point – this is why industry and huge multi-nationals should not control our food supply (and why GM crops are so damaging to our eco-system). Thanks for raising.

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Liz March 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Lovely. I think we should all be getting back in touch with our environment — knowing what’s edible, even if we choose not to eat it.

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