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

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