Edible wild plants

I've put young dandelion leaves on my salad before. It's interesting how a common weed can add so much flavor. I know there are more wild plants I could eat, and I'd like to learn what they are and how to do it.

John Kallas is the director of Wild Food Adventures. He educates people on how to find edible wild plants in natural settings. He calls these plants "native to humans", because we see them everywhere around us. Unfortunately, we try to kill off many of those plants that are a culinary delight.

"Dandelions are a very good example of one of those things you can get started with, because they pretty much grow everywhere. You can also do Cat's Ear, that's another excellent plant that's often confused with dandelion, it's been called false dandelion," says Kallas. "In the middle of the summer you've got a plant called Purslane, and Lamb's Quarters is another thing, also known as wild spinach. One of the most nutritious leafy greens ever analyzed."

There are hundreds of wild edibles. Kallas says the key to success is knowing which parts of a plant you can eat, at what stage of growth, and the correct method of preparation.

"And a good example of that is Curly Dock. If you just taste a raw leaf, 9-out-of-10 times it's going to be bitter, astringent, papery, you know just a generally miserable experience. But if you chop that up and you boil it for just a few minutes, it becomes a delicious, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth food," he says.

How do you know if a wild plant is safe? Kallas says you have to be sure, and the best way to learn is with an instructor. However, there are books and field guides that can also help you identify what you're looking for.

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