Wild Edible Basics

Wild Edible Basics, TJF Originals

Foraging Wild Edibles in Your Neighborhood

Why work so hard to forage, when we have farms? Harvesting is the only way to get the freshest produce.

Unless you live on a farm, the only way to make the field to table short is to forage. To get to market, farmers have to harvest produce hours in advance, then load their vehicles, travel from farm to market site and then unpack the vegetables people come to buy.

Try this:

In the field, harvest a few leaves, blossoms or fruit leaf, flower, or fruit.

Taste one immediately. Save the other and taste it later.

How were the flavor and texture different? Did you also notice that the more you handle any fruit or vegetable, the more it gets bruised? That also impacts flavor.

Let's face it, whatever we pick and nibble in the field will taste better than anything brought home later.

Where else can you do your shopping while on a daily walk?

If you establish walking routines, you get to notice what is growing and where. Observe the life cycle of the plant, so you know where and when to find it, ensuring peak flavor whenever you take a walk. That will save time in the long run

Lamb’s Quarters Growing in a Tree Pit NYC

Lamb’s Quarters Growing in a Tree Pit NYC

Quickweed growing in a flower pot.

Quickweed growing in a flower pot.

In some urban and suburban neighborhoods residents plant flowers and vegetables. I've actually seen corn plants and tomato plants around some trees in sunny urban neighborhoods. People care about their homes and most of the time these bits of garden are well tended.

You can be sure that weeds will grow and if you are in a position to make friends, offer to help weed.

Good neighbor weeding:

First, trim the tender tops and then root out the weed. If it is not an invasive bully, why not replant that weed in your own window box if you have one? As you become better acquainted, these neighbors may be willing to let the lamb's quarters, purslane, and Asiatic day flower grow, knowing you won't let them crowd out their plants.

Now, you'll have a regular foraging place supported by your gardener neighbors.

I'm a forager in everything I do. I forage for farmed produce and household items left behind by former neighbors in addition to foraging wild foods. It's not just about saving money, it's also about keeping useful items out of the land fill.

In my perfect world, we'd all be foragers looking at our streets, roads and open spaces as places to nurture, rather than places to throw our garbage.

Is it a dream? Maybe. But in an often fast-paced, wasteful and stressful world, it's a pretty good dream.

Wild Edible Basics

Foraging Your Local Farmers' Markets

Why Forage at a Farmers' Market?

In my world, foraging is the quest for food, whether or not I'm the one who harvests the food. Farmers markets are ideal for beginning foragers. Everyone who shops there gets to:

*support local farmers and learn ways to get good value

*eat the freshest food - shortest time from field to table

*safely learn about the flavor and preparation of unfamiliar vegetables and fruit.

Looking for the best quality? Get there early.

While the farmers are setting up, it's easier to see what's available and the condition of the produce.


Looking for bargains? Cruise the market late in the day.

Farmers maybe willing to negotiate price, because it's more practical to take money than to transport unsold produce.


1. Say "hi" to the farmer. You'll be amazed at the rewards.

Last summer, I saw lamb's quarters with pink top leaves at a farmer's stand.

This clever farmer saved the seeds from the "weeds" in her garden, replanting this wild edible in another spot. After a few years of selective breeding for pink leaves, the farmer now has enough seeds to sell to a seed company.

Imagine that! A farmer has embraced a wild edible, lamb's quarters, and cultivated it for looks. The lines between farming and foraging are already merging.

2. Walk the entire market before buying anything. Notice the condition and the price of what is available.

3. Eat samples offered. Get an idea of the flavor and texture of unfamiliar items and find new ways to enjoy what you already love.

4. Once you decide where to buy, look at everything offered. If an individual fruit or vegetable has a bruise or a bit of damage on one spot, negotiate the price.

Disclaimer: The item has to have the right texture and the right color; it can't be overripe, crushed or moldy.

Next time, we'll head out to our neighborhoods.

Wild Edible Basics

Tender Tops: My Clean and Easy Technique for Harvesting Wild Edibles

Foraging is about working smarter, not harder. Nothing is more satisfying than coming home with enough freshly picked wild ingredients to create or enhance a recipe.

You eliminate most of the hard work by using your folding scissors or small knife to cut the tender tops of green plants like lamb's quarters, quickweed or even knotweed. You're not going to eat the more mature, tough parts of the plant anyway, so there is no need to carry that extra weight.

Take a close look at this photo for how to harvest lamb's quarters. As you can see, the scissors is taking just the top of the plant. Notice the waxed paper in the background. 

Unless you are harvesting wild roots, you do not need to pull up the entire plant. This was about fifteen minutes of work, including folding the waxed paper so my leaves stay fresh and don't bruise.

Once you are back in the kitchen, you want to make sure your wild gathered ingredients are free of pollen or insects. Sturdier leaves can be rinsed in cold water and spun in a salad spinner.

More delicate plants, like wood sorrel and Asiatic day flower blossom can be misted with a plant sprayer and blotted dry with a lint-free towel or paper towel.

That's it! 


Wild Edible Basics

Japanese Knotweed: Myriad Uses, Amazing Flavor

                         Freshly foraged Japanese knotweed

                         Freshly foraged Japanese knotweed

If you like rhubarb, then Japanese knotweed is for you. Not everyone has access to a fresh rhubarb patch, but Japanese knotweed is one of those invasives that spreads faster than you can harvest and eat it. Japanese knotweed is tender for about three weeks before it becomes too tough to be worth harvesting. Gather as much as you can in that time, and use it in salads, sauces, compotes, jams, pies and every way you would use rhubarb. In the field, the segmented Japanese knotweed stalks look a lot like bamboo making it easy to recognize, although the leaves of these two unrelated plants are different. The best knotweed stalks are flexible and less than 12 inches high, about as thick as asparagus. I like to cut them 1-2 inches above the ground and trim off the tips and leaves while in the field. Once I get them home, I'll peel the outer skin. Early in the season, I cut them up and marinade them before adding them to a knotweed mushroom salad. You can simply peel them and freeze them for later use without having to blanch them in boiling water. I actually prefer to peel, cut and cook the knotweed until it has the consistency of applesauce. You can strain this for a smooth consistency or incorporate the stringy pulp into your recipe. Cooked knotweed has a greenish yellow color, so to make it prettier, I usually add frozen blueberries, which turns it a lovely purple color. My personal preference is for the texture of rustic cut, rather than diced or finely chopped ingredients. I like to peel and cut very ripe apples and pears in to the knotweed blueberry mix and cook everything over low heat, adding water as needed until the fruit mix is the consistency of chunky applesauce. This basic fruit mix can be flavored using cinnamon and cloves, or ginger, or any flavor you prefer.

1-2 Days Before

Harvest asparagus-size shoots 1"-2" above the ground
Trim tops and leaves
Peel the smooth outer skin from the stalks
Cut into bite size pieces and freeze what you do not use immediately
For fruit mix, combine in a saucepan:
2 cups knotweed pieces
1 each – apple and pear cut into pieces
1 cup frozen wild blueberries
1/3 cup oats
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 ounces water
Bring the mix to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer. Covered the pan so the steam escapes, let everything cook 15 minutes. Add another half cup of water and simmer until all the ingredients are soft. Strain mixture for a smooth texture or leave it as is for a chunky texture. Refrigerate what you will eat in the next seven days. Freeze any excess for future use.
Serving options:
Add to yoghurt, ice cream, hot cereal.
Freeze in ice cube trays - insert a popsicle stick before freezing.
As a pie filling
As a side dish

Shopping List:
Foraged Items:

Enough knotweed shoots to yield two cups per recipe
Pantry Items:
Apples, pears, blueberries, or any ripe fruit
Oatmeal - quick or old fashioned
Maple syrup