Eating – On the Wild Side

I’m sitting here enjoying a nice big salad.  My salad is packed with lots of delicious organic veggies and one special something that takes it to a whole other level.

That special something is Claytonia perfoliata or Miner’s Lettuce.  A native wild plant that makes a delicious addition to any salad or can be enjoyed all on its own.  I admit I helped this particular wild plant invade the yard where I live by planting just one start.  It’s done the rest of the work and I now have quite the supply of delicious greens to chomp on!

Claytonia perfoliata or Miner's Lettuce Photo by Maurie Kirschner

Claytonia perfoliata or Miner’s Lettuce
Photo by Maurie Kirschner

Eating wild foods is a fun past time of mine.  It combines my love of being out in nature and my love of eating tasty nutritious things.  Just yesterday I picked and munched a bit of another kind of Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia sibirica, also known as Candy Flower or Siberian Miner’s Lettuce or Spring Beauty. It’s a close cousin of the one I’ve helped take over my yard.  C. sibirica  tends to be a bit more common in my nearby woods.  It has a very similar taste and is always a nice refreshing snack.

The day before that I nibbled another favorite wild food, Oxalis oregana or Oregon Oxalis or Wood Sorrel.  It has a tangy lemony taste that I’ve been enjoying since I was a little girl out on fishing trips with my mom.  She’d been eating it since she was a little girl on fishing trips with her dad.  It’s a family thing!  I don’t eat this in large quantity but it makes for a nice tangy snack!  I also love photographing it!

Oxalis oregana or Oregon Oxalis Photo by Maurie Kirschner

There are so many tasty wild plants out there.  Spring is a great time of year to start learning about what is edible near you.  Perhaps the nettles are just coming up near where you live and are still small enough to enjoy.  Do the lady ferns still have some small fiddleheads to be harvested.   Or you can try some flowers – I just love the bright pink Salmonberry blossoms.  Only I make sure not to take too many because I also love the berries they turn into too!

This is just a small sampling of possibilities here in the northwest.  There  is a whole wonderful wild world of delicious treasures to discover out there.   And I didn’t even touch on all those delicious “weeds” outside your door.  Nature is full of nourishment!

But how do you know what you can eat?  You should have a good plant identification book (Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast is my own favorite for my area) and know how to use it.  You can connect with someone you know and trust that knows what’s edible and ask them to show you.  You can check out the local native plant society to see if they have any walks coming up that might highlight edible plants.  Maybe there is a Wilderness Education School near you that has workshops and classes on foraging.  The main thing is to make sure you know what you are eating and if in doubt wait till you can know for sure.  Just don’t be afraid to learn.  Eating wild foods is another great way to connect with nature, and a tasty adventurous one at that!

I’d be super curious if you have eaten wild foods and what you’ve tried?  How did you learn what to eat?  Do you have any favorites?  If you don’t eat wild foods, what holds you back?

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13 responses to “Eating – On the Wild Side

  1. Love the miner’s lettuce, although you didn’t say where it grows… I did a post on edible ivy a while back, among other things 🙂 http://cookupastory.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/and-little-lambs-eat-ivy/

    • Thanks for the comment, Vinny. I enjoyed the reference to that song in your post. My mom use to sing that all the time. Good memories. Miner’s Lettuce (both kinds I mentioned in the post) is common in moist shady to open forests and meadows here in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not certain of its range beyond my region.

  2. My first experience I can remember with wild foods is picking blackberries behind the house as a kid. We did lots of that! When I was in scouts, I learned a few others, including salaal berries. Then, I met this really cute gal who introduced me to all sorts of wild stuff…mushrooms…other berries…miner’s lettuces…oxalis. I’m sure I’m missing a few dozen (or is it hundred) there! 🙂

  3. You will have to enter my next book giveaway contest – I think with this theme you’ll like it!! (my only hint!)

  4. PS I’ve never seen miner’s lettuce outside of books and blogs. The weeds I get are, well, noxious 😦

    • I’ll bet you have all sorts of edibles nearby. Like Dandelions – I love Dandelions!!! You can get starts of Claytonia perfoliata from a good nursery and one plant around the edges in a shady spot will seed and you’ll have lots!

      • Now that I don’t have a dog who could potentially pee on them they could be rescued, true 🙂 Although I’ve traditionally saved them for my next door neighbor’s chickens as they lovvvvve ’em. Next time y’all are down here you’ll have to take me on a guided urban walk! 🙂

  5. Oh nice … you make me want to investigate my area further. We have creasy greens and ramps … both of which grow wild. We also have a ton of various mushrooms (my favorite is the lobster mushroom). Growing up in Seattle, we spent a lot of time on my grandparents farm in eastern WA … we had dandelion salads, wild hazelnuts and boletes. Mmmm!

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