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Urban Foraging

Many people associate foraging with living in rural areas, or off the grid, or surviving in the forest. While those are all areas where foraging is a great way to supplement you diet, urban foraging is something available to everyone. Unless you treat your yard with herbicide, I would be willing to bet that you have multiple edible plants growing right outside your door. You can also forage in parks, fields, and the lawns around schools and churches. Urban gardens are an excellent place to forage. That seems like a no brainer, but believe it or not, I am not talking about the planted fare. My favorite garden plant is considered a noxious weed, and the scourge of gardeners everywhere. Purslane grows in disturbed rich soils. Much to the chagrin of just about every gardener, vegetable and herb gardens provide ideal conditions for it to flourish.

It truly saddens me that children have to go to bed hungry because their parents are unaware that a delicious salad is more than likely growing right outside their door. And it is all free for the taking. Lets look at my yard and garden as an example. In my yard I have chickweed, chicory, dandelion, japanese knotweed, lamb's quarters, mullein, pineapple weed, plantain, queen anne's lace (wild carrot), red clover, violet, sow thistle, white clover, wild lettuce, wild mint, wood sorrel, and last but definitely not least purslane. That is not including the maple, willow, and walnut trees I have. All of that growing on a city lot less than of an acre in area. We are all surrounded by highly nutritious foods, and healthful medicinals, free for the taking.

I went to visit a friend one beautiful summer afternoon. As we sat on his deck overlooking his huge garden, drinking a cold beer he told me of the awful morning he had spent pulling weeds. He promptly asked me to follow him to his garden, where he proceeded to show me two large lawn waste recycling bags full of in his words, "those damned weeds". I looked in the bag and could not stop the smile from splitting my face. I asked him why he plants a garden. He looked at me like I was an idiot. I asked him to humor me, and answer my question. He said "for vegetables to eat". The "you idiot" part of his answer was implied. I said do you like to eat salad? Again he looked at me like I had lost my marbles, but simply said "yes", humoring me much the way you would a child. I said he had just spent the day pulling what is arguable the best salad green he will ever eat. He just looked at me like I had lost my mind. I continued without waiting for his response. This bag appears to be full of Purslane. He said it is, as a matter of fact the other bag is full of it as well. I reached in and grabbed a handful of the succulent plant, put it in my mouth, chewed it up, and swallowed it. He could not take it any longer; "are you nuts?" "Yes but that is beside the point" I answered. "For centuries purslane has been grown across the world as a food crop." It is not native to the North America, but was rather brought here by immigrants as an easy to grow highly nutritious food source. It was not until the early 20th century that it fell from our diet, and was relegated to the status of obnoxious weed. At my insistence, he warily gave it a try. "Hey this is pretty good. It has a really mild flavor." I found out a while later that he then had his wife research purslane on the internet. He called me to say I was right. That even his sister-in-law knew about purslane.

Interested in edible plants? Come along on one of our Plant Walks.

List of Edible Plants

Autumn Olive - Autumnberry (Elaeagnus umbellata)

Black Raspberry - (Rubus occidentalis)

Black Cherry - (Prunus serotina)

Burdock - (Arctium spp.)

Cattail - (Typha spp.)

Chickweed - (Tussilago farfara)

Chicory - (Cichorium intybus)

Chokecherry - (Prunus virginiana)

Coltsfoot - (Tussilago farfara)

Cow Parsnip - (Heracleum maximum.)

Creeping Bellflower - (Campanula rapunculoides)

Curly Dock - Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Dandelion - (Taraxacum)

Daylily - (Hemerocallis fulva)

Eastern White Pine - (Pinus strobus)

Echinacea - Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea)

Evening Primrose - (Oenothera spp.)

Goldenrod - (Solidago canadensis)

Japanese Knotweed - (Fallopia japonic)

Juneberry - Serviceberry (Amelanchier medik.)

Knotweed - (Polygonum aviculare)

Lamb's Quarters - Goosefoot, Pigweed (Chenopodium album)

Mallow - Common Mallow, Cheeses (Malva neglecta)

Oxeye Daisy - Moon Daisy, Dog Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)

Pineapple Weed - (Matricaria discoidea)

Plantain - Common Plantain, Broad Leaf Plantain, English Plantain, Narrow Leaf Plantain (Plantago spp.)

Purslane - Hogweed, Pigweed (Portulaca oleracea)

Queen Anne's Lace - Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

Salsify - Goats Beard, Oyster Plant (Tragopogon spp.)

Sheep Sorrel - (Rumex acetosella)

Shepherd's Purse - (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Staghorn Sumac - (Rhus typhina)

White Cedar - (Thuja occidentalis)

Wild Bergamot - (Monarda fistulosa)

Wild Lettuce - Canada Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis)

Wood Sorrel - Shamrock (Oxalis spp.)

Yarrow - Soldier's Woundwort (Achillea millefolium)

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Revised: 05/11/16 Living Afield