Archive for Dandelions


Urban Foraging

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Urban foraging may sound like an oxymoron to you – how can you find food in the city, much less find enough to consider it foraging? Actually there is a lot of food to be found without going too far from your doorstep. Now I want to note that I live in Denver, Colorado so I am not talking about New York City, although the neighborhood fresh foods programs and vacant lot or roof top gardens there are becoming far more common than you might think!

I am actually meaning something more basic than growing veggies and fruits in the city. I am teaching people about the plants that are already growing and ready for the picking. The greens are in full swing right now, and you can find enough to eat to make a salad for your family almost anywhere. You just need to adjust your sight to the cracks and crevices, alleys and yards, road cuts and ‘wild’ areas of neighborhood yards and parks.

In a short time, I can have enough of these nutritious plants for a pot of greens or a fine salad. Gone are the days when iceberg lettuce was the mainstay of a tossed salad! Now we are regularly using baby spring greens, arugula, sprouts, red and green leaf lettuces, and (believe it or not) weeds! Dandelions have come back into favor to the point where I can find a large bunch at the natural grocery for an unfortunate price, or go pick my own!

A short story of the lowly dandelion: these plants were so well thought of by our Founding Fathers and Mothers that they were brought over on the Mayflower as an essential food and medicinal plant. It was known as an indispensable addition to the yard/garden, table and medicine cabinet. All of it is edible and nourishing. The flowers can be dipped in batter and fried like squash blossoms, the young leaves are delicious in salad, and the old leaves make a good pot herb like kale or collards. The roots can be boiled, diced up in soup or stew, as well as roasted and ground for a hot drink. The uses go on and on!

There are some caveats to foraging that I want to make very clear before I mention the next lovely foods for the table. First of all, know where you are picking and whether the plants have been exposed to pesticides or herbicides, car exhaust or old dumping sites for toxic materials. Second, never gather wild foods unless you know what you are picking. There are very few poisonous wild plants however the few that are poisonous are really deadly. Third, stop using chemicals on your lawn and try to get your whole neighborhood to stop as well. The last item is to use 50% of your regular greens with the wild ones since this is not yet a common table item for you. Always start slowly or you will really clean out your system! Not such a bad thing…if you expect it!

I will only mention a few more very common wild plants here today. They will go very well with the dandelions in a salad. Find a good book or a knowledgeable person to show you the first time. My current favorites are: lambsquarter, sorrel, clover flowers, especially red clover, chickweed, and purslane. Each is a good foil for the more bitter dandelions, all can be eaten raw, and each has an abundance of nutritious qualities. As an example, purslane, a low growing tasty succulent, is good raw or sauteed, and has more Omega 3 fatty acids than most fish!

This is local, organic, sustainable, nutritious, and tasty at it’s finest! Eat your weeds, Friends, and enjoy!