Purslane Identification

Purslane Identification

Learn more about purslane and other common wild edibles at my upcoming web event, Eat Your Weeds! Registration closes Friday, July 27th at 12pm, so reserve a spot today!

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a common plant of open, sunny areas, such as gardens, yards, and roadsides. It’s not picky about its habitat— you can find it growing in gravel, sidewalk cracks, disturbed soil, and other “waste places.” It is commonly found across the lower 48 states, Hawaii, and all the southern Canadian provinces. 

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Spruce Tip Infusions

Spruce Tip Infusions

Spruce tips (Picea spp.) are an awesome spring-time treat! The new growth of the tree, they are tender, bright green, and pack a citrusy punch. The flavor is really surprising; it seems more like something you would find in a tropical climate than in the cold north. However, it doesn't last long— as the needles grow older, they harden and develop their characteristic resinous taste. They are probably out of season in most areas right now, but if you live in a colder climate (like me!), chances are you can still find tips that are young enough to pick.

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Identifying Lamb's Quarters

Identifying Lamb's Quarters

Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium album) is a common plant found across all of North America and in all fifty states. There exist several varieties; the most common being Chenopodium album var. album, which grows all over the United States and much of Canada, and originated from Eurasia. Some varieties, such as Chenopodium album var. missouriense, are considered native to certain areas in the US. Regardless of the variety, they are all edible and choice! Furthermore, the varieties are similar enough that the following characteristics can be used to identify them all. (In fact, there is debate among taxonomists about whether they are actually just the same species with variable traits.)

But enough of the technicalities! Here's what you need to know to accurately identify the plant.

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Lamb's Quarters Dip

Lamb's Quarters Dip

Lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album) is commonly found across North America. Often growing in sunny areas in gardens, vacant lots, and roadsides, it is typically thought of as a noxious weed. However, some varieties are actually native to the region. Furthermore, it is a delicious and healthy herb, often compared to spinach in taste and texture, and loaded with vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, and magnesium! It can be eaten raw, steamed, sautéed, or used like spinach in a recipe. Below is a wild take on a classic recipe: spinach dip.

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Stung by the Nettle

Stung by the Nettle

My earliest memory of nettles involves blissfully running through an open forest, only to be assaulted by an itchy, stinging sensation all over my bare legs. My Papa informed me it was "Brennnessel," the German word for stinging nettle, which translates literally as "burning nettle." In fact, its name all across Europe alludes to this irritating quality. It has provoked the ire of gardeners, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts across the world. However, for centuries (at least) it has also captured the love of herbalists and foragers, due to its medicinal properties, strengthening nutrients, and delicious taste. 

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Pineappleweed: A Modest Morsel

Pineappleweed: A Modest Morsel

Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea) is a humble wildflower of roadsides, lawns, and trail edges that can be found across nearly all of North America. (In the US, it is only not reported in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.) A relative of German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), pineappleweed flowers have a sweet, fruity, pineapple-like smell when crushed. Like chamomile, it is used medicinally as a sedative, an antispasmodic, and an anti-inflamatory.

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Garlic Mustard: A Delicious Invasive

Garlic Mustard: A Delicious Invasive

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial herb native to Europe. (Biennial means the plant sends up leaves in its first year and typically flowers in its second.) Brought to the United States in the 1800s as an edible, it has since spread across the northeastern US, the midwest, as far south as Alabama, and as far west as Washington and Oregon. It is also present in eastern Canada. Its success is due to its prolific seeding rate, its lack of predators, and the ability of its seeds to remain viable for up to five years. Unlike other non-native plants that have more-or-less naturalized, garlic mustard is a threat to native forest ecosystems. While it will grow in disturbed sunny or partly sunny areas, it can invade the dappled sunlight of upland woods and floodplain forests. Once established, it will dominate the forest floor if left unchecked, outcompeting native wildflowers such as rue anemone, bloodroot, and wild ginger. 

But there's good news.... It's delicious!

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