There are many advantages to foraging on your own land. You already know what, if anything, has been sprayed there, and you never have to worry about whether or not what you're doing is legal. Rather than throwing them on the compost heap, the weeds in your lawn and garden can be harvested to add nutrients and variety to your diet.
Join me on the other side of the doodle while I present a few common lawn and garden edibles.
Pictured: common mallow, common evening primrose, mullein, winter cress & common plantain
(As always, if you're new to foraging and want to give it a try, please read the first diary in the series as well as the linked diary for the full discussion of each plant. For a complete list of all plants covered in the series, click here.)
If you have children (or can borrow some), it's great fun to show them the fruits of common mallow in late Spring. Referred to as cheeses, they are flat discs about 1/4 inch across that greatly resemble miniature wheels of green cheese. They have a texture a bit like gummy bears, though they're not at all sweet. Kids love the size and chewy texture of mallow cheeses.
Learn more about how to identify and harvest common mallow here.
Common evening primrose
Much more on how to identify, harvest and prepare common evening primrose (and related plants in the Oenothera genus) can be found here.
Mullein loves disturbed ground (like your garden) but is also happy growing in very little soil. It's main requirements seem to be lots of sun and not too much water. I frequently see it sprouting from stone walls. Although it's non-native and extremely widespread, it rarely creates large colonies and generally isn't considered invasive.
Learn more about how to identify and use mullein here.
Like all mustards (a family that includes agriculturally important crops like broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, and horseradish), all parts of winter cress are edible. The best part, though, is the young leaves. Winter cress leaves tastes like cabbage on steroids and its buds taste like strong broccoli. It's not a plant for the faint of heart. I personally prefer it blanched (sometimes twice) and then blended with milder veggies. However, I've met many people who really love the intense flavor of this plant and crave it every Spring.
Winter cress likes full sun and low-lying areas with plenty of water. Learn more about how to recognize and use it here.
Learn more about common plantain here.
These plants are not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lawn and garden edibles. Others include various clovers, chickweed, dandelion, chicory, burdock, mugwort, wood sorrel, cleavers, various mints, violets, field garlic, lady's thumb and lamb's quarters-- all of which have been covered previously in this series. You can find out more about each from the complete index of plants.
Helpful foraging resources
If you'd like to learn more about foraging but missed the earlier diaries in the series, you can click here for the previous 49 installments, and here for RonV's 4 part mini-series on medicinal plants and how to use them. As always, please feel free to post photos in the comments and I'll do my best to help identify what you've found. (And if you find any errors, let me know.)
"Wildman" Steve Brill's site covers many edibles and includes nice drawings.
"Green" Deane Jordan's site is quite comprehensive and has color photos and stories about many plants.
Green Deane's foraging how-to clips on youtube each cover a single plant in reassuring detail.
Linda Runyon's site features only a few plants but has great deals on her dvd, wild cards and books (check out the package deals in particular).
Steve Brill's book, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places is my primary foraging guide. (Read reviews here, but if you're feeling generous, please buy from Steve's website.)
Linda Runyon's book The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide contains especially detailed information about nutritional content and how to store and preserve wild foods.
Samuel Thayer’s book The Forager's Harvest is perhaps the finest resource out there for the 32 plants covered. The color photos and detailed harvest and preparation information are top-notch. His second book, Nature's Garden, is just as good. For an autographed copy of either book, order from Sam's website.
Steve Brill also offers guided foraging tours in NYC-area parks. Details and contact info are on his website.
Don Wiss’s website is a treasure trove featuring hundreds of photos of common northeastern edibles.
For well-sourced info on the medicinal uses of plants, Plants for a Future is a site I turn to time and time again.
Finally, the USDA plants database is a great place to look up info on all sorts of plants.