SPROUTS AMONG THE CON­CRETE

FOR­AG­ING WITH CREEK FOR ED­I­BLES IN THE HEART OF THE CITY

American Survival Guide - - NEW PRODUCTS -

Weeds are some of the most durable sur­vivors on Earth. Even in a well-man­i­cured city, weeds are ev­ery­where ... if you know where to look. Luck­ily, many of them are not only ed­i­ble but are also packed with vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and nu­tri­ents.

The ur­ban land­scape is loaded with nooks, cracks, curbs and green spa­ces that are home to these ed­i­ble weeds. These in­clude parks, empty lots, con­struc­tion zones, road­way me­di­ans, side­walk cracks, lawns, play­grounds, ceme­ter­ies, land­scap­ing ar­eas and more. While it's im­por­tant to avoid ar­eas treated with chem­i­cals and/or are di­rectly ex­posed to traf­fic, there are plenty of ar­eas for safe emer­gency for­ag­ing.

Ed­i­ble weeds and flow­ers are per­fect ad­di­tions to stews, soups and sal­ads. In ad­di­tion, hav­ing ac­cess to green, veg­etable-like foods when the gro­cery store shelves go empty keeps your diet well-bal­anced and di­verse in taste.

Here are five wild ed­i­ble plants that ev­ery ur­ban for­ager should know:

1. LAMB'S QUAR­TER (CHENOPODIUM AL­BUM)

Lamb's quar­ter is an an­nual, mean­ing it only grows one year. An­other com­mon name is “goose­foot” be­cause of its tri­an­gu­lar, goose-foot-shaped leaves. The leaf mar­gins are toothed, and the un­der­side is coated with a mealy white sub­stance, which aids as a very unique iden­ti­fy­ing fea­ture. The stems are striped with shades of green, and the plant of­ten has tinges of pur­ple on the leaves and stem as well. The best ed­i­ble part of lamb’s quar­ter is its leaves. They can be pre­pared just like spinach by sautéing, steam­ing or boil­ing in a lit­tle wa­ter. They are one of the mildest-tast­ing wild greens and are ab­so­lutely packed with vi­ta­mins and min­er­als.

2. COM­MON CHICKWEED (STELLARIA ME­DIA)

Chickweed is just as happy in a city land­scape as it is in a coun­try meadow. It's an an­nual that grows low to the ground in dense mats. Its small, ovate leaves grow op­po­site one an­other along the stem, and a lit­tle line of hairs runs the length of the stem. This is a key iden­ti­fy­ing fea­ture of chickweed. The up­per leaves don't have stems, but the lower ones do. They grow a small, white flower that ap­pears to have 10 petals, but it's ac­tu­ally five petals, each with a deep cen­tral cleft. The en­tire above-ground plant is ed­i­ble. It tastes fan­tas­tic raw in sal­ads, made into a pesto or blended into smooth­ies. It has a very pleas­ant fla­vor and is very sim­i­lar in tex­ture to most mild-tast­ing salad greens or sprouts.

3. GAR­LIC MUS­TARD (ALLIARIA PETOLATA)

Gar­lic mus­tard is a bi­en­nial, mean­ing that it has a two-year life cy­cle. The first year, it pro­duces a low-grow­ing rosette of leaves that, at this stage, are heart shaped with no point at the bot­tom and have scal­loped edges. The sec­ond-year plants shoot up as a tall flower stalk in early spring. The leaves along the flower stalk are more tri­an­gu­lar in ap­pear­ance and have toothed edges. The flow­ers grow in clus­ters, each flower hav­ing four white petals. The leaves of the first-year plant and young leaves of the sec­ond-year plant are the choice ed­i­bles. They both have a strong gar­lic smell and fla­vor and are per­fect ad­di­tions to soups, stews or any kind of stir-fry for fla­vor.

4. CURLY DOCK (RUMEX CRISPUS)

Curly dock is a peren­nial that starts in the spring as a curly-edged rosette of bright-green leaves and soon bolts a cen­tral flower stalk. The leaf mar­gins are crinkly and curly in ap­pear­ance (hence the name). The flower stalk then pro­duces a thick, bountiful seed head loaded with seeds that turn brown quickly. The leaves are best be­fore the cen­tral flower stalk starts to bolt—typ­i­cally, in early spring. They should be cooked as a pot herb (like col­lard greens), and they ex­hibit a slightly tangy taste. They are ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic cooked with ba­con and are rich in vi­ta­min C.

5. DAN­DE­LION (TARAXACUM OF­FIC­I­NALE)

Dan­de­lion is a peren­nial plant that grows leaves in a basal rosette. The leaves are nar­row, deeply toothed and typ­i­cally point back to­ward the cen­ter of the plant. The flower is the dan­de­lion—one of the most rec­og­niz­able weeds in the world. The flower stem is un­branched and hol­low, while the leaves and stem con­tain a milky, white sap. Eat the leaves as you would spinach, ei­ther raw or cooked. The flow­ers are great bat­ter-fried, and the roots are great car­rot sub­sti­tutes.

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