Weeds You Could be Eating: Part Deux

Backyard Liver TonicIts mid summer and here I am, back again for “weeds you could be eating part deux.” Don’t mind the Hot Shots reference.

So it’s early August, you’ve already harvested lambs quarters, nettle, berries, and all those other plants, you know, the vegetables you intentionally planted. The summer days are getting shorter but hotter. Your apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked. Your neighbors apples, pears and plums are getting ready to be picked, by you, because they never do anything with them anyway, but you really should ask permission instead of sneaking over in the middle of the night. No judgement here.

 

Oh my dandelion,

it has taken over your front yard, your side yard, and just about everything in between. You haven’t mowed it down because it’s bringing in so many local bees that are doing their pollinating thing and making your harvest possible. Well good news the whole dang plant is edible. Lemme tell you a little bout dandelion. Dandelion, taraxacum officinale, is packed full of vitamin A, C, calcium and is quite the liver tonic. You can make tea, you can make wine, you can make soup, you can make salads, you can make medicine and just about everything under the sun. Dandelion flowers make a great wine, you may need a lot of flowers, or can be added to any mead or wine to add complexity. The root of dandelion can be boiled in place of any vegetable or roasted and ground in place of coffee. The leaves of dandelion can be quite bitter when raw so I would suggest cooking them before ingesting, maybe try them in soup. Not only is dandelion good for you it’s good for the soil too. Dandelion roots break up the compact soil (ahem grass lawns)  and aerate the earth. Their deep roots pull up nutrients and make them available to other plants.  Only since the idea of grass lawns have dandelions been looked upon so poorly. I think it’s about time we change our perception on Dandelion.

 

 A good alternative to fish oil supplements.

Purslane do your dang thing.

We may have just missed the cut off for Purslane as its starting to get bitter in my garden, but just in case you still have a little left. Purslane, portulaca oleracea, often used as a ground cover, is an edible plant that grows low to the ground. Purslanes succulent leaves are delectable and high in omega-3 fatty oils so no need to take that fish oil, yuck. You can chop the stems and leaves as an addition to any salad or cook them and add them to any soup or vegetable dish. Next spring throw down some purslane seeds on your broccoli bed and have a living edible mulch.

 

Sorrel Sorrel,

what ever will be will be.  Mountain Sorrel, oxyria dingyna, and Sheep Sorrel, rumex acetosella,  are both edible and both grow around these parts. Sorrel leaves are edible and can be added to salad or sandwiches. The leaves can be sour so I would not suggest ingesting too many leaves or making an entire salad out of them.

Just like any foraging adventure make sure you know %100 before you ingest. Common names can be misleading or misused and many plants have not so edible or even poisonous look a likes. If you are not sure, use a reference manual to help identify or don’t eat it.  That’s it from me this week. What wild edible plants are you eating, how are you preparing them and what do you suggest?

 

Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Cafe West Seattle
Assistant General Manager

 

Sources:
Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Pojar and Mackinnon
The Foragers Harvest, Samuel Thayer
Gardenguides.com
Ediblewildfood.com

Eat Your Scraps: The Case for Eating the Whole Vegetable

 

In the sociology class I took in college, my professor shared some research with us that had been conducted on people’s trash cans:

what’s in them, and what our trash can say about our income and our social identities. One of the statistics he shared from this study always stuck with me: the amount that people cut off the ends of their asparagus directly correlates to their income levels. For years, I have lightheartedly recalled this piece of information every time I prepare asparagus—I wonder what the trash spies will think of this one!—but it has also caused me to see my food differently: pieces and parts of fruits and vegetables that I consider scraps can be valuable sources of nutrition, or at least sustenance.

Peave vines
You love peas, but do you love pea vines?

In a recent CSA box, I pulled out an item that was familiar to my eyes but new to my menu: leek scapes. I see these tall, green, hearty, sometimes flower-topped spears in sidewalk gardens and P-Patches all around Seattle and recognize each one as a sign that there are delicious homegrown alliums of some kind hiding beneath the surface of that soil. I had never considered its edibility before, only its indication of edible food below. I was pleasantly surprised to taste its mild and tender green skin and blossom, and I was even more excited by the knowledge that this was all hidden within what I had previously considered a food scrap.

These leek scapes inspired a scrap-saving crusade in my kitchen. I used to compost the green ends of the leek itself, now I cook the whole thing. Broccoli stems? They’re delicious sautéed or prepared just like the florets (especially when you peel them). That stringy brown stuff on the top of corn? Dry it and make a potassium-rich tea out of it! Beet, carrot, and broccoli greens are ideal for salads, pesto-making, or any other way you normally use hearty greens. The greenish flesh of the watermelon (before the rind) tastes just like a cucumber—and the rind itself is edible and nutrient-dense too! Just squirt some lime juice on it, or pickle it for best flavor. And one of the easiest ways to start using your food scraps is to start a broth bag:  save your onion skins, garlic remnants, celery butts, carrot shavings, and herb stems and simmer them with water to make a delicious fresh vegetable broth.

Trying to do away with vegetable “scraps” has left me feeling not only financially savvy (more bang for my buck!), but also like I’m properly honoring the time, space, and energy that went into growing my food, which makes my meals that much more satisfying. Give your scraps a second look next time you reach for the compost!

Annie
Cafe Manager
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe & Bakery, Greenwood

Weeds You Could Be Eating

Local plants that “invade” your garden beds but if harvested could nurture your bodies.

If you are from Seattle or if you have traversed Discovery Park during spring time you probably have been stung by Stinging Nettles. These annoying weeds that irritate your skin and cause a stinging sensation aren’t weeds at all but really a local edible plant. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are packed full of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and can be high in protein.
Although they can be eaten raw I wouldn’t advise it as a certain technique is required and failure to do so correctly will leave your tongue stinging. The sting is best removed by cooking them. Nettles are great in pestos, soups, sauces or in smoothies like we do seasonally in our Really Green Smoothie. Their leaves can also be dried to make a allergy fighting tea.
Lambs Quarter was our seasonal green in the Really Green Smoothie last year. Should we bring it back?
Lambs Quarter was our seasonal green in the Really Green Smoothie last year. Should we bring it back?
Now that you know about nettles you maybe wondering what other “weeds” you’ve been missing out on. Here’s a few other local weeds you could be eating.
Lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) also known as Goosefoot, having nothing to do with hoofed or feathered creatures, is another wild plant that grows locally.  Well, I guess you could say each leaf is in the shape of a goose’s foot. Lambs quarters contain high amounts  vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and calcium.  They taste similarly to spinach and can be used the same in most recipes. You may seem them pop up late spring early summer.
berries
The delicious salmonberry
Berries, berries, berries. Thimbleberry, salmonberry and blackberries are a few of the many local edible berries. Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis,  named so for their salmon coloring, bear fruit mid spring to early summer.  Thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), not meant for transport, can be eaten as you pick or expect to use them for jam as they fall apart quickly. We have multiple types of blackberries in the region including; Himalaya, Evergreen, and Dewberry. Look for blackberries mid to late summer.  All these berries are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants play a large role in degenerative disease prevention such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few.  As with any foraging id advise to know the area. Often roadside berries are sprayed with harsh chemicals that you do not want to be ingesting.
Wrongful plant identification can lead to some nasty stomach issues and even death so don’t ingest unless you are 100% sure you have identified the right plant. A safer beginners route with some of the less easily identifiable plants maybe to purchase these from a local forager first.  We often purchase our wild edibles from Foraged and Found Edibles who you can find at the Queen Anne, University District, Ballard and West Seattle farmers markets.
There are so many PNW plants that are not only edible but delicious and nutrient dense. Next time your “weeding” your garden you might think twice about what you pull and what you keep.
Nichole Criss
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, West Seattle
Sources:
Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest by Eugene N. Kohloff
The Foragers Harvest by Samuel Thayer
www.Nutritionalvalue.org