greens foraging

Nine Wild Greens for Dinner

This is only my second year of foraging, but it sure seems like spring makes it easy to have fresh wild greens every day if you want them. I typically gather (and wash) enough for two or three days at a time, and they store well in the fridge. Right now I’m adding a few new greens that I haven’t posted about before, and learning some new things about the ones I’m already familiar with.

Here’s a photo with all nine of the wild greens I foraged in the space of about 15 minutes or so, all within a hundred yards of the house.

Nine wild greens
Nine wild greens

Top row: chickweed, yellow rocket, violets, cleavers (or bedstraw)

Middle row: plantain, purple deadnettle, wild mint

Bottom row: dandelion, wild raspberry

1. Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed is a spring staple; always mild, delicious raw or cooked, easy to find. I have plenty of it, but as the weather warms and the fields get wilder and more overgrown, I may have to clear some places where it can grow without being choked or shaded out.

2. Yellow Rocket (Barbarea vulgaris)

Another green that’s very easy to find, yellow rocket (also called wintercress) grows in fields, ditches, and roadsides. It loves the sun, and the blooms are bright yellow. I cut mine before it blooms, when it still looks like broccoli (it’s in the same family), and mostly only use the top three or four inches of the plant. It seems to be quick to regrow, and I’m learning to keep some cut so that I always have new bloom heads for harvesting.

3. Common Blue Violets (Viola sororia)

We have yellow, white, and blue violets here, and all are edible, but these common blue violets grow by the thousands next to our bee yard in the sun, and reseed themselves easily.

This time I nibbled on the leaves at all different stages — young and small, medium-sized, and older/darker/thicker leaves. they were all mild tasting, so I quit picking and choosing and just gathered a bunch into my bucket, along with a handful of the flowers.

4. Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum)

We have purple dead nettle mixed in with the violets, and scattered in everywhere else there’s a bit of sunshine. I only harvest the tops, which are very mild tasting, but they take a bit of getting used to if you eat them raw because they are fuzzy. Cooked, they mix right in!

In the photo below, violets and purple dead nettles are mixed in with ground ivy, or creeping Charlie. Ground ivy is kind of bitter, so I avoid it. Also, it’s helpful to know the difference between the three big (edible) lookalikes in this group: Deadnettle, henbit, and creeping charlie.

violets and deadnettle
violets and deadnettle

5. Cleavers, Bedstraw, Stickygrass (Galium aparine)

This is a new edible green for me, and it’s so plentiful and tasty. Like dead nettle, it may take some getting used to the “fuzzy” feel of it raw, but I was collecting greens for cooking, so they never bothered me. I cut mostly the tops, because the bigger stems are pretty thick. I have read that these may change flavor as the season progresses.

cleavers or bedstraw
cleavers or bedstraw

6. Raspberry Leaves (Rubus)

Wild raspberry leaves are even more nutritious than the fruits. We transplanted eight or nine canes of a raspberry that we discovered and loved last summer (from a field below the house), and they are all leafing out. But we also have a different kind that are growing wild up higher on the mountain, too. They are much smaller and thinner, but we hope they will bear fruit this year. I harvested only the newest, most tender leaves for my basket.

raspberry leaf
raspberry leaves

7. Plantain (Plantago)

These are another new one for me, and they are only now getting big enough for me to notice them growing everywhere. They are tough little plants — they will grow anywhere there’s some sun, even in a bed of packed gravel (i.e., our driveway). I’ve seen them growing in driveway cracks in the suburbs and pretty much everywhere I’ve ever lived. I picked only the smaller, younger leaves for my basket.


8. Wild mint (Lamiaceae)

We have so many varieties of wild mints (and lemon balm) that I have no idea yet what species this particular mint is. It’s still young, small, and hasn’t flowered. But nearly all the mints have a square stem and an unmistakeable fragrance, so they are reasonably safe to forage.

9. Dandelion (Taraxacum)

Dandelion leaves and flowers are nearly always in my foraging basket. I am noticing that the larger, older leaves can be bitter. The flowers always seem to be mild, though, and they are easy to find and pick. There are lots of look-alikes in the dandelion family, so I make sure to complete my identification before harvesting. (Now that the season is progressing and there are more that can be harvested, I plan to dig another batch of dandelion roots for “coffee”… It’s the best!)

basket of greens
basket of greens

Important note: Always do your best research, consult an expert, and be certain of your identification before foraging wild plants. And don’t forget to harvest sustainably. 

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