I hope we cane exchange ideas or recipes for foraged and edible plants here.
I have been snacking on black nightshade, Solanum Nigrum, and this year made jam. It tastes like grape or blueberry jam. I added water just to cover the berries, sprinkled about half a spoon sugar on a cup of the berries, let sit overnight, then simmered it in the morning till jam consistency.
The biggest advantage is that there’s no mess and no staining, kitchen or clothes. American nightshade could be edible too.
I hope we cane exchange ideas or recipes for foraged and edible plants here.
I wouldn’t try nightshades indiscriminately; some species are highly poisonous. I stick with more traditional berries such as wild blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, a few autumn olives, etc. Autumn olive berries are pretty sour and when unripe, very “cottony.” But I think they could be good in recipes with strawberries, though I haven’t tried anything yet.
I’ve mashed them with banana or pawpaw with a splash of lemon juice. Very good.
They don’t grow where I live but I’ve had some jelly made with them. It was yummy.
In cooler weather I like to collect chickweed and bittercress for a little extra something in my salad. Currently my mom is experimenting with what to do with the abundance of common purslane that is trying to take over her garden. She eats it raw by itself but also sauteed in olive oil with her eggs in the morning. Not sure what else she has tried.
I’ll add a general culinary question to the thread. I’ve noticed Sweetfern is something that’s mowed over a lot, and everywhere and has a lovely aromatic smell. I’ve heard that people use it for a herb for cooking meats with, which sounds tasty, but I’ve never tried it myself. Has anyone used sweetfern as an herb, and have opinions on how tasty it is as a food enhancer?
Moved this to Nature Talk because it’s not directly about iNaturalist. I also want to emphasize that iNaturalist and Seek by iNaturalist, and especially the computer vision suggestions provided by either, aren’t intended to be used for foraging or determining edibility, so please do not rely on them for those purposes.
I loveee foraging, and knowing edible plants. I’ve made a jelly and syrup from mesquite beans, that was actually really good, and I’ve always eaten them raw. I still need to try making flour from the seeds. I love the desert hackberries, although I have only snacked on them, never actually made anything. The Texas persimmons are really good too, and make a good jam, altho I’ve never made one myself. I’ve tried yucca as well, the flowers are ok, they weren’t my favorite but they’re not bad. Also important to note I ate them raw lol. The fruit is also edible, I feel like they might be better pickled or something, again were not my favorite. Oh and agarita! Those berries were usually tart but I loveddd them. Was worth all the scratches I got trying to get them. Also makes a really good jelly. And ofc prickly pear cactus, I’ve made jams, smoothies, and candy from the fruits, the flowers were not bad at all I loved eating them, and they are good to decorate cakes etc. and the pad itself is really really good deep fried, and also in like breakfast tacos, neither one comes out slimy. And snacking on raw stinging nettle, just rolling the top bits into balls. Shepherds purse, the seeds are kinda spicy, not that much, fairly mild but some people like to use it in salads like pepper. Leaves are edible too but its a lot of trouble for not a lot of leaves lol. Nowww, for edible in regards to medicine, horehound is really good for colds and coughs, but beware it is veryyy bitter, even with honey. A little is a lot. Heard that juniper berries were good for upset stomach and digestion, never tried it as such, only for fun, so idk how well that works, but only a few berries don’t go eating a whole handful that won’t end well. Plus they taste like soap. Cactus fruit is actually good for your kidneys and liver too, my dad messed his up from excessive drinking, and had drank a smoothie made from blended cactus fruits and honey every day, he was a lot better in a couple months. Stinging nettle tea is a good diuretic, have used on my mom, probably saved her life (long story but she’s stubborn and won’t go to the doctors). Have also heard wild olives just a couple are good for upset stomach as well. Now this last one I don’t recommend, but I’ll throw in here just cuz, mother of thousands, my grandma told me, u make a tea out of one of the small heads, like really small, and it’s good for pain, like headaches or anything else, like u would use Tylenol. Reason I don’t recommend this, this plant is actually pretty toxic, and the reason it had that affect was because it has something to the effect of a paralyzing something or other, and that’s why small bits help with pain
Well, I don’t much go in for bitter, usually. Although I will say that a very common wild plant in rural sections of the Dominican Republic is bitter melon (Momordica charantia). The wild type is much smaller than the ones you see in Asian markets – the melon is only about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. I pick it while it is still hard and green, slice it thin, and if I sautee it mixed with a whole bunch of other ingredients, its bitterness is not objectionable. Once it starts ripening to orange, it is not considered edible anymore.
Another foragable wild plant in the Dominican Republic is the bird pepper (Caspsicum annuum var glabriusculum, I think; although many such observations are disputed, with the second IDer calling it Capsicum frutescens). The peppers are about the size of peas, but I only need one or two of them to season the entire pot of food.
Really good is an understatement
@jasonhernandez74 Me neither. Despite the name, it’s not really that bitter. Has a nice mustard spice. Very young kale leaves or kale flowers from the garden is an alternative. I let my mom eat all the big mature kale leaves. Too bitter for me. I don’t buy salad mixes because I’m always picking out the rocket/arugula. I don’t like dandelion greens either (I don’t have any in my yard anyway).
I’ve never had bitter melon before. Some people here grow bird peppers as ornamentals. I have had them in food, but prefer serranos, poblanos, and spicy banana peppers.
As for wild fruits growing on our property… I really dislike blackberries/dewberries and blueberries but my mom loves them. Not a big fan of beautyberry but haven’t tried it as jelly yet. Love pawpaw and muscadine grapes, but the wildlife never leaves any for me. The pawpaws are mostly very small (https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/158769-Asimina-parviflora) so I’m thinking of building a cage around one. Didn’t get any fruit even start to develop this year with the late freeze and very dry summer. Muscadines have a very tough bitter skin that makes them not so great to eat raw. I like them baked into a fruit crisp. You have to cut them in half and boil them a bit before baking (and remove the seeds of course).
So far with wild mushrooms we have just had them sauteed in olive oil. I really like the big clumps of ringless honey mushrooms. We have chanterelles too but they are small and it’s a pain to get all the sand out of them.
Edited to add…
We had some sumac berries last year. There were so many bugs and spider webs in them that I didn’t bother to try to harvest. We buy the dried berries that we love to use in lots of different recipes. We had a mayhaw tree where I grew up. Made delicious jelly with the berries. My mom has made some tea with yaupon leaves. She said it was good. I didn’t try it since I can’t have caffeine for medical reasons.
Not edible but, a friend of mine has gathered some lichens from our yard to make dye from. She’s going to collect some Carolina buckthorn berries this year to make dye from also.
Yaupon teas that I have had are quite good, so I second that one!
These are my favorites:
- Solanum nigrum - If you wait until they ripen on the vine and shrivel, they taste exactly like raisins… however there are many similar species under Complex Solanum nigrum which taste bad like this Solanum douglasii.
- Portulaca oleracea - Neat warm-warm weather weed that is a bit earthy and is mild or tart depending on whether it’s harvested in the morning or afternoon. It’s a bit mucilaginous, but makes for a wonderful stir-fry ingredient, especially when added to cheese quesadillas.
- Carissa macrocarpa - The genus is called “Num nums” so it has to be good, right? This is an urban plant that’s used as a security/privacy hedge but the fruit on it is worth trying.
- Cichorieae - These are dandelions and relatives, generally the plants are bitter, but the flowers are mildly sweet. I’m not aware of any toxic members, but some can be very bitter like Helminthotheca echioides.
Edit: There are some toxic Chicorieae, like Hypochaeris radicata
Okay hear me out, and this isn’t a plant, but you’re gonna hear me out anyway
So take a giant puffball, Calvatia gigantea, cut that sucker into small pieces and dehydrate it. You now have yourself a FANTASTIC tofu substitute - we use ours to make japanese curry a lot, the texture and ability to soak up flavor is phenomenal.
Might as well post an obvious caution: Atropa Belladonna has black berries, however they are never in a cluster, and each berry is seated within a large sepal.
I hope you find this information applicable to your forging.
I have been on a number of foraging websites, and I am always a palled at people’s lack of interest in learning more about the plants that they are harvesting or where they are harvesting from.
The ethics and moral attitude towards harvesting should be paramount.
First, making certain that you were harvesting from the place that you have permission to harvest on is job one.
Determining how close you are choosing to harvest from a potential pollution source is huge. Just checking, the Google Maps or Google Earth prior to foraging in the area can help keep the forager from ingesting plants that have been impacted by pollutants. Pollutants can come in many forms, and many of them can stay in the soil for decades, without degrading at all. Pollutants can travel by wind and buy water easily, and they can impact an area that has never seen intentional use of chemicals, causing a false sense of security.
Knowing the past history of a land can be useful in determining if there are any pollutants in the soil, which may not be readily obvious. Many plants can actually take up heavy metals and chemicals, making that plant questionable to harvest. Knowing a place is history it’s past use current use and surrounding areas used is vital to staying healthy.
Making certain the plant that you are foraging for has a huge population and numerous populations and is not in any way, shape or form endangered or just is sparsely populated.
Removing small amounts of the particular plant part that you were foraging for is also paramount. Removing one leaf from 60 different plants is better than removing most or all of the leaves from four different plants. Securing a future harvest for yourself, and for nature shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Triple checking your identification can keep you safe. I live in the San Francisco Bay area every year we have poisonings with regard to mushrooms and other plants because of their look-alikes. Be certain of what your plant source is. Mixing up poison hemlock with fennel has killed the number of people in California and learning the difference between the two plants is very easily done, yet a good half a dozen people have died due to the mix up. It’s also important to learn if you are going to ingest one type of plant that you make sure that it’s not going to negatively interact with a second type of plant in whatever dish you are serving.
A good forager decided to make coffee out of coffee berry, and he made another liquid from another plant and I honestly can’t remember the second plant he used. Some people who had attended his foraging class had drank both of the liquids, and the people who did got sick. He researched what they had done and learned that mixing the two liquids and drinking a substantial amount of both liquids. Was the culprit and making people sick.
The last advice I have is probably the most important, although these are all important. Don’t assume what you read in a book or that you see online either reading it or watching a YouTube video is good information. There have been a number of books published on foraging where it is clear the author has just blindly repeated information and has not done their own research. So dig deep into the available resources and live longer.
Lastly processing foraged foods can make the difference between a palatable meal and a nasty mouthful of plant matter.
Stay safe and keep our natural environment thriving while you forage.
Many cases of foxglove poisoning happen in the early spring when the leaves are newly emerged. At that stage, foxglove and comfrey look almost exactly the same.
Back when Euell Gibbons was writing, he noticed the exact same problem.