There has never been a better time for foraging for wild edible greens! With access to nutritious food being difficult, and the safety of eating raw leaves questionable, it’s comforting to know that there is nutritious food growing all around us which we can pick for free!
I have been reading research from the University of California, Berkeley, on edible weeds. The university set up the Open Source Food project to study edible weeds growing in three east bay food deserts in San Francisco. The team, led by Philip Stark, have so far identified 52 edible weeds!!
One of their papers compared the nutritional content of dandelion leaf alongside kale. And guess what…. on most counts dandelion won! Kale had higher vitamin C content, but the vitamin A, calcium, iron, vitamin K were all higher in dandelions. In fact, dandelion has a long history of both culinary and medicinal usage with all parts of the dandelion being usable.
The Berkeley researchers tested the nutritional content of six edible weeds and found that chickweed, dandelion, dock, mallow, nasturtium and oxalis all have a nutritional status far superior to our superhero of green veg, kale!
They tested the wild weeds for PCBs, glyphosate, and pesticides, all of which were below detection limits once washed. This was despite some having grown in heavy-traffic, urban, disadvantaged areas of the city. Lead and cadmium was found in the soil in some areas, but once washed the leaves were considered to be safe for consumption.
In an ideal world it would be better to pick your dandelions in wilder areas, but it’s also comforting to know that if you do live in the city, wild weeds in your neighborhood could be a good source of nutritious food.
The Open Source Food project found that chickweed, dandelion, dock, mallow, nasturtium and oxalis are all nutritionally superior to kale. Researchers state that, “wild greens could contribute to nutrition, food security, and sustainability in urban ecosystems.”Cited from the paper, “Open-Source Food: Nutrition, Toxicology, and Availability of Wild Edible Greens in the East Bay.”
I went foraging last week and harvested dandelion leaves along with wild onions and some wild herbs. I’ve been trying out various recipes using these greens and found delicious recipes from all over the world.
My friends back in England, Roxy and Naomi, have also been foraging and are lucky enough to have wild garlic growing near their homes. Wild garlic is native to England, and grows during winter up to the end of spring. They flower between April and June.
Roxy’s wild garlic butter
Wild garlic butter is super easy to make and can be added to many dishes and keeps well in the fridge. You could add it to meat or fish dishes, or melt it over vegetables or rice.
The method for making wild garlic butter couldn’t be easier; just finely chop 50g of wild garlic and then mix this with 250g of softened butter and a generous pinch of sea salt. When it is combined put your butter into a bowl, cover and place it in the fridge to set.
You can also freeze the wild garlic butter in portions and use it for months to come. Genius!
Naomi’s wild garlic pesto
Pesto is another delicious recipe to use your wild greens. You can use wild garlic, dandelion leaves, or other greens. Naomi made wild garlic pesto and added this to mushrooms on toast which looks delicious.
The method for making wild garlic pesto is to blitz the following ingredients in a blender or food processor: 150g of wild garlic leaves (or other wild leaves of your choice), 50g finely grated parmesan, 1 minced garlic clove, the juice from 1/2 lemon, 50g pine nuts, and 150ml extra virgin olive oil. Blitz all ingredients until smooth.
It really is as simple as that and your pesto will keep in the fridge for approximately two weeks.
Buckwheat and dandelion tofu cakes
I made these vegan, protein-rich buckwheat and dandelion tofu cakes and they were a huge hit! Even my kids liked them, but requested less ginger and chili next time.. so if you’re cooking for kids I would go easy on the ginger and chili.
Buckwheat and dandelion tofu cakes
- Frying pan
- 100 grams Buckwheat soaked in water for at least 15 minutes
- 200 grams Firm tofu I used smoked tofu for extra flavour
- 1 cm Root ginger peeled and grated
- 1 clove Garlic Peeled and grated
- 1 Red chili deseeded and roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp Nut butter
- 40 grams Fresh dandelion leaves
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- Soak the buckwheat in cold water for at least 15 minutes.
- Blitz the ginger, garlic, chili and dandelion leaves in a food processor until you have a paste which resembles pesto.
- Add the tofu and half of the buckwheat and blitz again.
- Transfer the mixture into a bowl and add the rest of the buckwheat and the nut butter. Season with salt and pepper and mix it well.
- Shape the mixture into around 10 to 12 cakes and put those into the fridge to firm up a little.
- Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add some oil and fry the cakes for 2 to 3 minutes each side until golden brown.
- Serve your buckwheat and dandelion tofu cakes on a bed of dandelion leaves drizzled with soy sauce and lime juice.
Fermented carrots with dandelion and red cabbage
Another thing I did with my dandelion leaves was to add them to a ferment of carrots. This was an experiment, but has turned out to be delicious. When you ferment carrots it reduces the sugar content and increases beneficial bacteria. They make a great snack or side dish.
These fermented carrots are too simple to deserve a recipe. I chopped around 6 carrots into batons, chopped a handful of dandelion leaves and layered them in a jar. Then I poured over some water with half a cup of water kefir to start off the ferment. I used red cabbage to push the carrots down from the lid as they should all be immersed in the liquid. Leave your jar on the countertop for 3 days and they’re ready! Afterwards they should be stored in the fridge.
I’d love to hear about your foraging experiences and recipes, please comment below! If nothing else, this is a great reason not to weed your garden… result!