When I was a child, my mom picked dandelion greens in the spring, and she used them for a simple salad.
Recently, she was surprised to hear that I remembered this, and she gave me something new to think about: dandelions are one of the first flowers that bees rely on in spring. “It’s the food that helps them survive when nothing else is really out yet,” she told me. “Let your dandelions grow.” (I do. 🙂 )
Wild perennial crops are good for the land and help reduce emissions. The edible ones are good for us, too. Dandelion greens have eight times more antioxidants, two times more calcium, three times more Vitamin A, and five times more vitamin K and vitamin E than spinach, notes Jo Robinson, author of Eating on the Wild Side. More stunning yet, dandelion has 40 times more bionutrients than the ever popular iceberg lettuce. There is reason to suspect that our departure from eating the wild things is partly responsible not just for an incredible increase in cancers but also an increase in osteoporosis.
If you want to learn more about foraging and eating wild foods, check out Edible Wild Food or Eat the Weeds—And Other Things, Too. To learn accurate identification of wild foods you’re unfamiliar with, you can sign up for walking tours with foodies like Steve Brill, who I’ve seen in action. (You could also ask your mom. 😉 )
I currently forage to eat dandelion, wild mustard, and violet leaves from my own yard. My eldest daughter and I enjoy harvesting together, for a fresh spring meal of spicy Indian saag. (Important note: I put no pesticides on my yard. You’ll want to avoid pesticides, too, if you eat the wild things from your own yard.)
Far From the Bustle
She was humming to herself
in the back yard
cranberry skirt, full and ruffled,
circled by bands of lace,
her winter boots underneath—
my slim girl, with her ebony braid.
I have let wildflowers
fill the grassless spaces,
delicate white flowers, and dandelions,
a bit of sweetness.
We search for violet leaves, reach into
what feels like fields and fields of violets.
My own secret garden, my solace and intrigue.
The rain is putting diamonds in our hair.
—L.L. Barkat, a found poem of foraging from Violet Afternoons With My Girl, In Sun & Rain