Tips for Enjoying Edible Weeds
Eat in Season
"This spring farmers market bounty includes fiddleheads (left of purple asparagus abd below baby zucchini); pea shoots (below carrots); and dandelion greens (right of carrots)"]
Ever since "seasonal" became "trendy," dandelions, ramps, fiddlehead ferns and sweet pea shoots have cropped up in produce aisles, farmers markets and on restaurant menus.
Pick them Yourselves
The thing about arugula and fresh herbs: They're fantastic when you can get them recently picked, but dull when you find them in in little plastic bags shipped cross-country or even in "fresh food" stores.
If you accept the theory that the "left alone", non-bred wild weeds Robinson is right that "many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste," I wonder if phytonutrient content doesn't degrade along with flavor on those long trips.
Spring Weeds get bitter soon ..
Spring greens are fleeting. These greens appear at the same time baby and toddler vegetables, fava beans and asparagus come to market. What bounty. You have to act fast or you'll miss their brief season. Then, the dandelion greens will be too bitter, the fiddlehead ferns will unfurl and the ramps will bloom. But for a few weeks, it can be springtime at every meal.
Avoiding Poisonous Weeds
There is a lot of confusion about which plants are safe to harvest.
Even experts disagree on the term “poisonous” is very loosely defined and is easily swayed by ones personal bias and educational background. For example, experts coming from backgrounds of toxicology, botany, and medicine claim exponentially larger amounts of poisonous plants, whereas, experts coming from Native American teachings observe the opposite.
Out of thousands of healthful, edible plants growing in North America, there are only a handful of poisonous ones. There are approximately 150 poisonous plants that are not recommended for consumption by the American Association of Poison Control. Out of the 150 plants classified as poisonous, only about 50 are considered highly poisonous.
The rest, are classified as mildly poisonous. 100 of the 150 plants may cause nausea, headache, and / or stomach upset, but will not kill the eater, and only 50 plants have the potential to cause serious harm. Many of the so-called “mildly poisonous” plants, are considered edible depending on which book you reference. For example the common mint categorized as mildly poisonous in a book called “Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms of North America.”
If you really want to do survival training, it is relatively easy to learn to identify, and stay away from, 50 plants. This task can be accomplished in less than one month if you were to learn to identify two plants per day. Once you have learned to identify the 50 most poisonous plants, your chances of getting poisoned are severely decreased if not get eradicated completely.
Basically stick to proven well identifed, and avoid "exotic" varieties
Start small – While many common wild edibles will benefit your health, they will be foreign to you at first. I recommend you approach new food cautiously. Start by eating a small amount until you know how your body will react. Once you have confirmed that a certain plant makes you feel good, you can then eat it to your hearts content.
Don’t Mix Your Weeds – Add one at a time - It is a good idea not to mix wild edibles the first time you encounter them. If you mix edibles in a salad and have a reaction, it will be difficult to determine which plant caused this reaction. Instead, try eating a wild edible mono diet-one edible at a time until you are absolutely sure your body will not have any adverse affects.