Wild Weed Wisdom

Nurture Your 'Inner Wild' with Foraged Edible and Medicinal Plants


Prickly Sow Thistle

Prickly Sow ThistlePrickly Sow Thistle (Sonchus asper) is another edible plant that grows as a weed in disturbed soil or neglected places. I picked some the other day to add to my daily “Super-Local Food” intake! Nothing fancy here – you can cook it up with garlic, olive oil, herbs, or chop it up to add for soups… use it as you would spinach, like we do with most wild greens. It looks prickly, but the ‘prickles’ are actually quite tender, and when cooked they’re fine. Today I’m adding Prickly Sow Thistle to a ‘green juice’ along with wheatgrass and ginger.

Mainly, I want to give you a good photo for identifying this plant. Notice  how the buds look remarkably similar to dandelion buds – you could make pickles out of either of them – but the Sonchus asprer has prickles even on the buds!! They will soften if you blanch then before pickling. The flower in full-bloom also looks similar to dandelions golden-yellow face – I’ll go back for a photo soon to show you. The leaf-edges are wavy, very decorative in their own way, and the base claps the stem in a graceful arc, with the leaf half-surrounding the stem in a big hug. So, for all the prickles, I still see it as a gentle, loving plant.

Here are a couple more photos to get a good idea of the plant. The large, ridged stem is a bit blotched with red, and it’s hollow, like a straw, with milky sap, much like the dandelion in this way.

Wikipedia lists this as a noxious weed that can cause irritation, but I think they are being cautious. You can find many other sites that consider this plant to be safe. I ate it and loved it. Here is another site that feels the same way: http://www.eattheweeds.com/sonchus-sow-thistle-in-a-pigs-eye-2/

DSC07094 DSC07095 Sow thistle back side of leaf



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A Simple Way to Taste the Wisdom of A Place

Eat Me and Learn My Secrets...

Eat Me and Learn My Secrets…

Anika holds some Linden leaves in the photo above – it was soon made into soup and pesto, but just nibbling a leaf as you walk on your way is fine… and beautiful.

I was thinking the other day, how little we eat of the food we grow around us. I mean, the food that grows wild, the real food that belongs to this place. Food that has the vibrations and DNA peculiar to this small spot, where ever it may be on this Earth, that we call home.

I think if we are to heal ourselves, or simply to feel at ease in the cities and towns that we call home, we would do well to eat food that we “belong to,” rather than imported food, even if is it branded as organic, raw or a “super-food.” Even ‘local’ food that is grown 50km away is not so local as the wild food at your feet.  You can harvest this wild food yourself, easily. A wonderful idea is for travelers to eat the wild food they find growing in a new place – what better way to get ‘grounded’ again?

Clean, abundant food is simple to find, providing you know what to look for (learn from someone you trust, and use a guide book). A nibble of a Linden-tree leaf, or a fresh, clean dandelion leaf or stem, a taste of a violet… can infuse you with an unknown amount of living wisdom and soul-nourishment. Just invite it into our bodies with a sense of awareness and gratitude. How easy is that?

In the photo,  Anika holds some gorgeously green Linden leaves – they were quickly made into both a  soup and a pesto, but just nibbling a leaf as you walk on your way is fine, and beautiful.

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Fiddlehead “Flag” Indicator – Mature Fern

When looking for fiddleheads – look for this indicator! It’s the mature fern. All the fiddlehead sprouts will be found growing – or will soon be coming up – at it’s feet… kind of like an old woman surrounded by her grandchildren.
Those ‘seeds’ you see clinging to the browned leaves are actually spores. If you brush against them, or give them a pat with your hand, the spores will be released in a cloud, like magic. Once upon a time, it was indeed thought that this magical cloud had the power to make someone invisible.

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Fiddlehead Time!

long-legged fiddleheads

long-legged fiddleheads

Violets and Celandine


Violets and Celandine

Sometimes I don’t have my paper bags with me for harvesting, so I just use whatever is available. Today it was my daughter’s lunch box. I picked Greater Celendine, which I made into an herbal tincture, and about 10 violets. We have company staying with us, so nothing nicer than to introduce them to food-foraging with a dessert of wild violets on ice cream!
You can get a really good look at the leaf of the Greater Celandine – front, and back-side, which you can see is quite a bit lighter in colour.

The Mysterious Cedar – or Cypress?

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The Mysterious Cedar - or Cypress?

Here’s a tricky fellow. We saw some folks out in their garden today, in their volkstuinhuis (garden lot/house) while we were looking around. They were busy tidying up and pruning some bushes. I was caught by the cedar-scent, and came over to investigate. The photo shows what we found. But I can’t seem to identify it – I thought it was a cedar, but looking it up, I can only think it must be some kind of cypress. If you have any ideas, please help me out. The photo shows both the front and back sides of the flat branches. It is too early for any cones, though had I been thinking, I’d have asked the owners to describe them. Anyway, I kept a bag of it to use – perhaps in tea, perhaps a smudge stick, maybe to flavour our rice tonight… we’ll see. It has a delicious, pungent scent that reminds me of the anti-bacterial properties held in cedars, pines, and cypresses.

Burdock Root


Burdock Root

Digging up wild roots in many parts of Great Britain, Europe, and North America is against the law. One must get special permission from park authorities or the land-owner, unless you are digging on your own property. This is an ethical question I sometimes struggle with: in the case when a plant is considered a nuisance, a common weed, wouldn’t it be better for a forager like myself to remove this plant and make good use of it? As opposed to prevelant ‘weed management’, where the plant is removed anyway, and often with harmful pesticides? I know of numerous instances where I respected the law, only to see that the roots I’d have loved to harvest had been dug up en masse by park authorities…

I do understand that we also can’t have everyone digging up as many roots as they like!

Pretty tricky.

Anyway, the delicious burdock roots shown in this photo came from just down the street, from the Korean “Toko” shop; where gobo (its Asian name) is sold for use in traditional Korean and Japanese dishes. If you’ve eaten vegetarian maki, you’ve probably eaten gobo (牛蒡 or ごぼう). Korean use the term “u-eong” (우엉) or “tong u-eong” (통우엉), meaning, “whole burdock”. If you have never tried this before, head over to your local shop and pick some up.

The cultivated roots of burdock can grow about one metre long and two centimetres across, though I believe the wild, first-year burdock would have more medicinal properties than a cultivated one. Burdock root is crisp with a sweet, mild, and pungent flavour and earthy smell.  Its helpful to soak it, julienned or shredded, in water for five to ten minutes to keep it from turning grayish-brown once the outer layer has been removed (remove it as one would peel a carrot).

In macrobiotic cooking, burdock root is considered  healing, warming, and calming. It helps one think more clearly and stay even-tempered. It is an excellent jet-lag remedy.

Burdock Root (Articum lappa) is great added to soups, stews, and stir-fries. I add it to my ‘almost-famous’ Boston Baked Beans dish. I will post this recipe at a later date and link it to this page. I’ll also continue to add photos of burdock in various stages of growth to help you locate your own; as well as describe all the other amazing things burdock has to offer.

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