Wild Edibles – Foraging for Dinner

SAMSUNGSo the other night I didn’t have any veggies or greens to add to our dinner. I had fruit and I had potatoes, but nothing green and bright. So I did a quick foraging expedition in our backyard – choosing both some so called weeds and some components from the garden. And I thought I would share what I found in early April in Los Angeles near the coast.

First, I found tons and tons of Tropaeolum, commonly known as Nasturtium, a flowering plant. It is a “weed” in our yard – that is, it is growing everywhere and I didn’t cultivate it.  

The genus Tropaeolum contains several popular garden plants, including T. majus, T. peregrinum and T. speciosum.  I specifically found T. majus, which is also known as garden nasturtium, Indian cress or monks cress.   For T. majus, the leaves and flowers can be eaten.  Even the fruit is edible and is used as a caper substitute by some. 

I’ve eaten the flower petals and the young leaves.  The flowers and young leaves have peppery taste with a very faint bitter note at the end. I haven’t collected the fruit ~ but this year, I am going to try. T. majus is growing rampant in my yard – it really is like kudzu.

In any event, the flower petals added a nice peppery note to the salad. It seems the most common use of T. majus is to use them to add color and some peppery notes to a salad.  But if you want to try a nice recipe with it, I found this recipe for Nasturtium Leaf Pesto at RootSimple (I met one of the authors this weekend ~ more to come).  Also, Miche Barcher has a very interesting recipe for Nasturtium Goat Cheese Ice Cream in her book Cooking with Flowers I am going to try tomorrow.

I also collected dandelion greens, some blueberries from our blueberry plants, a handful of French sorrel and a leaf from my tree collard.  The French sorrel added a lemony note.  Dandelion greens taste different depending on when you harvest them. I’ve always been told to harvest the greens before the plant blooms – if you wait too long, they are bitter. To be honest, I still find the young greens have a bitter note – but if you shred/tear into a salad with other components, the bitterness is welcome.  So, I took the greens and the fruit and rinsed, shredded as appropriate, added a dash of sea salt and served with Blood Orange Olive Oil and Georgia Peach Balsamic Vinegar, it was delicious.