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Foraging for Wild Foods

Use this guide to identify common blue violet, lambsquarters, and burdock, and learn to harvest, prepare, and preserve wild edible plants.

| February/March 2020

I started foraging in the 1960s. When I was about 3 years old, my great-grandmother took me to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, where she taught me how to identify a dandelion plant. We brought home a bagful of leaf rosettes (the leaves all connected by a thin sliver of root), and she showed me how to cook them up Greek-style. My great-grandmother had grown up on a small island in Greece where foraging — a word I’m sure she never knew existed — was normal.

Photo by Getty Images/Daniel Rudolf

Because her otherwise-stern eyes twinkled with delight when we foraged for horta (the Greek word for wild edible greens of any kind), I was naturally curious. I wanted in on the joy that these plants brought to my yia-yia.

Long after my great-grandmother had passed away, I kept learning about and eating wild edibles. I still consider botanical field guides great reading. Later, in my late 30s and early 40s, when my career as a professional dancer came to an end and I needed to choose a new career, the first thing that came to mind was wild plants. I’d been passionate about plants as a hobby since those days in the park with Great-Grandma, so I decided to pursue that interest more intensely.

But I didn’t want to study just any wild plants; I was mostly interested in the ones I could eat or use as medicine. And that interest in wild edible plants led to an interest in wild edible mushrooms, and so on. By the time I was in my early 50s, I’d already written a wild edible plants field guide and a wild foods cookbook.

Whether you’re just beginning your adventures with foraged food or you’re already an experienced gatherer, I’m excited to share some foraging tips with you on the following three plants.

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