Harvesting Wild Greens

Learn about spring harvesting of waterleaf, nettles, miner's lettuce, watercress, wild lettuce, sow thistle and ferns.

| May/June 1977

A few years ago, the outdoor editor of our local (Kamiah, Idaho) daily newspaper approached me with a story idea. "Why don't you put together a complete meal — salad, main course, side dishes, dessert, everything — comprised entirely of wild plants ... and write it up for our next `outdoor recreation' supplement?"

Being a natural foods forager from way back, all I could think of as an answer was: "Sure!"

The editor's response: "OK. Have the story on my desk in four days."

Holy mackerel! What had I done? There I was in early May and many — if not most  — of the wild edibles I normally foraged (things like lamb's-quarters, green amaranth, purslane, mustards, and other frost-sensitive fare) weren't out yet! Even such hardy volunteer plants as the docks and sorrels weren't far enough along to eat.

But I had committed myself, so — accompanied by my sister, Nita — I took to the countryside fully expecting to find few — or no — wild vegetables worth eating (let alone writing about). Imagine our surprise, then, when we ran up against copious quantities of miner's lettuce, watercress, yellow monkey flower, spearmint, dog-tooth violet, wild hyacinth, plantain, salsify, burdock, and other delicious "free eats!" Even in early spring, we had learned, foraged fare was out in abundance ... and, as a result, I got my story.

From this experience I learned that it is possible to gather wild foods (whole sack-loads of them, in fact) even as far north as Idaho and as early as spring or late winter ... if you know which plants to look for.

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