Taught last night about wild edible plants in our local area. These plants are readily found here in Southern California.
Of all the plants out there more than you would think are edible. Of those that are, there are 10% that are actually worth your time. You don't have to go far to get them, as two of my favorites will grow in your yard!
If you're unsure, don't eat it. There are plants that will make you sick, or worse. The good news is right now you can do a little looking, and more importantly, try out a few recipes and gain experience.
Brassica Nigra - Black Mustard
I list this one first because if you are hiking, or even walking along the sidewalk, you've seen this plant. It is the reason the hills turn that unmistakable yellow at this time of year (April/May). It is also probably growing right now within 200' of your house. It's everywhere, it should be the California State flower.
The best parts are the flower heads before they blossom. They will look like mini broccoli, and taste a little spicy. Pick them off as you walk by and eat them raw. I have gathered up a few handfuls and rinsed/boiled them (it cuts down on their strong flavor). Add to any meal for spice and nutrition boost.
Sambucus Mexicana - Blue Elder
If there is a tree/shrub that grows like a weed, this is it. Unmistakable also at this time of year with its cream colored flower bunches over deep green leaves. The flowers can be made into a tea. They will grow small green buds, turn into dark (almost black), then pale blue covered with a whitish hue, that signals the berries are ripe. Jellies, jams, juices, drying.
Note thought that all other parts of this plant are toxic, including stems.
Chenopodium Album - Lambsquarters (on the right)
I've been pulling this 'weed' out of my yard for years. Closely related to a cousin shown here next to it, which both grow prolifically in your yard. The Nettleleaf-Goosefoot on the right is the you redheaded stepchild (it doesn't taste good). Lamb's-quarter however is comparable to spinach and even surpasses it in some ways. 10x more calcium and 8x more vitamin C, for instance. I've heard some stores in LA sell it as 'Wild Spinach' for exorbitant prices. But it grows for free in your yard you want it or not, so might as well harvest it. Use the leaves anywhere you would use Spinach.
And now on to my favorite. The plant that will save the world.
Portulaca Oleracea - Purslane
is a nutritional vegetable (yes you heard me right), offering remarkable amounts of minerals (most notably calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium), omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins (A, B, C), and antioxydants. The succulent leaves and new stems have a lemon-pepper taste. Rinse and boil, stir fry, and many other uses.
I made a simple recipe of purslane, tomato, mozzarella, and chicken that was very good. The kids wouldn't eat it though because they still thought of it as a weed.