I had a hot date with Hot Dot, my mother in law, at the Botanical Gardens. We strolled around enjoying the last of the season’s blooms and hit up the gift shop afterward. Hot Dot is a member of the garden and gets 20% off, so I took the opportunity to buy my first foraging book, Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat.
This is my first foraging book so I’m not sure what the standards are but I give author Ellen Zachos an A on this one. The pictures are clear and she gives you “look alikes” to steer clear of and specific recipes, as well as general ideas, for how to use what you find. There’s also an easy mushroom primer. She even tells you how to make dandelion wine using a carboy, sugar, some champagne yeast and a plastic glove. A plastic glove!
Oh, man, I have been having a time walking around the neighborhood looking for dinner*. Just you wait until I get to the Hosta recipes (I know! You can eat Hostas! Who knew?!)
But one of my immediate favorites is stonecrop (aka orpine, aka sedum).
More specifically, it’s the stonecrop leaves that you can enjoy (don’t eat the pretty reddish flowers). And stonecrop seems to grow everywhere around here. It’s a tallish plant, a succulent actually, with stems about one to two feet high and lovely oblong leaves with serrated edges.
To harvest, just pull a few leaves off each stem (i.e., don’t strip a stem entirely bare or you’ll kill the poor thing). It tastes just like raw spinach. Seriously. While a lot of the plants stand up well to cooking or require it, Ellen says that stonecrop is really best raw, as a salad additive or using it like you would lettuce on a sandwich.
I haven’t yet been brave enough to ring a doorbell and ask my neighbors if I could pick their weeds for dinner, so I’ve just had a taste here and a taste there, stealthily stooping down to grab a leaf, all casual-like, no big deal, nothing to see here. But I plan to order stonecrop seeds to plant next year because it does double duty as a decorative perennial and, near as I can tell, this is an excellent stand-in for spinach that’s heat tolerant. Not to mention the deer and rabbits don’t seem to care for it.
*Obviously, don’t eat anybody’s plants without their permission, and don’t eat anything that you’re not 206% sure hasn’t been sprayed with pesticide, dog pee, etc. And don’t eat anything that you’re not 417% sure is edible. I know you guys are smarties but just making the disclaimer so that no one keels over and dies.