The title of Margaret Roach’s April 5, 2023 “In the Garden” column in the New York Times caught my attention: “Why It’s Better to Plant Wild Greens Than to Forage for Them.” The subtitle intrigued me too: “This spring, don’t forage for wild edible plants. Instead, welcome them into your garden.”
My friend Carol is an expert forager as well as serious permaculture gardener, and I wondered what she’d think of this article, so I sent it to her. She replied:
“Thanks for the article! Good inspiration. Think it’ll catch on with many gardeners?”
She continued, “I have established plants or seeds of most of the east coast ones he’s listed, except wood nettle (I figure our native one will be good enough) My giant Solomon’s seal only gets to three feet, though. It’s fun to find sources of these plants and seeds and incorporate them into the perennial edible garden. The butterflies like them too.”
I’m not surprised that Carol is ahead of the game on edible wild plants. She’s been wild gardening for years. And she cooks and eats what she grows and forages, always following her own advice not to eat wild plants until she can safely identify them as edible. She wrote: “Yesterday’s lunch included a mass of steamed mixed greens including kale shoots, dock, sheep sorrel, nettle, dead nettle, dandelion, false dandelion, garlic leaves, shot weed, wild pea shoots – served with lovely beans and rice, Romano and a hint of sour cream. Yum!!!”
Carol’s kitchen garden is her woods and her permaculture plot, while my kitchen garden is much more domesticated. Rectangular beds and not many weeds. But that doesn’t mean I don’t forage a bit in my kitchen garden, especially this time of year, when I can find buds and blossoms of wintered-over plants waking up to spring. Kale starts my list just as it started Carol’s.
Kale buds and flowers are a treat I look forward to every spring. They were joined a few days ago by buds and flowers from arugula, collards, red mustard, and broccoli raab.
The same day I sent Carol the foraging article, I sautéed a bunch of this new growth for a dinner pasta sauce. They were so pretty in the pan that I snapped a photo and sent it to Carol with the message: “Tops of arugula, kale, collards, red mustard and broccoli raab. Not wild but very tasty.” She replied: “Don’t we eat well!”
Yes, we do, whether foraging in the wild or in the remains of the winter garden. Maybe my next garden adventure will be welcoming some of Carol’s favorite forage plants into my garden to create an edible perennial bed. Always good to have another garden goal!