We are entering an exciting point in the summer for wild edibles: daylily blossoms add splashes of bright orange to fresh salads, purslane, lambs quarters and chickweed provide the greens and nothing is better than a mess of sauteed dandelion greens and shepherd’s purse with salt, pepper, butter and a splash of red wine and balsamic vinegars.
A book entitled Edible Wild Plants – Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by Dr. John Kallas describes the bounty of fresh greens available for consumption. The chapters are divided into the foundation greens, tart greens, pungent and bitter greens with descriptions of growing habitat, harvesting tips and, perhaps best of all, recipes with beautiful photographs.
The strength of this book is that Dr. Kallas has written it from personal experience, consuming the various plants and researching their properties rather than merely repeating information found in other wild plant books. As he writes in the summary, ‘this book is designed to help you successfully identify, understand, manage, and enjoy the wild foods covered’.
In addition to the native greens, Dr. Kallas features the invasives such as garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed and sow thistle.
There are many reasons to harvest wild edibles, chiefly amongst them are they are free, abundant and often invasive so collecting them is beneficial to the environment. Kallas also perceives an undeveloped market for those who grow/collect the items. Creating a more diversified “plant portfolio” increases the dependence just a few crops and benefits people by providing highly nutritious, fresh, local items.
Of course, always be sure to correctly identify the greens before ingesting and follow the instructions carefully on how to prepare them.
Review by Chris Anderson