|Friday Five: Wild Edible Vegetables|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Friday, 16 March 2012|
With news of salmonella contamination in tomatoes, spinach, cantaloupes, and who knows what else, there’s renewed interest in gardening as well as edible wild foods. Here are five of my favorites and I’ve included references and recipe links to a terrific website I just discovered, WildFoodPlants.com, that you might find of interest too.
1. Ramps or Wild Leeks (pictured above)
Ramps, also known as ramsons or wild leeks are a member of the onion family. Both the leaves and bulbs are edible and are prized by chefs, gourmands, and regular folks from Quebec to the Carolinas. Use them like you would use onions or shallots.
2. Yucca Seedpods
Native to the southwest, chaparral yucca (Yucca whipplei) seedpods are edible when they are very young and green, right after they finish flowering. Here’s a recipe for yuccatash that you might want to try. Yucca flowers are also edible--Yucca filamentosa, which grows in the eastern half of the US--and taste a bit like artichokes. Be careful with yucca however, some parts of some yucca plants are poisonous. Be very certain that you know what species you are dealing with. Chaparral yucca is listed as salvage restricted in Arizona.
3. American Sea Rocket
American sea rocket (Cakile edentula), as you might have guessed, grows near the seashore--in the dunes to be precise. Native to America, there’s a European version as well and its range extends from Canada south to Florida and Louisiana and along the shores of the Great Lakes and the entire west coast. It’s a member of the mustard family. The somewhat fleshy succulent leaves have a mild bite to them and can be used to flavor salads and as garnish for seafood. It is listed as threatened in Illinois and rare in Pennsylvania.
4. Prickly Pears
You know, not being from the southwest and having yet to visit this region, I’ve often seen these red fruits on cacti but wasn’t sure what they were. Now I know. They’re fruits. And many of them are edible, including prickly pear. Prickly pear cacti, by the way, also grow on the east coast in southeastern Connecticut and other sandy locations. Here’s a wonderful prickly pear cheesecake recipe to try.
5. Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are not really a wild vegetable but they’re not common either. Garlic scapes are the flower buds of the garlic plant, which are cut off to ensure the bulb grows to its full potential. I’d never heard of them until the other day when my brother, who’s an avid organic gardener, called me up and asked if I wanted to try some. Of course I did! I sautéed them up with butter and olive oil and mixed them in my scrambled eggs. They were delicious and not garlicky at all--more of an asparagus taste really. One hint though: Don’t overcook them. They don’t become tender instead, they become dry and papery and will stick in your throat!
Photo source: www.sfist.com (garlic scapes), www.wildfood.com (American sea rocket)