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CRAFT: Crafting with Nature
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I get a thrill out of foraging for free stuff, especially food, and I’m hoping to instill the same in my kids. I’m willing to do a bit of work for the “free” stuff, like fighting through the thorns to get to the plump, juicy blackberries, and in fact, that probably makes the treat taste that much better. I equate it to a treasure hunt; finding hazelnuts or huckleberries in the forest is definitely like finding a prize.
So last week the kids and I set out to forage for a free salad. We started in the fridge and then moved to the pantry. We had some leftover feta cheese that a friend had made, another friend had given us some lemons from her yard, and yet another couple had given us some olive oil as a hostess gift a few months back. So far, so good — all free!
Next, we headed out to the yard; dandelion greens really are edible. And we have lots of dandelions because my younger son loves to stomp on the seed heads or blow them all over the lawn.

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But dandelion greens can be a tad bitter, especially if used raw, so we headed out into the woods and along our driveway, looking for some miner’s lettuce, which is sweet and tender and yummy. We gathered enough for a salad, ate a few leaves as we picked, and headed back into the house with a bowl full of our efforts.
Back in the kitchen, I rinsed the greens and my youngest used the salad spinner to dry them (he loves it!). I threw on the feta, and then made a simple dressing with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, plus a clove of garlic, because we all love it.
I ended up cheating a bit and adding a few toasted nuts to complete the dish. I chose hazelnuts because we actually have hazelnut bushes growing on our property, but we’ve only ever gotten 2 or 3 nuts off them in 10 years. But the hazelnuts in the salad could have come from our foraging attempts, so it’s only the slightest bit of cheating, right?
I’d love to hear about other people’s foraging, scavenging, or dumpster-diving, if that’s what you like to do. Please post your tales in the Comments.
And if anyone’s wondering whether my kids are getting anything out of the exercise, here’s a couple of shots that should convince even the staunchest of naysayers.
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shawnconna

Sometimes helpful editor and digital media director at MAKE and CRAFT.


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Comments

  1. Bruce says:

    Who knew hanging out with mom and picking weeds could be so much fun??

  2. Dana Marie says:

    I just pulled a few clumps of Miner’s Lettuce out of my backyard. I thought it was a pretty weed, but the last pretty weed I admired took over and I’m having a horrible time getting rid of it. I thought the bindweed was actually morning glories!
    This is a great article!

  3. Gretel Shuvzwichinstov says:

    Young blackberry shoots are good in a salad. When the new shoots are still green, cut them off and peel off the thorns/skin. What you have left is kind of a celery/lettuce tasting cross that mixes in well with salads, or can be used as a fun snack for the kids.

  4. Rachel Hobson says:

    This is so cool! I love that there are multiple lessons/experiences for the kids in this simple project. Not to mention, your kids are adorable! :)

  5. Gardner says:

    Some other edible, wild greens I like adding to wild salads:
    * Purslane – very tasty!
    * Wood sorrel – sour like “real” sorrel, but tiny
    * Garlic mustard – this is an Alien Invasive so the more we pick, the better.
    Only the first-year basal rosette of garlic mustard is any good, and even the first-year leaves become bitter after the first flush of spring. But, if you don’t mind dandelion greens (I find them too bitter) then garlic mustard should be good for you any time of year.

  6. Shawn Connally says:

    Thanks, Dana! Next time, just snap the tops off and use them, Then the plant will eventualy die and then come back next year. Instant salad!

  7. Shawn Connally says:

    Thanks everyone! Now we’ll have to go back out for more foraging; I can definitely try the young blackberry shoots because there are some we need to dig up. And my kids love “sour grass” sorrel, but I think it shows up in these parts a little later in the year. They usually suck on the shoots, daring each other to see who can take more sour goodness!

  8. Bazjra says:

    We have catbriar growing in abundance in our woods — the tender shoots and tendrils of the briar is good to eat, though I’ve never used it in a salad.
    We have wild muscadine and a persimmon tree, too. If we tried harder, we could probably get the muscadine grapes before the squirrels got them. We get lots of persimmons, but I don’t really like them, too sweet for my taste. We also have a young sassafras tree (wild and needs to be moved out of the flower garden!) — the roots can be used to make sassafras tea. Wild onions are tasty and in abundance, too.
    Some edible flowers that I’ve sampled are pansies, violets (every tried a candied violet? delicious!), and day lilies.

  9. pomly says:

    We call it wild salad in our house. It used to be easier to gather when we had an acre in Ohio, but even now in our tiny urban backyard we still manage to gather a good wild salad. Weeds grow anywhere! Free salad! :)
    -purslane
    -lamb’s quarters
    -rocket
    -sorrel
    -wood sorrel
    -violet
    -pigweed

  10. Camolai says:

    Well, I’ve never foraged for an entire salad I do, on occasion, commit minor dumpster-diving in the area of about 4 apartment complexes near my own. :)
    I’ve always been frustrated at all the perfectly good furniture that people would throw out because they were unwilling to at least donate, much less to hammer a little here or throw a dab of paint. So, I recently started collecting the furniture and and am going to be fixing them up a little later as fun side projects. Some I might keep for myself but others I plan on donating after I’ve spruced them up. :)
    -Camolai

  11. Laura says:

    Hi Bazjra,
    You should try baking with persimmons. I don’t like eating them straight up either, but they work well baked into things. There are two main types of persimmons: fuyu and hachiya. Fuyu are the firm, flat-bottomed ones and hachiya are the mushy, pointy bottomed ones. Here’s a recipe for persimmon bread that uses both types: http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com/2008/02/persimmon-bread.html. The mushy ones especially are good to keep your baked goods moist.

  12. Natalie Zee Drieu says:

    This is such a great story. I wish we had more than just gravel or grass in my neighborhood. You are a great mama for teaching this to your boys and it’s a fun adventure game to play too!