Wildcrafting (a.k.a. foraging) is the practice of harvesting plants and herbs from the wild. People usually do wildcrafting for food or medicinal uses, although since most of us just buy our food and medicine from a store, wildcrafting seems more of a romantic notion of days long past. Or there might be some fear around picking plants: Is it poisonous? Will it taste really terrible?
What’s cool though is that at our last Schomberg Vegetable Box pick-up day, we had our members and their kids trying out some wildcrafting right here on the farm. It wasn’t about trying to make a meal out of it, but just having fun interacting with wild plants and even tasting them a little bit.
Wildcrafting can help us get more connected with nature. Instead of just walking by these plants all the time, we can slow down and actually spend a moment with them. We also watched our members having fun guessing which plants they could eat and seeing each other’s reactions in tasting these different plants. It’s a novel, interesting activity that you can share with others and have fun with.
And you never know, it might even end up in your cuisine. Two of our member’s kids were enjoying the mustard flowers so much that they harvested more for later. Their dad, seeing how interested their kids were in the plant, said he should also harvest some for their mom to try.
On that note, here’s three plants our vegetable box members tried and that you might want to experiment with yourself!
This grows everywhere, so it’s definitely one you’ll find, even in your backyard in the city. The newer leaves are nice little green leaves that remind me of tasting the sun (you have to try it to know what I’m talking about). You could also add any of these wild plants to soups, but the purple flowers that white clover makes when they’re brand new add a nice purple sparkle when sprinkled in a salad. They’re also pretty tasty!
Thistle is common in gardens and a plant people usually rip out like a weed. But did you know you can actually eat the root? To try it, pull out a young thistle plant from the root. Young thistles have a shorter stem and haven’t gone to flower yet. They also have a milder taste than more mature thistle plants, which are more bitter. The root is really thin, so you can just slice it up and sprinkle it on anything. It also holds a lot of water, so even if it’s an older thistle plant, you can still suck the water out of it.
You can eat both the leaves and flowers of mustard plants. It has a mild taste at first, but the cool thing is it finishes spicy. I like adding it on salads because it adds a bright yellow colour and the spiciness adds a zing.
Wildcrafting can be really fulfilling because you’re interacting with your environment in new ways while also getting the nutrition packed in these wild plants. You don’t need to eat a lot of it, but even adding a little bit adds some cool flavour and a boost of nutrition. It’s also a skill that grows over time. You can go to other places locally, or even other countries in the world, and still find these plants and interact with their cousins. And in a real emergency situation, it’s always good to know how to eat wild plants and get a little nibble to sustain yourself!