Tama Wong, author of Foraged Flavor, is the on the forefront of this growing movement. A number of people have contacted her to say that they are excited by the idea of finding delicious food in their backyard or garden planter but they still have some questions. We’ve posted some of the most frequently asked questions, and Tama has shared them with our readers! If you have any questions about foraging, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment field below. Happy foraging!
Question: How do I start foraging?
Answer: Don’t try to learn everything at once. Start with something simple that you see a lot of, like wild garlic (onion grass), dandelion or chickweed in the cool season, or lambsquarters and purslane in a hotter season. Start to get to know it: notice when it is looking its best, i.e. tender and perky.
Question: I looked at the photos in Foraged Flavor and also at the field photos in the e-book but I still cant match it to my plant! Do you have an easy solution for identifying plants?
Answer: Try to start by following the easy five steps we outline for each plant. Of course, pictures are helpful but you almost never find a plant that will exactly match a photo. Wild plants can have so much variability in color and size based on the different soil, climate and other conditions of nature across the country. In Foraged Flavor we selected delicious plants that are most easy to recognize without having to use extensive keys or microscopes! Botanists use dichotomous keys, which are steps with two alternatives. For example: are the leaves opposite branching or alternate? Understanding just a couple of these steps can help immensely in discarding a huge number of wrong plants.
If you are still in doubt post or send us a photo on our website’s forum with your questions.
Question: I tried dandelion in a big salad and it just tasted bitter! What should I do?
Answer: Yes, this is what I remember when my mom made me try dandelion when I was a kid. Instead, BEFORE the plant flowers, choose the younger, lighter leaves from the inside of the cluster (basal rosette). These leaves are sweeter and not fibrous. We offer you an Asian style recipe which pairs the dandelion leaves with a beef and a western style using a vinaigrette, that moderate any bitterness so that it is enjoyable!
Question: Is it ok to pick by the roadside?
Answer: It is so important to pick from a place that is a quality landscape: not sprayed, exposed to gasoline fumes from traffic, or runoff from animal waste, or heavy metals. This is also why it is best to forage on your space or at least have permission from the owner. That way you can be sure that you know the land conditions.
Question: I think that chickweed tastes great raw as a salad! How do you recommend eating it?
Answer: That’s fantastic, I learned from a number of people that they like green smoothies. But for those people that think it tastes like grass (which I tend to) and don’t want to eat more than a sprig or two that way, there are other recipes for lightly cooking it in Foraged Flavor. We also substitute it for spinach in other cooked dishes.
Question: How do I store wild greens?
Answer: I learned not to overwash them as they tend to get moldier and wilt faster as wild plants have not been bred for a long “shelf-life”. I pick the tender parts, usually top 3-4 inches, so as not to carry excess soil, and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If conditions are very dry I put a lightly moistened paper towel in the bag. Most will keep up to a week this way and we use the greens all week long.
Question: I want to eat a pawpaw and anise hyssop but I cant find it in the wild or my backyard! What do I do?
Answer: Some delicious plants used to be as common as weeds but they are declining and don’t particularly like to spring out of lawns in many heavily populated areas. However these “foraging code Red” plants are beautiful and carefree perennials in the garden. By planting them you can help restore a little patch of wild to your own backyard. Our website gives trusted resources for buying these plants.
Recipes From Foraged Flavor by Tama Matsuoka Wong and Eddy Leroux