Wild Foodies of Philly
“Re-wilding” is about learning to live with nature, again.
natural world contains fantastic resources (food, fiber, medicines, etc.) that
have been used by people for thousands of years. Our aim is to re-discover that
world. So, please keep an open mind. There are always new things to learn, refer
to multiple sources of information, and keep a notebook. No one source contains
all the information on wild edibles, and some information can be incorrect. Some
plants have been called poisonous when only certain elements are, or they need
special preparation in order to be edible. And if you have a yard or pot, use
wild plants so they can be close at hand!
Enjoy learning about and living in the wonderful world of nature.
Respect: All wild plants have a purpose and it is our job to
understand what it is.
Sustainability: Wild edibles are the only truly sustainable
food, as they can survive in the wild without human assistance.
Nutrition: We look to true “wild edibles” for good nutrition
based on their natural evolution and diversified growing conditions.
Taste: Wild edibles come in a wide variety of flavors: bland,
bitter, sweet, sour, spicy, mustard, garlic, onion, pepper, mushroom, etc..
The same plant can taste differently depending on soil conditions, time of
year, time of day, etc.
Identification: We use at least four senses to identify plants:
sight, touch, taste, and smell. Often we need to scratch and sniff at stems
and roots (garlic mustard), tear a leaf in half (spice bush), or roll a leaf
between your fingers (mugwort) in order to squeeze out juices & capture the
considerate – Avoid foraging for food that is scarce or take all the berries!
Save some for others - people & wild life.
Public parks and private lands: It is generally illegal to forage on property
that is not your own. We use public parks to learn to identify
wild edibles (and nibble at bit). However, you can volunteer in their “weed
warrior” programs, which can be an opportunity to forage wild edibles. In
addition, there are some wild edibles, such as ramps and milkweed, which
require special protection under any circumstance, private or public.
Common names vs Latin names: We generally use common names for plants because
they are easier to pronounce and remember. Once in a while there may be some
confusion, such as “pigweed” (which we reserve for Prostrate or Mat Amaranth),
but not often. However, it would be a good idea for the foraging community to
decide on one common name for plants that have multiple common names. The use
of Latin names makes learning about plants more difficult, dividing people
away from nature, rather than making nature more understandable, accessible,
and usable. We don’t use Latin for animals, why use it for plants?
Invasives: Many wild edibles have been demonized as invasive plants, but the
earth is a dynamic thing. Plants and animals move about the earth on their own
and with the help of humans. In fact, the earth at one time hosted only one
continent, Pangea. Some say that it may happen again -
Many invasive plants have been in America for hundreds of years (ex.,
plantain or plantago) and provide many important uses. How to manage invasive
plants is best determined on a case-by-case basis. That said, toxic chemicals
should never be used to eradicate invasive species.
Also see: Rambunctious Garden
by Emma Marris
Agriculture: Hybridization, Selective Breeding, GMOs, and traditional farming
practices (including organic farming) are not sustainable and have not been
proven better for plants or humans than the natural world. In fact, farming,
with its neatly tilled rows and intrinsic lack of diversification, is a
breeding ground for plant problems (disease, insect infestation, etc.
TIPS ON FORAGING, ETC:
Forage is the AM: Generally, you want to forage in the morning when plants
are at their crispy best.
Clothing: If walking in tall grass, cover the areas of your skin that might be
exposed to ticks. Hats are a good idea as well.
repellent: Please avoid commercial products and instead use wild herbs, if
necessary, such as mint (henbit, deadnettle, Creeping Charlie)
First Aid: Plantain, Jewelweed, and Yarrow are excellent plants to have on
hand for insect bites, scrapes, and wounds. Fresh plants would be best, but
you can also dry plants and then rehydrate.
Plant preservation: Drying fruits and plants for later use is
more nutritional and less energy intensive than canning or freezing.
Any food should be prepared in the most nutritional manner.
So avoid frying or using large amounts of sugar, glutens, or dairy.
Dry greens inside and fruit inside or outside (although the
bugs might get to them outside).
Avoid using dehydrators that have plastic parts.
APPS, SOIL TESTING, & EQUIPMENT
Take particular care with young children, as they are far less likely to
understand which plants may be toxic.
Always be sure of what you are eating. Look up "poisonous look-a-likes". If
you haven't positively identified it, don't eat it. If you want to try it
anyway, check out this website --
Eat in moderation. See how your system processes the food. You could be
allergic. Some greens pack a punch, unlike many waterlogged greens sold in
stores. Many wild edibles are good as a condiment or garnish, but not a main
course. “Green smoothies” should also be made with extreme care, if at all. A
very diluted light “green drink” is a better alternative.
Avoid certain areas, such as next to roads, former industrial areas, etc..
Lead contamination from cars or house paint can make plants taste sweeter. If
you want to grow plants for food, have the soil tested. If it is
contaminated, there are plants that can remediate the soil over time.
Avoid plants whose green parts have turned color (dark or white), particularly
if conditions have turned very humid or wet.
MILKY SUBSTANCE AND WHITE CENTRAL VEINS
– If a plant leeches a milky substance from any part, avoid it (except for sow
thistle and wild lettuce). For plants like dandelions, chicory, wild
lettuces, the white central vein might adversely affect those allergic to
latex. Therefore, eat on either side of vein first.
Make sure that whatever you eat raw, that it is safe to do so. Otherwise, boil
or cook it.
Too much oxalic acid, such as in spinach, is said to interfere with processing
calcium and contribute to kidney stones. However, the U.S. National
Institutes of Health have determined that the negative effects of oxalic acid
are generally of little or no nutritional consequence in persons who eat a
variety of foods.
Lynn Landes, Founder
217 S. Jessup Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107