Eat The Ground You Walk On

LET’S TALK MARYLAND NATIVE EDIBLE PLANTS

So, recently I’m becoming more and more fascinated with the fact that there is food growing all around us, all the time. If you just walk through Frederick right now, May 14th, you’ll see all kinds of vegetation on the ground. Vegetation that I used to just lump into one main category: Grass. When I was first learning to garden 7 seasons back, I asked a question that most beginning gardeners ask: “What makes something a weed?” The answer is simple, anything you’re not intentionally trying to grow. But the truth is, most plants that we consider “weeds” have wonderful qualities that benefit their ecosystem as a whole and many are edible… even delicious.

Today, I’d like to open up a conversation with you to help more people, myself included learn more about Maryland Native Edible Plants. I’m going to list a few below and their attributes. If you know of others, please join the conversation and share them here. Thank you.

DPdandelion300w1. DANDELION:

Yep, you can eat Dandelions. You know, those little yellow invasive flowers that are everywhere in Maryland in the Spring time. You can gather them and eat them. The leaves are a little on the bitter side, so it’s best to harvest them very young or just cook them down to reduce the bitter flavor. Dandelions provide nectar for bees and it’s root can be ground and used as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Even the flowers are edible, but if you have strong pollen allergies, be careful, you may have a reaction to the pollen.

Dandelion begins to pop up in early Spring in Maryland.

DPlambsquarters300w2. LAMBSQUARTERS:

This unique little “weed” will outgrow almost anything you plant in your garden. Before I knew I could eat this plant, I was pulling them out by the handful. It’s also called Goosefoot or Pig Weed and is actually very tasty and nutritious. You can eat the leaves, shoots, seeds and the flowers of this amazing local plant. I’m not certain of the nutritional value but I’ve heard that it’s comparable to spinach. Please correct me if you’ve heard otherwise.

To the left is a photo of a very young lambsquarter plant. They begin to pop up around early May in Maryland.

I'm sure we've all seen this little guy in our own back yards and especially poking it's head through the cracks in the sidewalk.

I’m sure we’ve all seen this little guy in our own back yards and especially poking it’s head through the cracks in the sidewalk.

3. PLANTAIN:

No, not the banana-looking plant commonly found in Latin America. Maryland’s version of Plantain is very different. This wonder-plant has been used throughout history, not only as a nutritious food but also due to it’s medicinal qualities. It’s used as a “refrigerant, diuretic, deobstruent and somewhat astringent. Has been used in inflammation of the skin, malignant ulcers, intermittent fever, etc., and as a vulnerary, and externally as a stimulant application to sores. Applied to a bleeding surface, the leaves are of some value in arresting haemorrhage, but they are useless in internal haemorrhage, although they were formerly used for bleeding of the lungs and stomach, consumption and dysentery. The fresh leaves are applied whole or bruised in the form of a poultice. Rubbed on parts of the body stung by insects, nettles, etc., or as an application to burns and scalds, the leaves will afford relief and will stay the bleeding of minor wounds.” — www.botanical.com

Plantain starts to surface in late April/ early May in Maryland.

DPwildonions4. WILD ONIONS:

This is just another term meaning onions that grow where people didn’t necessarily mean for them to. These delicious little onions begin to show themselves in early Spring in Maryland. They’re easy to pick; just grab one near where it meets the soil and give a firm, but steady pull and it should pop right out. Wash them off and enjoy them the way you would any store-bought onion.

So there are the first four Maryland Native Edible Plants that came to mind for me. What are your favorites? Please add your comments under the link on the Envision Facebook so we can help one another learn more about the food beneath our feet. Please “like” that link, and share it with others you think might be interested.

Thanks – Doug