Eating wild foods is one of my favorite things, and you can get started in foraging in a few easy steps. You don't need to be an Everest veteran to start enjoying nature's bounty. Anyone who can get to grocery store can do it. I favor plants that are easy to recognize and even easier to prepare. All you'll need is a field guide from the library, an old pillowcase and some caution.
That said, you should never, ever put anything into your mouth unless you're sure what it is. Check these tips for safe harvest. Once you've discovered something edible in a good location, use this guide to make sure you're not allergic and that your IDs are 110 percent correct.
For those who are nervous to get started, I've chosen five wild things that are familiar and don't look like poisonous plants. If you know of a public spot to find this stuff, give me a shout here.
View larger image Clover: The above field of red and white clover is, believe it or not, full of edible protein. The numerous species of clover growing in Ohio are also high in vitamins. Foragers generally use tender leaves and young flowers raw in salad. Some also dry various parts for tea and flour. Suggestion: Use the red clover flowers as a salad garnish. More info
Garlic mustard: This invasive species is one of the biggest threats to Ohio ecosystems. Luckily, you can eat it -- environmental stewardship through diet. The plentiful leaves are best enjoyed when young and tender, and you can smell the garlic aroma if you crush up one or two. Some foragers even make a pesto from bulk quantities. Suggestion: Finely chop a few tender leaves and toss them into a salad. More info
Staghorn sumac: American Indians used this plant for many purposes, including as a tobacco additive. The berries on this native tree with large fronds grow in bright red clusters and have a crisp, lemony taste. Suggestion: Indian Lemonade can be made from swirling 4-6 berry clusters (in cheesecloth) in a gallon of water and adding sugar to taste More info
View larger image Mulberries: These trees grow all over Columbus and dot many trails in local parks. The fruit looks like blackberries or black raspberries (two related foods), but these grow from a bona fide tree with odd-looking leaves. They aren't as sweet as some berries, but they're a delicious and nutritious snack. Suggestion: Eat a handful raw or add about 10-12 to a milkshake More info
View larger image Dandelions: These maligned plants were originally brought to America as crops. They're now destroyed as weeds by many of the same people who buy field greens from the store. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but save yourself the time and money by heading straight to the source. Suggestion: Add young, tender leaves raw to salad and use the flowers as a garnish More info