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Wild edibles – foothills

May 13, 2011

Hi Friends,

The kids and I have been “hiking” again. The kind of hikes where you gear up for an hour, steering children towards appropriate footwear, gathering sun hats and water bottles and parceling together snacks from your patchy larder (today we were out of bread, so it was peanut butter and honey on hippie corn tortillas, the kind without preservatives that are hard before you even open the package, leaving the poor kids jaw-muscling their way through lunch)…and then you walk about ten minutes before everyone discovers they would rather just play on the big, root-spangled dirt hill for the next two hours.

Col and Eva loving a root-spangled dirt hill

Which is fine.

It’s rarely about getting anywhere for the children, it’s more about digging deep into a microcosm of life.

I’m just happy to be outside under the gorgeous Colorado sky, watching all the wild plants pop up like old friends.

Here’s some of what’s edible right now in the pinyon/juniper foothills:

Wild onions – allium sp.

Wild onions look like grass, but have wide flat leaves and a distinct onion smell. They’re spicier than cultivated chives or green onions and lovely in sandwiches (not peanut butter on tortilla so much), salads, stir fry. Roots and flowers are edible too.

*** ** *** ** *** ** ***

Chimaya – Cymopterus sp.

Oh how I love this little plant in the carrot family. It blooms early in spring in low, sunny spots. Depending on species (there are several on the Colorado Western Slope) flowers can be yellow, white or purple. It tastes like parsley and celery got together and threw an outrageous party. It wakes you up with its pungency and, like many plants in this family, aids digestion.

*** ** *** ** *** ** ***

Candytuft – Thalapsi montana

Why is it called candytuft? Because the flowers are sweet, though a spicy bite lurks close behind, as is typical with the mustard family. A nice trail snack and a good way to familiarize children with the five flavors, as in “did you taste that sweetness and then the sneaky little spicy kiss at the end?”  

A note:

* know your plants before sampling, there are poisonous plants everywhere.

* every flower represents the potential for that plant’s reproduction, go easy with flower munching.

* this fantastic blog features “foraging friday,” with insights into the wild edibles of Northern Cali.

What wild edible delights are you enjoying?

21 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 7:13 am

    aw man, rachel. your first paragraph speaks to my heart (and sounds SO very familiar).

    we have yet to venture into wild edibles other than the violet flowers that we’re popping in our mouths and mixing into our salads.

    in the fall we’ll forage for autumn olives (silver berries) but that is about the extent of my foraging knowledge — so far! i look forward to learning more!

    have a great weekend!


  2. May 13, 2011 7:59 am

    I am so curious about all of the wild edibles out there. Some friends recently found some wild leeks on our farm so we are off in search of them again. Fiddleheads are also on the list of things to forage for right now. Otherwise the asparagus is up in the garden here in Canada where the trees are just starting to bud!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 13, 2011 10:48 am

      Dan grew up in Eastern Canada and has fond memories of spring fiddlehead forays with his botanist dad. Wild leeks sound delish!

  3. May 13, 2011 10:00 am

    hey, thanks for the shout out! so fun to see what is edible in your neck of the woods. i’ve never seen candy tuft here, i’d love to try it.

    i’m starting an herbal and wild edibles mom group, to take our kids on herb hikes and for doing easy herb projects. i suspect, however, that there will be far more root spangled dirt hill climbing than foraging. really, i just want to hang out with more moms who are plant nerds. wish i could nerd out with you in person!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 13, 2011 10:53 am

      I’ve tried doing some Mama/kid plant walks, it’s pretty cute. Kids get super excited about eating wild things (often, until they taste them) and then just end up on the root-spangled dirt hill.

  4. May 13, 2011 10:17 am

    stinging nettles, a lot of the mint family stuff like purple dead nettle (just learned this one), hedge nettle… violets… dandelion and plantain. i’ve been looking for wild onion here, but haven’t found it yet- or ramps i guess they are called around here? or maybe those are the wild leeks. i don’t know. thimbleberry leaves (and the other raspberry blackberry family of leaves, but thimbles and salmonberries are the yummiest imo) are about to be just right for gathering for tea. i want to find some good patches of wild carrot (queen anne’s lace) this year and try to dig some this fall and see if they are any good…

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 13, 2011 10:52 am


  5. May 13, 2011 12:29 pm

    Every time I’m here, I learn so much! Although I’m not sure when I’ll ever get to apply these lessons. Dandelions are about the only foraging we get to do here…

  6. May 13, 2011 1:28 pm

    ah! the chimaya? we are OVER RUN if you want some or TONS. I have heard from others (the guy who lived here before us and is a primitive skills teacher) that it’s not edible (toxic?). haven’t been using ours because of that, but think i’ll have a go. looks a little dilly too…in the south we called a version of it queen anne’s lace. do you know if there is a close relative that we might be growing?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 14, 2011 2:55 pm

      Ivey – Chimaya is definitely edible and safe. I remember seeing lomatium at Kristen’s next door, same plant family, maybe that’s what you have. Maybe I could come check it out.

  7. May 13, 2011 4:00 pm

    Violets and dandelions for me, but soon there will be so much more. It seemed to take forever for spring to actually arrive and I can’t wait for more!

  8. May 13, 2011 5:17 pm

    We’ve been in our *wet* forest, and Luke’s been catching spot prawn and coon stripe prawn. Have I told you lately how much I love shrimp?
    I remember hearing a story of the guy who took his children to see the Grand Canyon, and his children spent the first hour crowded around an ant hill beside the car. I love to see where kids’ eyes lead them.

  9. May 13, 2011 8:06 pm

    I guess fruit snacks don’t count? Even if they’re in the shape of flowers? We’re visiting the grandparents, so it’s prepackaged this and that with globs of corn syrup and a side of Yellow #5. But I’m so worn out that I’m just letting it go for a little while!

  10. rose permalink
    May 14, 2011 6:56 pm

    i am woefully ignorant on this subject, but not for long! i am taking a class next month and am so very excited for it. all day in the woods learning about the food and medicine that grows freely and abundantly all around us. can’t wait!

  11. May 15, 2011 8:53 am

    So cool! I recognize all three of these from childhood hikes in Colorado and wish I’d known they were edible back then. I’m glad to know I can score some free snacks when I’m back for a visit. Of course around here it’s all about the coconuts and bananas, so I’m not complaining!

  12. Emily permalink
    May 15, 2011 9:48 pm

    dandelions, wild onions (although I’m pretty sure we’ve tried a few different varieties), and the mock wild strawberries that my kids won’t believe aren’t real strawberries. My daughter made onion soup a few weeks ago. We’ve found a huge plot of cattails growing (in clean water), so we’re brewing plans to harvest and cook some. other than that, we’re pretty clueless about our wild edibles. Unless volunteer plants in the garden count…

  13. Melissa permalink
    May 15, 2011 11:03 pm

    Love your blog so!

    I overheard Leeor talking to Avi about weeds tonight, thought of you, wanted to interject, but realized several things simultaneously (was feeding Lilit dinner at the time, as well) and kept quiet . . .

    Our backyard got lush in the hot minute we’ve been here–my hands have very little to do with it; lots of rain plus lots of sun means the kale we cut back to the nubs a few weeks (a month?) ago is now plush once again . . . it’s wild to me. I love it.

    So perhaps we will enjoy our own backyard kale made crisp in the oven because I am shameless with olive and salt! xo!

  14. May 16, 2011 9:54 am

    This spring our favorite wild edible has been wild blackberries. We were thrilled when a few small starts showed up in our own backyard and we laugh at ourselves that instead of mowing down the weeds like “normal” suburban homeowners, we are setting up trellises for them!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 16, 2011 10:00 am

      Wild blackberries! I think that is the one wild plant I will always covet from the dry Southwest. We spent a fall in Northern Cali and ate wild blackberries like bears, all of us purple-stained and drunk on the sweetness.

  15. May 16, 2011 11:43 am

    Fascinating. Especially because I only know candytuft as a kind of evergreen perennial…I wonder if it’s related…the flower is similar…I’ve never heard tell of anyone eating the perennial.

  16. May 16, 2011 9:40 pm

    Thanks for the Nor Cal link. I love wild edibles, too, but I really want to take a class with someone who really knows what is what, so I can learn hands on in person. I have a couple leads on the who and where, so I can’t wait to expand my knowledge. There is so much available here and already a couple good local books. Such a good thing to teach your littles!

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