Reverse Foraging

I know I’ve talked about reverse foraging before on this blog. Probably often enough that you are sick of reading about it! But there are so many ways to encourage wild edibles – or at least, to not remove them – if you have any amount of yard at all. (Yes, I realize I have more yard than many people… if you don’t have one yourself, maybe you have a friend or relative whose landscape you can nudge in a wild food direction.)

Last week I mentioned my new-to-me prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), a spiky addition to the hardscaping where my sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) flourish. It seems to be enjoying its home, based on the new growth on the pads, although I’m not sure whether it will flower and fruit this year.

A new-to-me prickly pear with fresh growth
A new-to-me prickly pear with fresh growth

If you were wondering: a) yes, the glochids in my mouth eventually went away (I presume they dissolved) and b) no, I don’t plan to try eating a nopal again for a while!

The sunchokes have been a feature of my yard for a while, but I have been actively encouraging milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to grow in the same area. By “encouraging to grow”, I mean I don’t actually forage this population, so it will become more entrenched for future years.

Milkweed plant starting to form flower buds that I will NOT be eating
Milkweed plant starting to form flower buds that I will NOT be eating

Nearby, the invasive, non-native daylily (Hemerocallis spp.) are also starting to bud. Although these I will definitely eat, since this population is well established and will do JUST fine if I use them in a couple of meals!

Daylilies about to bud
Daylilies about to bud

I also recently found a patch of wild grape (Vitis spp.) growing in a protected area against my house. Needless to say, grape leaves will be on the menu in the near future!

Grape leaves growing against my house
Grape leaves growing against my house

In my garden, yet more wild edibles flourish. Strategic reverse foraging? Or laziness when it comes to removing weeds? You be the judge.

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned my lambs quarter (Chenopodium album) “crop”, which has finally reached eating size.

Lambs quarter growing among my raspberries
Lambs quarter growing among my raspberries

I also referenced the amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) seedlings in the garden beds. Turns out even more amaranth has taken hold in the pathways. All of it appears to be wild amaranth, rather than the red and gold domesticated varieties I’ve tried to grow in the past.

Volunteer amaranth
Volunteer amaranth

And while I should remove these “weeds”, in a few more weeks these will be prime cooking greens at a time when many of my garden crops have bolted due to the heat. {As a side note, it is the end of May and the temp outside is a breezy 55, so I would welcome the return of the warmer temperatures.)

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) has also made its annual appearance, reminding us again that the difference between an edible crop and a weed is primarily perspective!

Common purslane
Common purslane

Purslane is one of my favorite greens to enjoy sprinkled across a summer salad.

My biggest reverse foraging achievement so far this year: a baby hazelnut (Corylus americana) germinated from one of the precious few nuts I managed to forage last fall.

My baby hazelnut tree in a pot so I can keep it safe
My baby hazelnut tree in a pot so I can keep it safe

Right now, my precious baby tree remains in a pot where I can protect it from the various critters that roam my yard looking for shrubbery to nibble upon. (Deer, ground hogs, voles, rabbits when they are hungry enough, etc.) Wait, I’m sure the all the plants in this post would consider me to fall into that category as well!

What edible plants – wild or domesticated – have you been encouraging in your immediate environment?

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