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You can eat THAT? Urban Foraging with Leda Meredith

August 19, 2009

I went on an urban foraging tour with botanic gastronomic guru Leda Meredith last Saturday in Prospect Park.

I figured it would be kinda fun and kinda useful, but more tuck-in-the-back-of-your-mind-and-impress-your-friends-next-time-you’re-in-the-park useful. Instead it was, hey-I-totally-cleared-my-yard-of-that-weed-and-now-it-turns-out-it-makes-amazing-salad-and-has-curative-properties useful.

Here’s the breakdown on my new favorite weeds!

Asiatic Day Flower, courtesy of Zoooomr

Asiatic Day Flower, Courtesy of Zoooomr

ASIATIC DAY FLOWER (Commelina communis)

This flowers all over Brooklyn, and I find it pretty sexy for a weed – long graceful green leaves, and delicate blue flowers. It’s a hardy weed, can grow in full sun, full shade, wet and drought.

The entire plant is edible. In spring its shoots are supposed to be delicious and later in the summer everything, even the flowers, can be tossed in a salad.

Ladys Thumb, Courtesy Illinoiswildflowers.com

Lady's Thumb, Courtesy Illinoiswildflowers.com

LADY’S THUMB
(Persicaria vulgaris)

Another graceful little number with beautiful pink flowers and delicate leaves with a notable feature – a little dark imprint in the center of the leaf, the size of a lady’s thumbprint.

These are also all over the city, in sidewalk cracks and public parks, and yes, my yard.

It’s a mild green and you can add the leaf and the flower to salads. Unlike other greens, it doesn’t get bitter as the summer steams on.

Pepper Weed, Courtesy of Discoverlife.org

Peppergrass, Courtesy of Discoverlife.org

PEPPERGRASS
(Lepidium virginicum)

I first noticed this plant  last year, as weeds in the front yard of the house where I rented. The distinctive little pods give the plant a feathery look from the distance.

Leda told us a story about how she used these pods – before they flower – as pepper during a 250-mile diet, where she only ate foods from within a 250-mile radius. No pepper, but peppergrass served as an amazing substitute, harvested and then ground in a pepper grinder.

We tried them fresh off the plant; they had a greenish peppery flavor that was  very pleasant.

I want  to add that foraging is a great way to connect with what’s around you and to appreciate what is often overlooked, but I am by no means an expert and you should definitely consult with experts before picking leaves off plants and shoving em in your mouth. Just sayin. For more expertise, check out Leda’s blog. Also this local photographer has a pretty extensive array of his foraging pictures as well.

Some other resources

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