Free Food: Grazing for Local Greens In the Lawn

Local Greens For Free

dandelion flowerFor a fresh look at local food, try your backyard!

Most suburban areas are full of free food, but we’re too busy pulling and mowing to take notice of the bounty of our own neighborhoods. We’ll buy gourmet greens at the market, but spend a summer eradicating all traces of “weeds” in our yard.

Wild greens are everywhere. They don’t need you to water them, and they grow like crazy in most man-made environments. Many of the plants that are now considered weeds were once food and medicine for us. They can still feed and heal us, but we gotta get over that weed vs. food idea.

The first step is just to notice that greens are growing everywhere, free for the taking.

Take a look around the edges of your lawn, at the places that the mower doesn’t reach, maybe along a fence or next to your house. No yard? Walk around the neighborhood and look for “wild” places. Places that don’t get sprayed or mowed, maybe an overgrown lot or a natural area. If you start looking, you’ll see food everywhere.

  • Dandelion – The entire plant is edible, from the root to the flower. The young leaves are great chopped into a salad, and the larger, older leaves can be steamed or sautΓ©ed in olive oil with garlic and added to soups or pasta. The flowers are sweetest in the morning, and can be eaten as is (remove the green covering the base if it tastes bitter to you). Slice the flowers and toss into a green salad. SautΓ© whole flowers or batter and fry them.
  • Lambsquarters – A relative of quinoa, the leaves of lambsquarters can be eaten raw or steamed like spinach. The younger leaves are the most tender. It also produces large amounts of edible seeds.
  • Malva – Also known as mallow or poor man’s bread, the seed pods of malva resemble rounds of cheese and can be eaten raw, steamed, pickled, or fried. The leaves can be used like chard or spinach or just chopped finely and added to a salad.
  • Purslane -The leaves of this plant make a great addition to soup or gumbo. Eat it straight from the plant or sautΓ© with garlic or onion. It grows low to the ground, so many people never see it. I find it almost everywhere I go. Purslane is also high in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), one of the Omega-3 fatty acids essential to our health.

Take a good look around your neighborhood and enjoy the wild food!

Related Posts about Wild Foods:

Image credit: topfer on stock.xchng under SXC.hu license

Written by Derek Markham

8 Comments

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  1. If you live in a warm climate or a region with warm summers, cultivating some arugula (a.k.a., rocket, etc.) helps complement dandelion greens quite well. The “hot” of the arugula and the “bitter” of the dandelion seem to balance each other’s flavor.

  2. Some of my fondest memories are of foraging wild greens with my magical God mother. She would take me, basket in hand, to the surrounding woods and meadows and together we would collect our lunch. As a child of the depression era, she knew so many things that have been lost to our generation. It is good to see a resurgence.

  3. Megan: Absolutely! I should have added that word of warning. Make sure that you are getting your wild greens from a non-treated area, and not in a dog-walking spot or municipal park that gets sprayed.
    Happy foraging!

  4. I am a backyard gardener and budding raw food enthusiast and all summer long, I eat from both the “lawn” (which in my case has lots and lots of weeds) and my garden. You can also eat the leaves of young plantain, and dandelions and purslane are absolutely everywhere. Enjoy!

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