Organic and natural food tends to cost a lot, but I recently went to a class on using wild edibles. It turns out that some wild edibles were brought here to the USA by immigrants, but their use fell out of favor over time. They only became weeds by abandonment.
Wild edibles have an amazing amount of vitamins and minerals. For example, Lamb’s Quarter is higher in vitamins, minerals, and protein than spinach. Considering that Lambs Quarter could be transplanted to your backyard, and grown free of cost, it is hands down a better choice than spending money on “organic spinach.”
My favorite resource for finding out about these things is Foraging Texas. They have a smart phone version, photos, and explanations about the legalities of foraging.
The site’s editor, Dr. Mark Vorderbruggen, gives classes at the Houston Arboretum. I had my first experience with edible plants on one of his tours at a nature preserve. It was a bit strange to see a group of people following a man around who would reach down and pick up a weed, pop it in his mouth, and say, “Yes, that’s almost ready!” and see everyone else follow suit, as if it were a cooking class.
Foraging is not gardening, which works for me. It’s finding plants that like to grow in the wild and don’t need to be mollycoddled and tended constantly. I even found several edible plants in my own backyard, like spiderwort and pony’s hoof. You know that plant you just tried to kill with Roundup? It might have tasted great in a salad!
Scientific Name(s): Lamium amplexicaule and Lamium purpureum
What: leaves, stem, and flowers
How: raw, cooked, or tea
Where: sunny yards, urban areas
When: late fall, winter (in Houston), spring
Nutritional Value: vitamins, iron, antioxidants
Henbit is in the mint family. It likes yards and other open, sunny areas where it can grow dense mats. The whole plant is edible either raw or cooked. Tea made from dead nettle may induce sweating.