Backyard Foraging: Edible Native and Invasive Plants With Ellen Zachos
The phrases: “grow local” and “eat local” take on a whole new meaning when you add native plants and invasive plants into the picture. Many of our native plants, such as Serviceberries (Amelanchier species) and Pawpaw (Asimina species) provide beauty in the garden while offering delectable fruit picked right off the plant.
Some of our edible native plants are also incredibly healthful, including Chokeberries (Photinia species, formerly Aronia), a fact which has not escaped the attention of folks in Eastern Europe who sell Chokeberry juice as high antioxidant, tasty beverage. Admittedly, Chokeberry is one of our native fruits that does need a dose of sugar to become palatable.
With our overabundance of exotic invasive plants in the U.S., what better way to reduce their populations, than to start eating the ones that are delicious, and often nutritious? In her new book, “Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat,” author Ellen Zachos explores many common native, exotic and invasive plants that we can eat.
To help novice foragers, Zachos explains the details of each plant, how to harvest it and how to eat it. She reassures us that we don’t have to denude our yard as we fill our plates, and offers advice about foraging safely, protecting both ourselves and our plants.
Zachos explores some of our native plants such as Groundnut, Passionfruit, Wild Ginger, and Common Milkweed, and the wonderful ways to prepare and enjoy them. Why not plant an large expanse of Common Milkweed this year for Monarch caterpillars, and share a few tasty pods, sauteed to perfection?
For those of us worried about the invasive plants taking over our landscapes, Zachos gives us a utilitarian way to deal with some of them – eat them! Garlic Mustard, Autumn Olive and Japanese Knotweed all deserve a place at our dinner table, as we try to eradicate them from our yards. Autumn Olive Pie, anyone?
A bonus chapter in Zachos’ book teaches us about 5 common mushrooms to harvest including Hen-of-the-Woods and Black Trumpet Mushrooms. Zachos provides important safety tips on mushroom foraging, and even explains how to grow your own mushrooms, the foraging equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.
Whether you are an avid gardener or a hungry apartment dweller, Backyard Foraging will inspire you to get outside and start looking for dinner, at least a vegetarian one.
Enjoy my video or podcast interview with Ellen Zachos as she takes us on an edible journey through our yards and landscapes.
Bon Appetit! From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
Photo credit: Ellen Zachos
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