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Foraging For Wild Plants: Living the Vida Local

Chef Daniel Orr and Earth Eats Producer Annie Corrigan Walk Down a Dirt Road

Photo: Rashad Mammadov/WFIU

Uele Gibbons used to talk about eating pine trees while he was pushing "grape nuts" on TV in the 70's. The famous forager used the tag-line that "many parts are edible." I knew just what he was talking about too.

My mom was all about living Green before it was even called that. Us kids gathered wild duck eggs out of the cool lake water, caught crawdads under rocks in the streams, ate cattails, and made salads out of things most people would spray with pesticides.

The Vida Local: From Southern Indiana To The Caribbean

When I moved to Manhattan the farmers at the Union Square Market were selling chickweed, purslane, nettles, and wild day lilies. While other chefs where trying to figure out what to do with them I already had them on my menu. And then when I lived in the Caribbean I would forage there too and then put those things on my menus. Now back home in Southern Indiana I've been making a lot of salads lately with wild greens.

Many of the wild greens are quite bitter especially as the summer days get hotter and hotter. I like to pair them with something sweet like honey or berries just to offset that aggressive flavor. Either that or tame them with something rich and fatty. What the heck, why not throw all three in and live "The Vida Local."

When In Doubt, Consult A Field Guide

Keep in mind, though, when foraging you should always as permission before wandering on someone else's property. You should also ask them if they have used any pesticides or discarded chemicals or other toxins on their property. You don't want any of that!

Don't pick herbs along heavily trafficked roads or near ditches containing polluted water or near livestock waste. And when in doubt, check a field guide to make sure you know what is edible and what isn't. Better safe than sorry!

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