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Foraging For Wild Plants: Living the Vida Local

Chef Daniel Orr explains how to make salads out of things most people would spray with pesticides and other tips for foraging for wild edibles.

Annie Corrigan and Daniel Orr foraging for wild edibles

Photo: Rashad Mammadov (for WFIU)

Annie Corrigan and Chef Daniel Orr foraging for wild edibles in Columbus, Indiana.

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!

Chef Daniel Orr

Chef Daniel Orr is the owner of FARMbloomington and the author of several cookbooks. He draws from a lifelong curiosity about individual ingredients combined with extensive training in the art of finding food’s true essence and flavor. The result is simple, yet sophisticated; the best of American food tempered by classic European training.

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  • kat

    Amen! In Michigan more of us are eating and foraging for wild plants. We are even making our own salves with chickweed and other plants. Sooo good. Helps us save money and feel more self-sufficient. It is fun, too.

  • Andy Reed

    Chef D,
    Thank you for being an inspiration for sanity in the modern world. Being a healthcare practitioner I can testify to the healing power of wild foods, especially wild greens and mushrooms.

    And as we all become more aware of the effects of our dietary choices on the health of the planet, the more wild foods we consume the lighter our footprint can become. For most of the year we are blessed with an abundance of edible wild greens and mushrooms in southern IN. Eating wild can be a fantastic way to reconnect to the Earth, and recall our instinctual genetic memory.

    As the Asian health proverb so wisely states, ” We can not have poison rivers and healthy blood, we can not have poison air and healthy lungs….”

    Any one interested in learning about wild foods and how to harvest them can contact me at the Center for Wholism for a wild foods hike.


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  • fleamarketmutt

    Herbicide, we spray herbicides on what most people call “weeds”.

  • William Arnold

    I am a 53 year old man in Greenwood and would like very much to have a like minded soul forage for spring greens and local future harvests. I have been studying edible wild foods since I could read but feel like some companionship would enrich my life greatly. I want someone besides myself to get excited to see for example Sweet Flag or Kentucky Coffee trees or any one of thousands of plants that I consider “good friends”. My Name is William Arnold , the wire sculptor that did the Bison for Indiana National Bank and so on… I am on Fb. and my # is 505-947-3626,lets meet for coffee.

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