Wild Vegetables

Two weeks ago we spent a four-day holiday at the cottage. How nice it is to be in the countryside in May, when the Finnish nature slowly wakes up! There were a lot of edible plants in the vicinity of the cottage that I picked every day to be used in salads and eaten as side dishes. I really like the taste of wild veggies: they have this rough edge in their aroma which none of the garden vegetables have, and I think they taste like spring. Here are some photos of the plants we used, and some brief comments on how we used them.

dandelion

Dandelion, pictured above, is a wild veggie classic, but sadly not held in very high esteem in Finland. I think it tastes a lot like arugula. We ate the leaves almost every day in salads with a vinaigrette sauce.

piharatamo

Greater plantain is widely know in Finland to be a plant with medicinal properties. I remember my parents making a plantain poultice to treat a cut I got at the cottage when I was a child. The leaves are also a great, milder tasting addition to salads.

maitohorsma

Fireweed is a delicious wild vegetable that can be used like asparagus or water spinach. It’s best used when the stalks are between 10 and 20 centimeters. We ate it on two separate occasions. The first time we steamed them and ate with olive oil and salt, and the second time I fried them in a pan and added garlic and soy sauce.

poimulehti

Lady’s mantle is a family of plants of which all the species are edible. The umbrella-like leaves were quite mild tasting, and we used them in salads with a vinaigrette sauce. Supposedly they go well in soups too.

peltokanankaali

Winter cress (Barbarea vulgaris) is an excellent but little known wild veggie. It’s name probably comes from the fact that its rosette stays green all through the winter. Its buds and uppermost leaves are used like broccoli. We fried them in oil together with some fireweed. This is what the buds looked like when I picked them:

peltokanankaalin_nuppu

Most of the wild veggies are best eaten in early spring, because their taste gets more bitter into the summer. It’s a short, very special season, which makes me think about the time before greenhouses and imported vegetables. Last spring we made a nettle casserole and a goutweed soup, this spring it was mostly salads. Also, check out the pesto Goddess of Cake made from goutweed.

Before gathering wild veggies, you’ll need a guide or a guidebook. For use in the Nordic countries, I recommend the book by Pelle Holmberg, Marie-Louise Eklöf and Anders Pedersen called Mauste- ja terveyskasvit luonnossa (2009), or Vanliga vilda växter till mat, krydda, hälso- och kroppsvård (2007) in Swedish. It has great photos of the plants, making it easy to identify them, and also  information about their medicinal properties.

9 Comments

  1. Posted June 5, 2009 at 21:46 | Permalink

    How interesting! Now I’m inspired to do some research on edible plants where I live.

  2. Posted June 6, 2009 at 00:23 | Permalink

    Wow, this is a great post! People here sell dandelion greens, but I’ve not heard of the others.

  3. Posted June 6, 2009 at 01:50 | Permalink

    I am always impressed by how much you guys know about wild plants! Next time I’ll go for a walk, I’ll watch out for these.

  4. Posted June 6, 2009 at 06:19 | Permalink

    I am soooo jealous that you ate wild plants! Wildness for the win!

  5. Posted June 6, 2009 at 08:40 | Permalink

    that is so cool. i have actually been thinking of picking dandelion greens from the side of the road and eating them…can you do that?

  6. Heikki
    Posted June 6, 2009 at 11:26 | Permalink

    Veggievixen, the book that I talked about in the post says that you shouldn’t eat anything picked less than 100 meters away from a road, so roadsides are a no-no.
    Also, you should avoid picking veggies from places that might have been sprayed with herbicides like golf courses or the surroundings of a field. So, unfortunately, urban wild veggie foraging is a bit challenging.

  7. Posted June 6, 2009 at 19:44 | Permalink

    This is so impressive! Thanks for all the wild plant facts!

  8. Posted June 11, 2009 at 03:59 | Permalink

    What an inspiring post! Thanks for sharing your experience with “found” vegetables :-) I’ve been snagging dandelion whenever I weed the garden and adding it to my salads. My next challenge is to figure out something to do with all the burdock root that’s poppin up everywhere.

  9. Walter Gutshall
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 19:10 | Permalink

    I have studied,foraged and eaten wild plants for years.The medicinal plants are what interested me the most.Ginseng was shown to me by my father an my uncle at a young age;which spurred my interest in wild plants.Great site.Always looking for folks that appreciate nature and what it has to offer mankind.

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