You may not realize it, but there may be plenty of edible plants already growing in your yard or off the trail. Just be sure that you already know what it is that you’re picking.
“Don’t harvest what you don’t know so you don’t die,” said Yéilk’ Vivian Mork, a traditional foods and medicine educator.
In this week’s edition of Gardentalk, Mork explains that a good starting place for new harvesters is going after edible invasive species like the dandelion.
“Of course, take it home and wash it off if you’re harvesting next to a trail,” Mork said.
She does not recommend eating plants growing in a parking lot or near a road.
Other common edible plants in the Juneau area include broadleaf plantain, broadleaf avens, chickweed, sourdock, tips of fireweed, salmonberry stalks, and wild celery.
“You actually have a pretty great salad in a very short amount of space,” Mork said.
Mork said you can eat wild celery’s stalks, leaves, flower buds, and even use the seeds as a seasoning. She says older plants are usually pretty fiberous and not quite as tasty.
“All spring greens taste better in the early spring,” Mork said.
If someone wants to learn more about identifying edible plants, Mork suggests seeking out knowledgeable, local experts.
She tells people to avoid online blogs that may contain misinformation.
Instead, she recommends publications from author Janice Schofield Eaton or from any reputable institution like the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Cooperative Extension Service or the U.S. Forest Service, especially if they cite their sources.
When it comes to devil’s club tips or buds, Mork said they have enormously more medicinal value than any nutritional value as a food item.
“I’m hoping that this foodie trend for harvesting devil’s club tips and sautéing them and pickling them and harvests (of) large quantities starts to fade a little bit and it gets respected for the medicinal plant that it is,” Mork said.
Mork said each tip or bud can produce as many as ten leaves, and picking the tip actually deprives the plant of the ability to photosynthesize and survive.