In Financial Times Both Good and Bad, Wild Food Surrounds Us
When an unsustainable economic system finally collapses, the fallout can be devastating. No one can predict precisely what the next financial crisis will look like in the United States, but if food becomes hard to obtain due to a lack of money, a broken supply chain, or other hang-ups, even knowing just a few of your area’s edible wild plants and mushrooms gives you a huge leg up over others.
For an example of what can happen, just look at the Socialist disaster in Venezuela. I myself primarily only buy tomatoes and a few other veggies during fall, summer, and spring, relying on nature to provide the rest except during wintertime. If I were so motivated, I could can and pickle enough veggies to provide for myself even through a long, snowy winter. Or, for that matter, a financial winter. And so can you.
In addition to helping you weather a systemic economic crisis, foraging is a fun and rewarding way to reduce your grocery bill and environmental footprint, and to become much more self-sufficient. As a general rule, wild plants and mushrooms are tastier and much more nutrient-rich than their store-bought counterparts.
The model we’re conditioned to believe is “normal:” work to make money, in many cases at a job we dislike, to buy food. This food is bred for longevity and aesthetics, sacrificing nutrition, and is shipped across the country or the world for us to buy with our hard-earned dollars.
Meanwhile, even more nutritious food is growing, free of charge, right in many of our own backyards.
Edible plants and mushrooms are absolutely all around us — even in cities. That’s why we’re launching a self-sufficiency series on easy-to-identify wild edible plants and (when we’re lucky) fungi, many of which are extremely common in urban areas and backyards. These nutritious vegetables are free, plentiful, and sometimes medicinal. Some of them are invasive weeds, while others should only be harvested in certain quantities. Regardless, all of these plants can be harvested sustainably and without causing any environmental damage (unlike the unsustainable industrial food system), and when prepared correctly, make genuinely delicious additions to any meal. Others can become teas, ointments, and poultices that put sotre-bought ointments to shame.
I don’t know the Latin scientific name for this one, nor do I know it for almost any of the wild edible plants I forage. Why? Primarily, because I just can’t be bothered. Sorry. It’s included in some of the links and is easily Googleable.
Chickweed’s only poisonous lookalike (Spotted Spurge) has milky sap when broken, and its leaves are more ovoid rather than rounded and teardrop-shaped. It also tends to grow thinly, and sometimes in a rosette, whereas Chickweed forms thick mats. As is the case with all edible plants I have encountered, this toxic “lookalikes” only has essentially superficial similarities. When viewed side-by-side or by someone who knows both well, they are clearly entirely different plants.
Chickweed is tasty and versatile for cooking, and like all wild foods in this series, is extremely nutritious and loaded with vitamins and minerals.
When & What to Harvest
Chickweed is essentially a spring and fall plant, but cooler regions could yield a fine summer harvest as well. Every part that grows above the ground is edible, though many will strip the stem for its more delicious leaves, seed pods, and flowers.
Chickweed’s “lookalike,” as mentioned above, is Spotted Spurge. Learn chickweed well, and you’ll have very little chance of mistaking the two unless your judgement is impaired (Friends don’t let friends drink and forage).
I put Chickweed on sandwiches most frequently, but it’s also great for soups, es, salads, and more. Its mild flavor makes it a versatile green.
Chickweed is said to be good for inflammation as a poultice. I’ve never tried it myself, but only because of the abundance of other medicinal plants that I use instead. More on those later. Chickweed would also make a healthful tea.