Backyard Bounty: Foragers take advantage of edible plants around their yards

2013-06-13T00:00:00Z Backyard Bounty: Foragers take advantage of edible plants around their yardsTrish Maley nwitimes.com
June 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

People look forward to the spring and summer months in the Midwest for different reasons. But to some it’s the perfect time to forage.

“Purslane, found in the cracks of sidewalks, Black Walnuts, or Garlic Mustard, which can be found all over Indiana, are all edible. You want to eat them early in the spring, the older they get the more tart and bitter they become,” said Karen Le Mere, of the Indiana Native Plant & Wildflower Society.

Janel Hyland, of Munster, agrees with Le Mere and has already started foraging her backyard dandelions for culinary use.

“Leaves from the smaller dandelions are tastier then the big leaves - those are bitter. They are very good for your digestion, “ said Hyland. “I have pulled about 15 so far from my yard. I am going to wash them, cut them up and put them in the dehydrator to make tea.”

Young Hosta shoots are known to be edible as well but Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist, said she isn’t sure about its safety.

“I do not have any data to support or refute edibility, so do not feel that I am in a position to label it as such. There are some internet sites that indicate that it is edible, but I cannot speak to the reliability of that info. There are some reports of toxicity, at least to animals. My human poisonous plant references do not mention it but exclusion in the book does not prove that it is not toxic, only that it has not been documented. So I leave you to draw your own conclusions.”

Le Mere said safety always comes first when foraging, especially for first-timers.

“Identify what you are eating. It’s important to know what exactly you are eating. Make sure it’s not contaminated with lawn chemicals, pesticides, insecticides, etc. Wash thoroughly. Then eat a small amount first to determine whether your system can handle it or not. Wild plants may have more potency than if you were get it from a grocery store.”

For the past five years hunting for morel mushrooms in the spring in Lake County is something Mark Penman, of Highland, and his whole family partakes in and all are careful not to pick false morels.

“When it comes to mushrooms, the only one I have to do with is the morel because if you pick the wrong one, they can be dangerous. If you eat a false morel you can become very sick,” said Penman. “The difference between a morel and a false morel is the false morel has a solid stem. A true morel is hollow. “

Penman said there are black, gray and yellow morels. The season starts with the black morels and ends with the yellow morels.

“The number one area to find morels is by dying elm trees. Black morels are really good under the pines. Early ones can be found on hillsides or slopes, southern facing, because the ground warms up sooner, " said Penman. "It’s just something we like, we cook up and we eat."

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