Are you in for a walk? Ok, shoes on and and let’s go! You pass trees and look at the sky, oh beautiful clouds today! Mhhh the air is refreshing and you gaze down, small plants border the way you walk. How can they grow there, the soil must be so poor? Very well adapted they stretch their flowers towards the sunlight. You pause for a moment while your hand picks one of them. What might it be? Oh it stings a bit.. Let’s figure out at home and carefully you put the plant in your pocket.
I started to study wild edibles when I was a young girl. Grown up at the countryside I loved to gather them for a bouquet. Now, years later, I gather my wild plants in the urban jungle and I eat them! Wild edible foods are packed full of vitamins and minerals that far surpass any cultivated varieties of fruit and vegetables. We often pay a high cost for vitamins, minerals and superfoods from around the world, yet most of us don’t realise that nature’s superfood is brimming on our doorstep without ever having to spend a penny.
Many leaves of wild edible have a bitter or astringent taste. Therefore I like to juice them. You can always add what it needs in order to get it tasty, like a lemon or orange. However it’s really pretty to create a salad from wild blossoms. I personally love dandelion flower salad. The bright yellow color and the soft sweet taste of the flower can create a delicious dish! Wild plants show a wide variety of flavors which excite the taste buds. The important thing is to explore. Some foods are better eaten raw, whilst others bring out the gourmet element when cooked as part of a dish.
Here are some plants which are easy to find. Linda and I had fun to explore Luxembourg City’s “wild corners”. And what we found we juiced! Whereas Linda likes to add apples and oranges, I like to add some fennel or parsley. In this guide you will also find the names of the plants in french & german.
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE ON FORAGING WILD EDIBLES – with a little help from Linda
GROUND ELDER – herbe aux goutteux – giersch
This cute 7-leafed plant grows everywhere, under very poor conditions and has a tangy aromatic flavour when eaten. The leaves can be cooked as a spinach, but can also be used raw in salads or juices. It is extremely high in vitamin C (about 10x times the amount found in spinach) so it’s a powerful ingredient for boosting the immune system and regenerate the body with its anti-oxidant properties. It’s also rich in fibers, minerals and flavonoids, a true detox diuretic that can help the body flush all the toxins out. For maximum nutrition and benefits, add it to your green juice as you would for parsley!
DANDELION – pissenlit – löwenzahn
A weed that we all know because it takes over in lawns, gardens and even pops in in cracked sidewalks and pavement! It’s invasive and pervasive, but it can be used as an excellent food and herbal medicine. Dandelion can act as a digestive aid thanks to its mild laxative function and the power to balance the natural flora in the intestines. It is also very cleansing to the liver and kidney by clearing out waste, salt and excess water. Its richness in antioxidants helps regenerating the body and combat and reverse growing illnesses like cancer. Regulates blood sugar, blood pressure and lowers cholesterol. The ultimate detox and healing weed!
NETTLES – ortie – nessel
This plant stings a bit, but don’t be a hater, as it has far greater virtues. Nettles can be used to aid digestion and detoxing just like dandelion, but has also been used to treat eczema, skin rashes and arthritis. You can juice it for concentrated nutrition and a powerful toxin-flushing effect, or you can make it into nettle tea as a herbal digestive remedy. You can also add it in tasty food preparations such as nettle pesto and nettle soup.
YARROW – millefeuille – schafgarbe
A powerful flowered plant, great for colds and fevers as it boosts the body’s ability to “sweat off” an infection, perfect for toning blood circulation and regulating blood pressure, as well for stimulating digestion and healing the intestinal membranes. Make some tea out of it and watch the magic happen.
BUCKHORN PLANTAIN – plantain – hirschhornwegerich
The younger leaves of this perennial plant can be eaten raw an the older leaves are perfect for making tea. It is also great to use in apple cider vinegar infusions as a tincture to sooth itching, burning and pain very quickly. The plantain leaf is great for balancing cholesterol, diabetes, digestion, relieve IBS and haemorrhoids.
HORSETAIL – prêle – schachtelhalm
This anciently used plant that looks like a horsetail (yes) is known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antioxidant, coagulant, diuretic and astringent activity. It can be used to treat all sorts of inflammations and weaknesses from brittle bones to athlete’s foot, and ANY infections by strengthening the body’s immune system.
MILK THISTLE – chardon – mariendistel
This flowering herb is related to the daisy and ragweed family. Offering a shock-full of detox properties, it is sometimes used as a natural treatment for liver problems. It may also lower cholesterol and diabetes levels, also has been heard to reduce growth of cancer cells, as the main active ingredient, silymarin is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. These pretty flowers can be eaten raw in salads or made into a herbal tea.
LADIES MANTLE – alchémille – hirschhornwegerich
There’s a reason why they call this the “ladies’” mantle, as the benefits of this plant are great for women’s health! Taken into infusions or tinctures, this plant can reduce menstrual pains and relief cramps, regulate bloodflow, calm any infections and overcome the symptoms of menopause. Although it is also great for soothing any rashes or skin cuts/wounds/bites of any kind.
When collecting plants in an urban area watch out for pollution and feces. Also just pick what you really need and give the plant a chance to recover.
So start exploring!!!
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Illustrations by Linda Dieschbourg.