Suburban Salad Anyone?
While out on a walk with a friend a couple of weeks ago, we noticed some Miner's Lettuce growing rampantly along the parking strip. We both remarked, "Oh, it's an edible!" and quickly snapped up a few leaves. It was only after we each swallowed those little green mouthfuls that I asked, "I wonder how many neighborhood dogs have peed here?" Yuck!
In the early spring there are many, many wild edibles that most of us view as weeds. You will find them growing alongside neighborhood sidewalks, front lawns, flower beds, and pretty much anywhere. There are so many wild edibles growing throughout your neighborhood that you could build a salad for your dinner.
However, before you put any of these wild edibles in your mouth (this is one of those 'do as I say, not as I do' kind of scenarios) you would want to make sure to only harvest what you can correctly identify, know has not had any chemicals applied, or been peed on by neighborhood dogs. Essentially, I would stick to collecting wild edibles from places that are not in high traffic areas.
Or, you can cultivate some of them in your own garden. These little violets, which look quite pretty on a salad, are growing all throughout my front garden. I used to despise these violets because they were everywhere. I also have history with this plant that added to my dislike. In college I had a summer job for a retired professor. I kept house for him and worked in his garden. I spent weeks pulling violets from his gardens and swore I never wanted to see another violet again. And here they now grow in my own garden. I did NOT plant them mind you. This year I am trying to view them as the pretty little edible flower that they are and not as a plant to hate. They are slowly winning their way back into my heart.
Dandelions are another spring edible that are easy to find and identify. Their leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and their flowers make a fun little fritter. And of course there is dandelion wine (I have never tried it. I've only had my mom tell me about it). I have found that our pet rabbits love dandelions, and our chickens do too. Apparently they are the perfect spring green for everyone. If you are not into eating dandelions, consider leaving them for the bees. Or your neighborhood kids who are looking to make a wish.
One last addition to your Suburban Salad...Bittercress, also known as Shotweed. Beginning in the winter and leaning into the spring, you can find bittercress just about anywhere in my garden. This is a weed that can be eaten raw in salads or on sandwiches. Pick it early in the season before the flowers go to seed. If not, you will quickly discover why it also goes by the name Shotweed (you might consider wearing protective eye wear!). Again, this is a weed that our chickens gobble up.
Two books that I recommend to help you identify what is edible and know how to prepare it would be The Front Yard Forager by Melany Vorass Herrera and Foraging Washington by Christopher Nyerges. Each of these books have great pictures, written descriptions as well as look alikes to watch out for. As the year moves into summer, you will be able to forage wild berries and dozens of other delicious plants.