Savoring the Seasons: So much to forage

For The Recorder
Published: 5/3/2016 2:39:33 PM

Great minds think alike.
That’s what I thought when I saw Tinky Weisblat’s review of Russ Cohen’s “Wild Plants I Have Known and Eaten” in The Recorder and when I opened the River Valley Co-op newsletter and saw Blanche Derby’s “Gardens of Weeds” article about foraging for wild food.

Blanche said, “I always look forward to early spring when plants emerge and I can finally forage for volunteer vegetables. Most people might disparagingly call them weeds, but to me, many of these unwanted plants are edible and healthy. They’re available long before their cultivated cousins and many of them are plentiful. I don’t have to mulch, spray, or water my weed supply — just harvest, cook, and eat them. Plus my food is fresh and local.”

Indeed! I had similar thoughts as I snacked on some violet leaves and flowers in my backyard and “weeded” my woods of garlic mustard, an invasive plant that I’m seeing along the road and in many local woods. Here’s a website with information about garlic mustard: 

There’s another edible wild plant coming up, and I wish it wouldn’t thrive and spread quite so much. Japanese knotweed is choking many local riverbanks and wet areas. Young knotweed is similar to rhubarb. You can eat peeled stalks raw (tart, juicy, crunchy texture and flavor is like a Granny Smith apple) or use it in any recipe that calls for rhubarb. Here’s Blanche Derby’s recipe for dandelion knotweed muffins. Check out her website at:

Want to learn more about wild foods? World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield has great books about foraging for wild plants and mushrooms.

What wild plants are you eating? Please send me your recipes!

By the way, I had a superb time shopping and visiting with friends at the Greenfield Farmers Market last Saturday!

This week we’re eating . . .

Dandy Knotweed Muffins

Blanche Cybele Derby, Northampton

The best time to gather young knotweed shoots, up to about 8 inches, is in early spring. (The larger ones are tough and stringy.) Here in Massachusetts, that’s usually the end of April. Collect young Japanese knotweed stalks, up to about 8 inches. They grow like crazy, so you have to be johnny-on-the-spot to get them before they’re too high. Some people peel the outer skin off the shoots, but that can be tedious, and if you’re not careful, you may peel too much off, so I usually don’t bother. Makes 16 large muffins.

Japanese knotweed stalks to measure 2 C., minced

1 C. flour

C. dandelion flower petals, stripped from their base (do not include any green parts)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

C. softened butter

1 C. light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 C. sour cream or yogurt

Snip off the pointy tops of the knotweed stalks and mince. Combine flour, dandelions, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl. Cream C. butter with 1 C. brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla. To this mix, alternately fold in the sour cream and dry ingredients until blended. Fold in the knotweed pieces. Divide the batter into greased muffin forms. Bake at 350˚F for 15 to 20 minutes, until the muffins test done in the center.

Note: This recipe can be adapted to use rhubarb & knotweed and if dandelion petals aren’t available, pull apart red clover flowerheads and use those individual pieces. Feel free to experiment!

Local food advocate and community organizer Mary McClintock lives in Conway and works as a freelance writer for Greenfield Community College, brand promoter for Goshen-based local food company Appalachian Naturals, and writer/editor for More Than Sound. Send column suggestions and recipes to:


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