Tama Matsuoka Wong believes everyone should forage for his or her supper. A pro-forager, self-professed “gardener with a black thumb” and author of Foraged Flavor, she convincingly argues that foraging for yourself is a more harmonious and sustainable way of living.
Having seen her talk at TEDx, I knew I had to have this enthusiastic lawyer-turned-forager on Conversations to find out how she began her foraging adventures, her philosophy behind plants, and the top tips to forage for food.
I asked Tama what her suggestions were for the top five plants to forage this summer, and here are her suggestions:
1. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
This waxy green succulent is originally native to India and Persia, but can now be found throughout the United States. I always noticed purslane growing in both my mother’s garden and on the untamed edges of our driveway. If I only knew the hidden secrets that purslane holds! It has more omega-3 fatty acids than most plants, and plenty of vitamins, including A, B, C and even some beta carotene.
2. Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album)
This is quite a common plant that I always saw growing in my home state of Pennsylvania. By the time some of the more popular greens have grown past their tender leaf stage, lambsquarters is just getting started. It can be cooked, boiled or eaten raw and has plenty of vitamins A, B, C, K, manganese, calcium, and riboflavin.
3. Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis stricta)
Also known as “lemon clover,” this low-growing, delicate plant is often mistaken as a clover due to the similar leaf structure. All parts of this plant are edible, and it has a nice bite. It's high in vitamin C, potassium, oxalate and oxalic acid. The latter two — which also are found in spinach and broccoli — should be eaten in moderation because it can affect the kidneys and inhibit calcium absorption.
4. Gallant soldiers (Galinsoga sp.)
Now this one was new for me, but after I looked at the plant I immediately knew it was in the Aster family. It’s normally served cooked but dried leaves can also be used in flavoring. It's high in magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamin C and riboflavin.
5. Berries (Blackberries, Mulberries, Wineberries, Blueberries)
Any berry fanatic will know that summer isn't a summer without some fresh fruit. If you’ve ever crossed a spiky, brambly bush on a wooded path or even on a roadside, it may just be a blackberry bush. I even graciously pointed out a host of them on my friend’s property out west. He's since decided to let them grow, benefitting from indulging in the sweet treats for two seasons in a row.