Foraging for food in your own backyard

Aubrey and the kids usually spend a few weeks every summer in Idaho visiting family, while I stay here and work at my full-time job during the day and spend as much of the remaining time as possible on the farm.

This summer I decided to see how many full meals I could create using only ingredients from the farm. I can’t claim 100% of the food I eat comes from the farm, or even 50%. However, I have made quite a few meals with surprising ingredients and I want to share some of those with you.

Australian spinach

Nettle-leaved goosefoot (also called Australian spinach) is not purposely cultivated anywhere in the world as far as I know (it’s usually treated like a weed). It grows everywhere on our farm without ever having to be watered or fertilized. It seems to like poor soil. Full Brawley sun won’t kill it.

And it’s delicious. I looked it up when I wanted to see what this resilient weed was all about. Turns out many people use it just like spinach! I have used it raw in salads, I have mixed it with my scrambled eggs. It delicious and good for you. And perhaps best of all, it grows with no effort on my part.

Purslane

I first saw this unusual looking plant growing in my basil bed. It has since popped up in a few other places as well.

Purslane grows as a ground cover, helping the soil retain moisture. It also has deep roots which pull micro-nutrients from deeper depths where other shallower-rooted plants can use them.

Purslane has the highest Omega-3 content of any leafy green. It has a slightly sour taste (like lemon, or something similar) that makes a nice punch is salads. It’s really quite delicious, and I hope to encourage more of it to grow.

Grape leaves

Depending on where you’re from in the world, this may not be all that shocking. Grape leaves are commonly used in eastern Europe and Russia as a substitute for cabbage in cabbage rolls. I absolutely love a giant grape leaf on my homegrown burger in place of lettuce. It has more flavor, has a nice chewy texture, and has way more nutrients than standard iceberg lettuce.

I have given three examples of food I have foraged around my own house, but I am sure there are so many others I have not yet discovered! Nutritious food grows all around us. As we have started to reduce our dependence on the grocery store, we have been pleasantly surprised by the abundance that seems to be there for those who are willing to try it.

Of course, it would be irresponsible of me to write this without explicitly stating that you shouldn’t eat plants if you don’t know what they are. Do a little research before filling your belly with things that may be harmful.