A Wild Meal: Denver

24 September 2013

I was on a walk the other day when I saw a walnut on the ground. The thought that walnuts are edible vaguely passed through my mind but soon was lost in the rest of my musings. But then it crept back into my brain. Walnuts are edible. I suddenly had the weird but obvious realizations that there were probably things all around me that I could eat and didn't even think about. We're so conditioned to think that food only comes from stores or restaurants that we become oblivious to the nourishment in our own environment.

So I went home and started googling "urban foraging" and similar topics to learn more and it turns out that finding your own wild food is very popular out here. In fact, there was even a foraging club. However, the most helpful resource I found was Falling Fruit. This amazing site allows people to add wherever they see an edible plant growing to a world wide database that's easily searchable. I was excited to see many fruit trees on the list but there certainly wasn't enough variety of wild foods to make a meal.

The next day I grabbed my camera and went for another walk. With the help of Falling Fruit and a bit of my own knowledge about plants I began looking around more closely at my environment and I was amazed at how much food I found. The haul included chicory, apples, roses, dandelions, and clovers. I also came across some mushrooms but I had trouble identifying them so I decided it was better to forgo them.

Here's what I made with my finds:

Grilled Chicken with Apple Chutney 

Alright, so my chutney may not be the most authentic but, being a broke college graduate, I decided that it was ok if I didn't have fresh ginger. I also forwent onions for onion powder. All the same, my adjustments came out delicious.

  • one apple, chopped.
  • roughly one tablespoon onion powder
  • roughly one tablespoon sugar
  • several splashes of red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste

You'll have to excuse my "measurements". I'm not the sort of person who sees cooking as a science- I just throw things together as they suit my taste.

Anyways, once you've chopped up your apple, add all the ingredients to a saucepan and allow to cook until soft. In a separate pan, cook a chicken breast in olive oil. Once both are thoroughly cooked, combine.

Wild Greens and Chicory Salad

Wash all the greens and make sure to separate any other random grasses that got into the bunch. Mix and sprinkle the chicory flowers on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and add salt and pepper on top as well.

Rose Water

Super simple and makes for a light drink. Just add your rose to a glass of ice water and voila! If you are able to forage any mint, that would also make a good addition to this drink.

I'm not gonna lie, the whole time I was putting this meal together I thought it was going to be gross. 'This is so weird, I'm eating things I just pulled from my local park!' I said to myself. But I had to try at least one bite.

The results? Holy crap, it was so good! I never expected to like dandelions but they were delicious! In fact, I'm considering cutting lettuce all together from my grocery list and just gathering dandelions from now on. That will probably save me a lot of money considering that I eat a salad every day.

The chutney also came out great. I was so surprised that I had created this from things I had just picked! Originally I thought I'd only try one bite and I ended up clearing my plate.

What do you think? Would you give urban foraging a try?

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  1. I've always wanted to try foraging for food, but I'm nervous about somehow getting my plants mixed up and eating something poisonous! I do like dandelion greens, though - we have so many growing around that we always pick them for salads.

    1. Yeah, I had the same fear but once you get out there and start looking around, you'll realize that you recognize more plants than you think!

      I just picked up Bust magazine the other day and they had a great beginner's article on foraging- you should check it out!