Your Field Guide to Foraging for Wild Edibles: What, Where, and When to Look
Foraging for food is an engaging and beneficial pastime that anyone can enjoy. It inspires connections to the land and can help to improve your health. Plus, many target plants for foragers are non-native, so the activity can support--if not improve--biological diversity and ecological well-being. Foraging Southern California introduces you to plentiful and delicious foods, from berries and fruits to roots, seeds, and even tasty aquatic options, like kelp and crayfish.
Expert forager Douglas Kent shares his decades of experience in this handy guide that's perfect for beginners and intermediates. Learn what to look for, as well as when and where to look. Key identification features, written instructions, and full-color photographs help you to comfortably and confidently know that you're harvesting the right species. A compare section provides information on dangerous look-alikes, helping to ensure your foraging success and personal health. The "Top 10 Edibles" section provides a starting point for beginners, and species throughout the book are organized by harvestable quality, which quickly leads to the relevant information for your own foraging needs.
Foraging must be done with knowledge and consideration. Foraging Southern California provides information that can benefit you and the environment. Grab the book, get outside, and enjoy nature's bounty.
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- Type: Semi-woody fleshy annual
- Status: Non-native
- Leaf Arrangement: Basal growth when young; alternate when on a stalk
- Harvest Time: From the first rain until the area dries out: typically midsummer
Habitat: Mustard is a car-follower and can be found nearly everywhere. The taller varieties, like black mustard (Brassica nigra), are found closer to the ocean; the lower-growing varieties, such as common mustard (Brassica tournefortii) are found in the desert.
Growth: Mustard’s rich deep green leaves, tall flower spikes, and pungent smell make identification easytear a leaf, take a whiff, and if it smells like mustard, then it is. The stalks of mustard grow between 1 and 5 feet tall. This group of plants includes one of California’s most iconic weeds: black mustard.
Leaves: Mustard leaves vary greatly, even on a single plant. Leaves of an emerging plant form at its base and are large, oblong, and deeply lobed and slightly serrated. As the stalk grows, leaves become narrower and toothed, with some leaves having smooth edges, while others are slightly serrated.
Flowers: The bright yellow flowers grow from short stems that are whorled around a central stalk (raceme). The stems get shorter as the stalk gets taller. Each small flower has four petals. Most bloom from March to August.
Seeds Pods: Seeds are about 1 inch long, needle-like, and typically point upwards.
Season: Found from November to when the plants start dying back, which might be as late as September. Younger leaves are easier to chew and enjoy; older leaves are fibrous and tough (but no less beneficial).
Benefits: Mustard is a superfood. Very high in fiber and vitamins A, C, and K, it’s also high in calcium, folate, iron, manganese, potassium, and vitamins B6 and E. And it has some fatty acids, protein, and phosphorus. It helps reduce inflammation, promotes liver health, lowers cholesterol, and aids in bone building. Its seeds and flowers are also edible.
Other Names: Black mustard, Mediterranean cabbage, rapeseed
Comparable Species: Many plants have flowers that look similar. These include yellow rocket (Barbarea spp.), wallflower (Erysimum spp.), hedge mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), and London rocket (Sisymbrium spp., page 72). The leaves of yellow rocket and hedge mustard look somewhat similar too. The best way to identify it is to tear a leaf and smell itonly mustard has that distinct mustard smell.
Notes: You can eat the leaves raw or cooked. It is healthiest to pick the lower leaves. Young plants are more palatable than older specimens. Every member of Brassica is edible.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Top 10 Edibles
Along the Shoreline
- In or Around Fresh Water
- In and Around the Coast
Protecting Ecological Health
Helpful Resources and Bibliography
About the Author