Foraging for “Wild Asparagus”

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This eternal spring has brought a lot of green our way. Lots of plants are happy with the extra moisture and are sending up flowers, but before many do there is a cool vegetable that can be had at the right time. I am not actually talking about the wild asparagus, but a host of many other plants that send up a flower stalk and can be treated in the same way as asparagus. They all must pass the “snap test” in which the stalk breaks free and is easy to snap off.

Some common plants include:

Wild Carrot or Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), best at 6 to 20” tall and as fat and succulent as possible. Just hand peel the hairy skin and leaves off and cook like you would asparagus

All Thistles (Cirsium species) are edible. They are related to artichokes. The pre-flowering stalk tastes like celery when raw. You may need to peel or chop them up before steaming.

Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) best gathered when still young and tender, they can get really big so try the snap test to get the best part of the stalk, then peel the fibrous astringent part off and cook like asparagus.

Salisfy (Tragopogon species) shoot is said to be an excellent vegetable according to Samuel Thayer, but I have not tried it yet. He says to gather the young flowering stalk (4-16”) from the base with the tender leaves still on and steam like asparagus.

Sow thistles (Sonchus oleraceus) are another excellent steamed vegetable if gathered at the correct stage. You are looking for a fat short stalk with no flowers open. The buds are ok too. Cut at base and do not worry about the milky latex. Peel away all but the last few leaves, chop up and sauté with other veggies.

Don’t spray it, sauté it! Eat your weeds!

-Matt