How to Cook Wild Food

April 30, 2008 at 7:43 am 4 comments

Over the past 2 1/2 weeks I’ve been improvising with a small variety of wild foods such as dandelions, wild onions/garlic/leeks (they all look the same to me), chickweed and daylilies. Because these ingredients aren’t usually found on American dinner plates, I’ve had to be a little creative in the way I’ve used them. I also have a very limited number of other ingredients available, which makes it even more of a challenge. Fortunately desperation and hunger can really be creative drivers and I’ve been able to come up with a couple of recipes that have become staples of my limited diet.

Safety First

As a disclaimer, let me warn you that not everyone can safely eat weeds. Like anything else, food allergies are possible. In addition, I’ve been told by some wise elders that in the days before refrigeration, people often ate spoiled food throughout the winter. Eating spring greens was a way for these people to “purge” some of the toxins and crawly things that accumulated in their bodies over time.

I’ve been fine on this diet. You may not be. Proceed at your own risk.

Also, please consult my video in Dandelions – The Dirty Truth for some tips and safety advice on cleaning and prepping these types of plants.

Weed Fried Rice


  • 1 cup cooked rice (day old rice is best)
  • 1-2 cups wild greens such as dandelions, chickweed, daylilies, lamb’s quarter, wild onions, etc.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the greens in hot oil for a minute or two until they have cooked down and softened a bit. Add the rice and stir. Crack the egg and add it to the whole mixture. Stir and season.

I like this one. It’s quick, easy and pretty nutritious.

3 Ingredient Potato “Pancakes”

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 medium onion, or substitute wild onion, daylilies or any other combination of wild greens on hand, chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and shred the potatoes. Include the skin. You can’t afford to waste any good eatin’! Let the shredded potatoes sit in a colander with a bit of salt on them for 10-15 minutes. This will pull the water out of them.

After they are drained, add the potatoes to a boll and mix in the chopped greens and eggs. Add salt and pepper and beat it together.

Heat oil in a frying pan until a sliver of potato sizzles. Using a soup ladle or small measuring cup, scoop up the potato and egg mixture and place the scoops in the frying pan. Wait until the edges are starting to brown (up to 10 minutes) before flipping. Place on a paper towel to drain. Eat while wishing you could afford ketchup!

Pinto Beans, the Old Fashioned Way

Dried beans have been a major food source for me during the project. As a vegetarian, I’m accustomed to eating them fairly often, although I think I’ll be taking a break after this is over! However, I realize that not everyone knows how to cook dried beans. If you like to eat beans at all, I encourage you to give this a try. It doesn’t take a lot of active prep time and you have a lot more control over texture and sodium level than you do using canned beans.


  • 2 cups (about 1lb) pinto beans
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Seasoning to taste. I usually use some combination of chili seasonings, but you can play around with other flavors if you like. Non-vegetarians often use a bit of ham or bacon as a seasoning and serve the beans with cornbread.

Place the beans on a large plate or other flat surface. Pick out any stones, shriveled beans, or funny colored beans. Rinse the beans thoroughly. The WILL have dirt on them.

Put the beans in a much larger bowl than you think you’ll need. Fill the bowl about 3/4 of the way from the top. Let the beans soak. I really recommend a 24 hour soak if possible. This softens the beans, making them quicker cooking. In addition a longer soak releases more of the sugar with are the culprits behind the “distress” some people get from this magical fruit! If you are going to do that, put a lid on the container and store it in your refrigerator. Also, change the water at least once if you get a chance.

Thoroughly rinse the soaked beans and place into a large pot with a lid and the baking soda. Cover the beans with water and about 2″ of extra water on top. Cook the beans over high heat until they boil. Quickly turn the heat down to a simmer and let the beans cook for 1 hour. Add seasonings and let the beans cook for another hour.

At this point your beans should be tender, almost falling apart. If they aren’t continue to cook them for another hour. At the end of the process you will have what amounts to a thick bean soup. If you’d like, you can drain the water off the top, or you can leave it and package it up that way. It will continue to thicken for a couple of days. Place any beans that you won’t finish within 4 days into the freezer.

Of course, don’t forget to add some delicious weeds to enhance your bean experience!

Now It’s Your Turn

I’m sure there are much better wild food recipes than I’ve shared here. If you have suggestions, please share in the comments, or email them to me at ricebeansmixedgreens (at) yahoo (dot) com.


Entry filed under: Foraging, Local Food.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. valereee  |  April 30, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I have a recipe (and identification tips) for wild garlic here.

  • 2. ricebeansmixedgreens  |  May 1, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for sharing this valereee!

  • 3. Janet  |  May 5, 2008 at 8:55 am

    I’ve been a grazer for years and have found chickweed, dandelion, lambsquarters and violet flowers to make wonderful salad. I don’t do so much cooking of those weeds.

    As far as a cooked weed goes, if you can get them before they’re 5-6 inches tall, the tops of nettles are great in a soup. In fact nettles were one of the main ingredients in “spring tonic” since they show so early and have such an amazing abundance of nutrients. I actually eat the very tops raw.

    ps Both my kids attended Blandford School and I did edible wild plant identification during the Spring of each year they were there.

  • 4. penne pasta  |  January 2, 2014 at 11:12 am

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