Spring Herbs

Enjoy a Bouquet of Wild Radish, Mustard Greens, and Wild Onion Before You Eat. Pic by M.C.

It’s springtime and wild plants are blooming in California. I love topping salad with all the tiny flowers. Wild plants have a lot of flavor. They are high in nutrients so you don’t have to eat as much. It makes my walk more special as I meet plants along the way and taste them.

As I learned in herb class, it’s good to say hello, introduce yourself, tell the plant why you’re harvesting it, and it just might let you take it home. We’re supposed to leave something valuable behind. I haven’t figured that one out yet. Perhaps I’ll save seeds from the wild plants for the following year.

1. Wild Radish-You might find wild radish growing next to mustard greens probably because it’s in the mustard family. To identify it look for a red stem. I have observed the white flower mature to lavender. Add the leaves and flowers to your salad. It tastes like radish.

Wild Radish on a Sunny Day. Pic by M.C.

2. Wild Onion-Look for a medium-green, long leaf. When holding the leaf it feels and looks like a triangular scallion. You will see a cluster of white, star-like flowers. At first sight the flowers droop like bells, but looking at the bloom straight on you will find a star. The strong onion taste is great to eat raw. Sprinkle the flowers and chopped leaf on top of your salad.

Wild Onion. Pic by M.C.

3. Mustard Greens-You will notice all the small yellow flowers while driving the 5 freeway and up the 101 because the Spanish monks threw seeds on their journey through California using it like bread crumbs. When harvesting, feel how the leaf is a little prickly. The wild radish leaf isn’t prickly and that’s one way to tell the difference between the two. Mustard greens are great for cooking in olive oil and garlic then mixing with warm pasta. They can also be boiled in half white vinegar, half water, a little sugar, salt, and pepper and put on the side of a yam or really any warm meal. The flowers are good on top of a salad. Sometimes the flower tastes like onion to me and sometimes mustard.

Mustard Green in the Foreground w/ Yellow Flowers, but White Flowers from the Wild Radish in the Background Pop. Pic by M.C.

4. Yellowdock-This buckwheat has low to the ground green and red leaves with a shoot holding the seeds. The root helps absorb iron. The seeds are like buckwheat and fun to eat on a walk. Or take them home and put them on top of your oatmeal. They are tiny, like quinoa. Rub them in your hand to get the husk to peel away. Yellowdock seeds are high in protein. Wild seeds make you more wild! In a good way.

Yellowdock. Pic by M.C.

5. Plantain-Plantain looks like strips of light green that narrow at the end. The veins go along the leaf. You can’t really see in my photo, but in the middle is a shoot growing with a cone-like flower. People will take the stem and flower and make a bow and arrow then shoot it at their friend for fun. It comes in handy for bug bites, snakebites, or poison oak. Chew it up, spit it out, and rub it on the bite. I hear it really works.

Plantain. Pic by M.C.

6. English Daisy-The daisies are tiny with little leaves all close to the ground. I see English Daisy growing in lawns. So it will look like weeds are in your landscape, but it’s so much more. The flower and leaves are edible. It is used like Arnica for bruising and strains. You can use the leaf and flower in a salve and liniment.

English Daisy. Pic by M.C.

Look for what grows in your area. If you don’t have the plants I listed you may find different plants that do the same thing. In general, when eating flowers, leaves are more flavorful than the center of a flower. Online there is Calflora.org for California where you can do a plant search by its common, scientific, or family name. Look for a wild plant or wildflower website for your state or country. And the only App that seems to cover wild plants is iNaturalist where plant lovers and scientists upload photos of plants, bugs, and birds from around the world. You can ask people to help identify the plant you upload. I hope this makes your walk, hike, or bike ride more enjoyable.

Happy Easter!

And Happy Vegan!

Copyright 2021 Melissa Crismon