American Linden (Tilia americana), also known as Basswood, grows in river floodplains throughout most of New England, and is a common street tree in some towns. This species has many notable features including edible young leaves, fragrant flowers that can be used for tea and medicine, strong inner bark that can be made into cordage or rope, and light-weight wood that is easy to carve and suitable as the hearth board and drill of a bow-drill fire set.
In late fall, clusters of tan nutlets reveal the presence of mature trees. Some clusters can be found littering the ground, perhaps landing atop freshly fallen snow, while others remain clinging to branches, where they dangle beneath a leaf-like bract that serves as a wind-glider. Despite the built-in glider, in my experience, clusters don't sail far from the parent tree. Where crops are heavy, look for the feeding sign of small mammals and birds.
Twigs feature rounded, red buds, from which tender, tasty greens will emerge next spring. If you've never met American Linden, now might be a good time to visit a river floodplain and get acquainted.
Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) is a weedy plant of European origin who thrives in disturbed soil. Here in southern Maine, I most often find Wild Radish at the beach, growing above the high-tide line alongside American Sea-rocket, Saltwort, Beach Rose, and Beach Vetchling. Flowering plants stand about 2 feet tall and are topped with yellow, 4-parted flowers. On sunny days, Cabbage White butterflies frequently visit the blossoms. Continue reading Foraging Wild Greens: Wild Radish
Beach Vetchling (Lathyrus japonicus), often called Beach Pea, is a legume of beaches and other coastal habitats. The plants have compound leaves tipped with tendrils, pink/purple flowers which appear by June, and immature legumes by July.
Beach Vetchling legumes are best gathered for food when the pods are still green. On page 140 of his book Ancestral Plants, Arthur Haines recommends removing the seeds from their pods and soaking the seeds in water for at least a few hours (a treatment which he says helps to deactivate phytic acid, an anti-nutrient found is most nuts, seeds, and grains, which can bind with minerals and prevent their uptake).
After soaking, Arthur recommends boiling the seeds for 10-20 minutes. The result is a vegetable similar to store-bought green peas (Pisum sativum), though less plump and not as sweet. Learn about other uses of Beach Vetchling in Arthur Haines' foraging book.
Seaside Plantain (Plantago maritima) might be my favorite ocean-side plant. Whereas the closely related Common (P. major) and English Plantain (P. lanceolata) often grow in the cracks of sidewalks and in other disturbed areas throughout New England, Seaside Plantain is restricted to the coast. I typically find this plant growing in cracks of bedrock with an ocean-side view. Continue reading Foraging Wild Greens: Seaside Plantain
Tired of tasteless greens in your salads? Perhaps it's time you visited the ocean and gathered some fleshy leaves of American Sea-rocket (Cakile edentula). This plant grows above the high-tide line, among rocks or in the sand, and survives salty, sunny and windy conditions that few species can tolerate.
In early May, thousands of American Sea-rocket seedlings appeared on a small crescent beach I frequent here in southern Maine. Since then, every time I visit, I sample a few leaves and enjoy their peppery punch. The plants have grown since early May, and just yesterday I noticed a few plants beginning to flower. The flowers, young seedpods, and fleshy leaves of this plant are edible (raw or cooked), if you can handle their pungency.
For photos of American Sea-rocket flowering and fruiting, visit Go Botany. Before consuming any wild plants, please make sure you've identified the plants positively and considered my other foraging guidelines.