Foraging Wild Shoots: Carrion-flower

Photo of Carrion-flower spring fruit

A few months ago, I noticed some dead vines of Carrion-flower (Smilax herbacea) along a road I often travel down. At the time, I recognized the plant by the rounded clusters of dark berries. At this point in the year, the once-dense clusters are now rather sparse, but at the base of last year's withering growth, thick, beautiful 1-2' tall shoots have emerged.

Photo of Carrion-flower shoot

The shoots look a lot like Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) and taste similarly delicious. Tender tops can be eaten raw or cooked. One cluster I noticed had green shoots (above); another clump was purple-tinged (below). In June or July, I'll visit these patches again to confirm the reportedly foul scent of this plant's flowers (hence the name Carrion-flower), and in late summer I'll be back to sample the edible, hopefully not foul-tasting, berries when they are plump and fresh.

Photo of Carrion-flower shoots

Summer 2014 Update: I did revisit the patches in late July and found insects busy visiting the flowers. I can verify that the flowers, at least up close, are foul smelling.

Photo of Carrion-flower flowers

The following photo shows a dead stalk of Carrion-flower from the 2013 growing season, as well as new flowering shoots.

Photo of Carrion-flower flowers

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