By Howard Meyerson
Lisa Rose was smiling when she handed me a leaf and asked if I wanted to taste it, humorously questioning whether I was brave enough to eat it. It was long and green with serrated edges, plucked off a nettle — a stinging nettle as some call them — a plant I grudgingly know.
“Roll them (so the hairs are inside) and it won’t sting you,” Rose advised, showing me how and popping one in her mouth.
“The nutrient value in these — oh my gosh,” Rose gushed with characteristic enthusiasm. “It’s high in plant protein, about 20 grams per serving and it’s delicious.”
Skeptically, I followed suit, still uncertain about chewing it up, anticipating a flash of pain. But its flavor was distinctive, even tasty — something akin to spinach.
It went down without incident, a perfect coda for our walk through a local park where we sampled a variety of plants from chicory and elderberry to sumac and monarda fistulosa, a plant from the mint family similar to oregano.
It is also known as bee balm.
Rose is a professional herbalist, writer, teacher and wild food forager. Her new book, “Midwest Foraging; 115 wild and flavorful edibles from burdock to wild
peach,” is a must-have for anyone who likes to forage. It was published this summer by Timber Press and is a remarkable piece of work, offering beautiful photos and hundreds of useful tips about when, how and where to harvest edible plants.
It is available online and from a variety of booksellers.
As we walked through the park, we chatted about the ethics of picking wild edibles. They play an increasing role in the local-food movement and are offered at chic dining establishments.
“Gathering nuts and parts (of plants) is one thing; in national parks, you can gather parts, but physically removing the plant is another thing,” said Rose, who resides in Ada with her two children and Rosie, her golden retriever. Continue reading