Edible Garden Escapees in the Woods
In spite of living in one of the most densely populated parts of the United States, here in Central Maryland we are lucky to have many parks where we can visit the wilderness. Patapsco State Park and Benjamin Banneker Park are two of my local favorites.
But these wild areas are close to human habitation. Many parts of the parks are actually reclaimed farms, towns, millworks, and lumbered areas.
And the plants in the area tell that story well! Meandering in the woods today, I quickly found several edible escapees from nearby gardens.
Here we have Variegated Bishop’s Weed. This is a common shade loving ground cover. It’s helpful in erosion control, is drought tolerant, and once established is very hard to get rid of it. It also spreads, a lot. For that reason, it can be highly invasive in the wild — or in your garden! Rumor has it that the tender spring leaves are edible, and once the plant flowers (usually purple) the leaves are a decent laxative. I have not verified either claim myself, so be wary.
There we have some Daylily popping up amid the forest weeds! These cheerful and aggressive garden staples can grow anywhere, even in the woods in the shade.
They are also edible. I can attest that the flowers are yummy stuffed with sweet ricotta, and the petals make a decorative and delicious addition to salads. These flowers spread mostly by sending out new roots, studded with rhizomes. The rhizomes are edible year round, although tenderest in spring. And the leaves saute up good in the spring, before they get too tough to eat. These are widely grown as a food crop in asia. However! There are a number of very poisonous Daylily lookalikes, like Iris and all true Lilies. Also, while this plain orange variety is edible, I’m not sure about all varieties. So be very careful with your identification.
Furthermore, I have read that very rarely someone does not tolerate Daylily well. Apparently it makes some people, perhaps one in a hundred, vomit. So the first time you eat it, have just a small portion.
While these are perfectly edible for people, beware letting your cats eat them, or even brush against the flowers! They are poisonous to cats, especially the pollen. And when cats groom themselves, they will ingest the pollen.