"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wild Asparagus, Parsley, and Seeds

I really should post more often about our forays for wild edibles which happen on an almost daily basis...but the camera is never with, or no time to post, or, or, or...I'm full of excuses.:)

So early this past Sunday morning we set out along the local river in search of certain seeds that I have been waiting/wanting to harvest and were delighted to find not only those seeds but fresh asparagus as well. Because the river's water level has been so high the flooded asparagus has been slow to come on and, lucky us, we were able to snag a nice meals worth. Some went into a stir fry dish and the rest a tasty quiche...mmm.

Even better than the above treasures was finding "The King of all Asparagus" roots dangling precariously off the river's bank, unceremoniously ripped from it's home by the rapid currents but still alive and sending up shoots. Rather than leaving it to be washed away we liberated this 5-10 pound (I'm guessing, my wife ended up carrying it for a mile and a half and she said it was at least a 5 pounder) root from it's rocky embrace along the river's edge and have since planted the monstrosity in our gardens...can't wait to see what kind of stalks it produces.

This King of the River Asparagus root truly is much larger than this picture depicts.

Anyway, seeds is what we were out and about for and our timing was right on as we were able to collect both the wild parsley and lupine seeds I have had my eye on since early spring...especially the parsley.

I think it was around April that we noticed a large patch of parsley growing on a hillside meadow up off the river, we picked some for drying and hoped to come back in time for the seeds. We have since noticed three different varieties of this edible plant. I am not 100% positive on the below identifications but am pretty sure I got them right...there are a lot of different varieties of wild parsley out there and many of them look quite similar.

Lomatium macrocarpum - Large Seeded Biscuitroot (Desert parsley)

Lomatium triternatum - Nine - Leaf Biscuitroot (Narrow - Leaved Desert Parsley)
Lomatium grayi - Gray's Biscuitroot (Pungent Desert Parsley) This is the variety we elected to save seeds off of as I liked the way it looked and tasted.

From - http://onlinenevada.org/biscuitroot

"Biscuitroot was used as both a food source and for medicinal purposes by the American Indian tribes in Nevada , specifically the Paiute, Washoe, and Western Shoshone. It is known by several other names, including Cough Root. As a medicine, fernleaf biscuitroot was used for treating multiple illnesses, including chest colds, coughs, bronchitis, influenza, and pneumonia. The roots could be burned, and the smoke inhaled for treating asthma, or steamed and inhaled for treating nasal and chest congestion. As an anti-viral poultice, the boiled, crushed root was applied to open cuts and sores. Tea was made from the leaves and used in the treatment of colds.

As a food, biscuitroot was an important source for Nevada tribes, as they could use the leaves roots and seeds in various ways. Many species of Lomatium have thick, tuberous roots that can be ground into flour and used to make bread-like foods, resulting in the common name “biscuitroot.” The leaves are said to have a strong parsley-like flavor. Young seeds and sprouts were collected to be eaten raw, and the roots could be used dried and ground into a powder to flavor flours and soups, or boiled to make a nutritious drink. The root could be stored in dried form for later use."

For those interested -

“Of the three species of Peucedanum used by the Spokane Indians, the best, in size and flavor of bulbs, is the ‘Chucklusa’ (P. Canbyi, Coulter and Rose) (Lomatium canbyi)." -



Dani said...

Mr H - Never knew you could get wild parsley! And fascinating that you have three types near you.

And, oh, how I wish I could find some wild asparagus - reckon I would also be tempted to 'rescue' an exposed root, or two, or three... LOL

Lucky you :)

Anne said...

Love it!! I'm also *trying to grab up wild asparagus seeds. The birds seems to be beating me to the berries the moment they turn red.

Awesome asparagus crowns you scooped up! When they have many roots that are thick and full they have the reserves to start picking so much faster (unlike most purchased crowns which are so young and wimpy.)

Wishing you the best of luck with your forage scores and that they do wonderfully for you!!!

(lol.. yelled out "COOL!" and scared the stuffing out of my dog when I read your post.)

Geno said...

That is a great find on the root system. We have found a lot of wild parsley before, but I have never felt confident about the identification of it so it has never been harvested by us. Think that might be changing soon.

P.S. I bet I have you beat on the excuses!

Buttons Thoughts said...

Mr H what a great find. You amaze me with your talent to identify these things and your luck in having it in your surroundings.
As you know I bought a couple of old books at an auction sale and I look forward to getting more knowledgeable like yourself. Well I will never be as gifted as you but I will give it a try.I have always been a little nervous in getting sick or dying from not knowing what I am doing.
I hope the asparagus comes up next year. What good luck for finding it and having Mrs. H there to carry it. LOL. B

Unknown said...

First of all, the scenery of the garden plants are mind blowing. I also do garden design and it's mostly for residential than commercial like this one. Would love to come here for few days of short break. lol

Mark Willis said...

This is very interesting. I'm always keen to read about food with history / heritage. Foraging is making a comeback here in the UK, but most people don't know anything about what they can get for free in the hedgerows.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

How lovely! Sure wish I had those plants growing around here.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

Now why cant I find some wild asparagus? I had trouble with the domestic asparagus I planted! What a great find. That would be better than finding a $100 bill.

6512 and growing said...

Amazing asparagus haul! Congratulations!

If you ever want to trade some lomatium root for osha root (our family's go-to herbal anti-viral, also in parsley family) let me know. They're both most potent in fall, after the leaves die back.

kelli said...

very nice! i'd squeal if i found wild asparagus!

random question: do you think i could mulch with pine needles for my fall winter garden?

Unknown said...

I am amazed by the fact that we, as a culture are so removed from foraging for edibles in our own backyard. Your post makes me want to learn more.

meemsnyc said...

Wow, wow, and WOW! I am so amazed at your foraging! The asparagus especially. So cool!!!!

kitsapFG said...

When we lived in central Washington, wild asparagus was easy to find - partiularly growing beside the older/smaller irrigation ditches. A real find and a real treat! Yours look like beauties and that crown is a monster! You must have had to do some really deep and side digging to get that put into place and those roots spread back out?! I hope it settles in to it's new home well and provides you fresh shoots next year.

Interesting info on the wild parsley. I have walked by those plants many times and had no idea what it was.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Oh asparagus roots...one of the things I would like to grow once in my life. But I can't at the moment since we will be moving next year. With those healthy asparagus roots, if you plant them now, do you think you get spears from next year? I read that it usually takes 2-3years wait. But from the wild it must be a magical roots and from the size of it. Wonderful collected seeds.

Heiko said...

I didn't even realise there are different varieties of wild parsley. Ever since I have started recognising our variety, I see it EVERYWHERE! The leaves of what we have are only very mild in flavour and not as aromatic as the cultivated variety, but the roots are much tastier!

As for asparagus, I'm thinking of taking up a nomad lifestyle, wandering from climate zone to climate zone to extend my wild asparagus season. Here it was from February to April and you are now still picking some. I'm addicted to this stuff! Good luck with growing it in your garden.

Dave @ HappyAcres said...

Wow, those asparagus roots do look huge. I can only imagine one that weighed 5 pounds or more. That sounds like a whole asparagus patch you all have there in one root!

Mr. H. said...

Dani - We live in an interesting place, 50 miles in one direction takes us into temperate rainforests and 10 miles in the other finds extensive prairie. We have spent most of our foraging time in the more heavily forested climates and just the past couple of years have started to realize the wonderful opportunities that the prairies provide...so much fun.:)

Anne - It really will be interesting to see how well this monster root produces. As some of our favorite spots for foraging are now under development for housing projects (so sad) we have been trying to adapt/adopt some of these plants into our gardens before they are no more.

Geno - With such a large family and busy schedule I know that you have me beat.:) Please feel free to send me a picture of any wild parsley you are unsure of and perhaps I can help you ID it.

Buttons - I am indeed lucky to have Mrs. H there to carry all of my weeds around for me...she is quite the trooper. It is always good to be really careful when dealing with wild edibles as there really are many poisonous look a likes. Enjoy htose books, they look like good ones.

Bloggerfreak - Thanks for stopping by our blog and for the nice comments.:)

Mark - I can only imagine that there are some pretty interesting plants to be foraged where you live. There is definitely a lot of history surrounding the wild edible plants of North America as they were such an important source of food for the native peoples.

Vegetable Garden Cook - We are indeed fortunate to live in an area of diverse climates that allow for the foraging of a wide range of edible plants.

Jane - Most of the asparagus that we find is along the river banks but it took quite a few years of searching for it before we realized this. Nope, not for $100.:)

6512 and Growing - I would love to do an exchange but it might have to be for seeds as we have had no luck at all transplanting the roots due to the fact that they are so entrenched in river rock making it impossible to remove them without damage. The osha plants sound very interesting and sound like something that would grow really well in our climate.

I certainly sqealed the first time we found some.:) From what I have read it is OK to mulch with pine needles if you have lots of earthworms in your soil as the material is neutralized by secretions of calcium carbonate as the worms feed on it. If you do not have a lot of worms in your soil it is possible that the pine needles may make your soil slightly acidic and some garden plants do not like acidic soil. That said, we always use pine needles in the garden and have never had any such issues.

Mr. H. said...

Grafixmuse - It is kind of a hobby with us and we have found lots of guidence through books on weeds and wild edibles. It truly is amazing at how many edible plants are right under foot unbeknownst to to so may people.

Meemsnyc - As the years go by foraging, especially for herbs and berries, has become a larger and larger part of our lifestyle...and it's just so darn fun to get out there and search for free food that is so amazingly full of nutrition.:)

Laura - When planted, that root encompassed a 3' by 3' spot in our garden...hope it sends up more than 1 or 2 shoots considering th eamount of space it has acquired.:) If you can be certain about the identification of the parsley in your area the dried leaves and seeds are and excellent addition to fish dishes and salad dressings.

Malay-Kadazan Girl - Considering the size and age of this particular root I am preety sure that we will be able to harvest from it next season. Hope you get a chance to try growing some of your own asparagus some day soon.

Heiko - I must admit to not having ever tried the roots off the ones we find as they are so embedded in the river rock...which is why I am after the seeds as I hope to get a few plants established on our own property. We have talked about taking up that same nomad lifstyle for morel mushrooms and other edibles. Wouldn't that be something to wonder the country harvesting by the calendar. I think we would start with olives and wild plums in Italy.:)

Villager - Like I told Laura, it had better produce good because it certainly took up its share of room in the garden.:)

Ohiofarmgirl said...

wow! fantastic work on the garden AND the foraging. lucky you to find the asparagus - i had some for dinner last nite. tell Rowdy that Kai says 'hi!'

Leigh said...

It is so fascinating to see what grows in other parts of the country. Equally fantastic that you have so much available! The asparagus was a wonderful find.

WeekendFarmer said...

Wow! What knowledge. Its a true talent Mr. H! I am tempted to come out and hike with you for the day. I will ask the company rep for a day in Idaho : ).

Daphne Gould said...

Now that is one nice asparagus root. Amazing.

Silke Powers said...

Wow, Mr. H.! I never new there was wild parsley like that and how useful it is! And that asparagus just makes me hungry... I saw on your sidebar that it's a cool 61 degrees where you are right now - oh, how lovely that sounds!! Say hi to Mrs. H. and a nice scratch for Rowdy!! :) Silke

Mr. H. said...

Ohiofarmgirl - Lucky us indeed, it took quite a few years of searching for the all elusive asparagus before we finally figured out where it grows.

Leigh - I am continually amazed at just how many wild edibles grow in our area and am surprised at the amount of new ones we stumble upon each and every year.

WeekendFrmer - Its the books not me that contain the knowledge, I am just the goof that lugs them around examining everything I see.:)

Daphne - It's a big one that's for sure, can't wait to see what pops out of it.

Silke - It is cool and supposed to rain again today...but wow, after seeing the heat everyone else is dealing with I am starting to feel lucky. Hope you, Daniel, and the "kids" are able to stay cool today.

Ms. Adventuress said...

What a huge root! Love the wild edible posts. You two enjoy so much wonder together...bravo!

Anonymous said...

That must have been a might big quiche :-). Thanks for the heads up on the wild desert parsley. It's too hot and dry for the wild variety we get in springtime and it's not worth sowing a cultivated variety until September and I really miss my parsley. I shall be eagerly sniffing all manner of things that don't look like parsley now, just in case.

Faith said...

So impressive. The wild asparagus is just unheard of here in Alaska. Your blog is so informative!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

First, I'd like to know where in NC I could find wild edibles and second, I'd like to know what the heck I found :o(

Mr. H. said...

Ms. Adventuress - Bravo indeed...we are blessed to live where we do. Sounds like you are having a great summer too.:)

Contadina - We are so very fortunate to be able to grow parsley all year around, it is such a fine green and we make very good use of it on an almost daily basis. Hope you are able to find some of the wild variety growing in your area of the world.

Faith - We have been doing a lot of research into what the native peoples of our area use to forage for and that has helped us to find some of these very interesting edibles...it is amazing how many wild foods are available.

That said, I would happily trade you some of my pungent desert parsley for a handful of those wonderful Alaskan berries you gather each year.:) Speaking of which, we are off to hunt down huckleberries early tomorrow morning in one of the lower elevation spots that we gather them...might be a bit too early in the season but I thought we had better take a look see just in case.

Wendy said...


wow, those wild asparagus roots ARE pretty darn long.

Mistyhollows said...

I think I'll echo all the other comments and say what a fantastic asparagus find. The parsley find is fantastic too. We don't have anything like that around where we live, just bush - it has it's uses too though.

Mr. H. said...

Ginny - There is a good book called A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guide) that should cover your neck of the woods.:)

Wendy - They really do spread out, the one we planted took up a 3' by 3' space in the garden.

Mistyhollows - We did indeed luck out with the asparagas...both root and stems.:)

Bulk Vegetable Seeds said...

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