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Shopping for vegetables? Hit the sidewalk, not the supermarket

April 19, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
  • A pair of California poppies at a poppy reserve in Lancaster are surrounded by filaree (a purple low-growing flower) and some yellow goldfield plants.
A pair of California poppies at a poppy reserve in Lancaster are surrounded… (Boris Yaro / Los Angeles…)

Forget lettuce and spinach. Start thinking mallow, purslane and amaranth.

Even if you've never heard of these greens, they could be all around you, according to an interesting NPR piece on urban foraging. The story follows expert forager Sam Thayer around Washington, D.C., as he plucks and nibbles on uncommon salad ingredients, including weeds like shepherd's purse and sow thistle as well as Siberian elm seeds. He finds them in the unlikeliest of places -- reclaiming an abandoned garden box, sprouting near chain-link fences.   

And, barring the risk of dog pee and pesticide, they're pretty good for you -- according to the story, more nutritious than your grocery store greens. The mustard green, with the highest known nutrient levels of any leafy green, is "high in vitamin A, beta carotene, zinc, manganese and fiber," says one expert.

My mother always told me not to pick things off the street and eat them. Then again, she always told me to eat my vegetables. Intrigued, I wondered if there was any nutritional value to be had on the streets of Los Angeles.

Turns out we have a few foragers on the West Coast too. Check out this piece from the Weekend America files on Nance Klehm, a local foraging expert.

And here, from the L.A. Times archives, are some wild plants, what they taste like -- and when and where to find them.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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