Foraging In Northern California: Part 2

I think I am getting better at this.  I put together a complete kit (below) with all that I would need for identification, harvesting, even dissection.  I have brought a few samples back to look under the microscope as well.   Seeing it all spread out like this looks kind of creepy at first glance.


I have recently identified and located Wood sorrel (creeping), Chickweed (I am so excited about that), and even more exciting to me, Miner’s lettuce!  I am thrilled about that.  It doesn’t take much these days.


Chickweed, common (Stellaria media)  GREENLIGHT

Edible Parts: Leaves and Stems, raw or cooked

Special Identification tip: the stems have a line of fine white hairs on them.  Note the little white hairs between my two first fingers on the right top side of the photo (below).



(Above) Note the little white chickweed flower; the corolla consists of 5 deeply-lobed petals that make it look like 10 petals.  Note a little young miner’s lettuce dotted around this patch.


(Below) I have color-labeled the items on the top photo (above), below so you can identify them. Red is Hemlock (poisonous!); Yellow is Chickweed.  Blue is young Miner’s lettuce, they look pretty nondescript when very young. The stone blue is dove’s foot geranium, a common weed and not edible. 



(Above) Once it get my harvest home I go through it twice to make sure no hemlock has crept in, or bugs, and then I wash and prepare.  I used my very first chickweed harvest with some dock leaves for a saute with garlic.  Although dock leaves turn an ugly, almost seaweed-y, green once cooked so it didn’t make for a great photos.  I also add a little chickweed to my miner’s lettuce salads.  Always start out with a little bit the first few times to see if your body rejects it or has a reaction. 

You can also make, Chickweed Pesto, Chickweed Pekoras, Chickweed Salad, anywhere where a little green is desired.

More on Stellaria media:


Revisiting Mallow (Malva) GREENLIGHT

Identification tips: Malva neglecta fruits are smooth; the stems and leaves have fine hairs on them, usually on the underside on the leaf but I feel they are a bit hairy on top as well.  They also seem to branch out more distinctly, low to the ground, more organized.

Malva parviflora fruits are wrinkly; the stems have fine hairs but the leaves are not hairy like on neglecta.  Malva parviflora seems to be more edible because of this, in my opinion.  Maarviflora tends to reach a taller height.

malva side by side
See Neglecta on the left and Parviflora on the right.

Again, Malva Neglecta on the left; Malva parviflora on the right.  Also in the photo is creeping woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata) to the right, bottom.  The purple clover-looking stuff.  It has yellow flowers.  Sadly, the gardener Honey Badger hired did his job and pulled the “weeds” and downed branches from the gravel section (right) the very next day  A moment of silence for the parviflora and woodsorrel, please.  But it is literally everywhere so I am not in short supply.

differencebetweenpusilladifference between pusillaandneglecta

At first, we didn’t have much parviflora, maybe 4 – 5 plants, but then it spread like, weeds.

I have used malva parviflora in a keto Chicken Lazone sauce the other day to thicken it up and it was glorious.  I also dried some for later use and have used it in keto chicken coconut curry.  I am attempting to cultivate it more and encourage more growth so I can allow it to spread its seeds. I would like more of this around here.   You can even eat it raw and it is very mild, and again, no hairy leaves!

Because of finding this smooth-leaved stash, I like malva more than I first did!


When To Forage: In NorCal, it is abundant in late December and January – February thus far.  BUT we are having very warm weather the last few months.


Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)  GREENLIGHT

Edible Parts: Leaves for salads, or leaves and stems if you plan on juicing.  I don’t juice.



Young miner’s lettuce mixed in with some chickweed (edible) and dove’s foot geranium (non-edible)
wild mix
Preparing my salad with some miner’s lettuce, young bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius, or broadleaf dock), chickweed and a little mallow.  I check through it twice, leaf by leaf, to be sure there is no hemlock sneaking in there.  And check for bugs! 

Miner’s lettuce tastes like spinach to me but slightly thicker.   I actually like it a lot and ate it three times last weekend.

Two weeks of warm temps and sunlight later, a miner’s lettuce and chickweed buffet!


A few weeks later and they are beginning to round out and flower.  Still tasty, though.  There are plants in many stages of development so a tender salad is still on the menu.   I prefer my miner’s lettuce salads with a bit of snap pea, green onions, dock, chickweed (not too much) and sesame oil with seasoned rice vinegar.  Sometimes I add a little granulated Stevia.


(Black) Mustard Greens, Wild (brassica nigra) GREELIGHT

Edible Parts: All (flowers, roots, leaves, seeds), the thicker the stalks, the tougher and more woody it will be so don’t bother with old mustard.

Special Note: Critters like wild mustard, be prepared to battle with bugs to get to the good stuff.  If you start earlier during the season you will have less of a battle.  Later, you may come up empty-handed.  Mine are a little wilted because I spotted some in a field across from work and didn’t take the pic until I got home.




You can eat the greens like regular mustard greens and you can actually make wild mustard seed mustard–which I am going to do this year!

When to Forage: This year it came early, but generally springtime in NorCal is the time you start seeing golden hills.  Entire fields of golden yellow flowers are a sure sign. You are technically supposed to attempt to get to the greens before they flower, but for your first excursion it is good to know what you are picking and there is no easier way to tell!  You will see great bright green, bushy leaves.  And, of course, the trademark yellow flowers.  I tend to see a lot on the ground under orchards.  It is almost like they LOVE the orchards.   The farmers let them stay because at this time, the trees are dormant so it really doesn’t matter.

Great recipe and instructional:

Sauteed Leaves and Dijon Mustard Recipes and info!

Unidentified Plants: Can You Help?

There are a ton of thorny vines I have yet to identify.  Do you know what these are?  I know you may say leaves of three on the left, but they are thorny and neither poison oak or ivy have thorny stems.  So go figure.  I also do not recall ever seeing flowers or berries related to these vines.

(Below) Is this Rubus ursinus (California blackberry)?  Am I lucky to have some sort of edible berry back here that I never noticed?  Doubtful.  I will only know once they flower and possibly produce fruit.

(Below) What is this?   Is this bramble?  It isn’t lobed enough to be thimbleberry (5 lobes)

(Below) I also found a Veronica persica…(not edible)

Veronica persica
Veronica persica




Buckeye Trees TOXIC PLANT

The entire plant is actually quite toxic.  The leaves, bark, and fruit, and the internal nuts can make you sick.

There are no leaves on the trees right now but when they do grow, they will look like 5 radiating pointy-leaved bunches, referred to as being palmate.

What a shame this huge tree fruit/nut is not edible.  Well, it is and it isn’t.  The only thing remotely edible is if you were to roast the nut inside (sometimes two may present themselves) and then thinly cut it into slivers and either heat or cold rinse the tannins out (like you would for tannic acorns).  And then cook it. BUT, you shouldn’t consume that much even after all that processing , so what is the point?  The tannic acids are pretty bad for your kidneys and liver so really, just don’t bother.

Their only use is drying them out and drilling holes in them and making necklaces, which are thought to bring good luck (if you believe in that sort of thing).   By late December the fruit is long gone so all that remains are the shiny, almost pearly, brown-skinned nuts the size of a child’s close fist lying around.


After a few good rains, you will see a hearty single white root snake out and into the ground to grow into a tree.  Although I have yet to see a tree grow in the middle of the path as many times as I have seen rooted seeds such as above.  I assume people are either removing them, or more than likely the dry, hot summers proves difficult for the little seedlings to become established.  You could always hit someone with them, they are pretty heavy.   A barrage of heavy, newly-plucked buckeyes shot from a strong slingshot ought to do it.

Young budding leaves on a new Buckeye sapling…


Note: If you ever do handle the fruit, leaves, bark, branches, etc. USE GLOVES.  Like I did not do in the photo.  Do as I say, not as I do.  😉  I normally use deerskin gloves (the yellow ones in the pic at the top of the page) for everything that is spiky, but I should wear it for toxic plants, too.


Next Time: Ferns & Fiddleheads


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