Sunday, October 30, 2005


Using field guides, I was able to figure out that this weed, growing so abundantly in our garden, is galinsoga. It's also known as quickweed, gallant soldier and guascas. It's native to Central and South America.

I found out that it's edible, and I also discovered, through a little web research, that it is a very important part of a special Columbian soup called Ajiaco. Maybe I'll try to make it.

A google search turns up a mix of information about this plant. Homesick Colombians and American foodies are seeking this "guascas" to make the soup properly, while farmers are trying to get rid of it, seeing it as a pesty weed!

I cooked it up as part of tonight's dinner. I boiled it for 20 minutes and put some butter and vinegar on it. It was very tasty. How many times have we pulled this plant out and thrown it in the compost heap, not knowing it was food? But it patiently grows back. I'm glad I now know it as a friend.


Blogger LonesomePolecat said...

I thought these greens were pretty tasty, but even the fact they are called "gallant soldier" wasn't enough to get our 8 year old to try a bite. Maybe if they were part of a pizza?

5:06 AM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Sounds so delicious!

You and my husband would love to talk about plants. If you ever have a question, MUA mail me, and I will ask him. He knows so much about plants. You know how we are about fragrances? Plants are his addiction.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

You are so awesome for eating weeds.

I was walking around Brooklyn the other day, noticing how many different kinds of plants are growing out of every crack in the sidewalk. I was thinking of taking a weekend and a pencil and sketching them, and taking a field guide and trying to figure out what they are. Now you've convinced me it's a good idea. Such botanical variety flourishing in every corner, and I don't know a thing about it!

7:50 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Yes, Lonesomepolecat: I think next time that will work, as Danny claims that "pizza never lets him down!" :-)

Barbara, Thanks Honey, I will keep that in mind. I love talking to other plant people! :-)

T- Happy Birthday, Girl! Well, I know it's tomorrow but you know, have a great day! :-)

I think the sketching thing would be a good want to learn about them, you really look at things carefully as you draw them and it's important to look at them carefully if you are trying to avoid the poisonous ones! :-)

8:03 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

We used to have this wonderful lady who worked at a local museum who would do Food Forage feild trips, I miss her, because I learned so much from her. Galinsoga is a new one for me,,, see you can teach an old dog new tricks,,,, and treats.!! Thanks, glad it was yummy.

11:49 AM  
Blogger ticharu said...

Pity the botanical variety is so much less than it was in the past.
I was amazed to learn just how many plants in my woods and fields are edible. But I'm so stuck in the modern world of eating only the stuff we cultivate.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Salt Water said...

Thanks Kate, for the visit. Your new head board is fantastic! Or have I been so out of it that it was there all along? The news has had me down for awhile. But I am starting to shake it off. Food blogs and Plant blogs are so cool. I found the Traveling Beaver in Africa posting about the local's food and I have now copied a green leaf sause made with potatoe leaves and beef bullion. It was suprisingly eatable. My plant friend locally thinks potatoe leaves are unsafe to eat. I did not suffer any detectable effect. What do you think? Are potatoe leaves safe to eat? They are peppery and minty sort of. I don't think I'd make them a stapple, but in a food shortage, they would be good with the potatoes themselves, if safe. Thanks Kate.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Hi Scott and Ticharu!

Hi Jim! I tend to like to try eating weird plants that most other people around me don't consider food. I've done it since I was a kid. I always nibbled on various weeds.

Now that I'm older and own field guides, I recognise some of the plants I ate as poisonous. Lucky for me, I just nibbled, and didn't die. :-)

Also lucky for me, the plants I happened to nibble were only mildly poisonous, not toxic/fatal. Had I eaten yew berries, poison hemlock (the kind socrates drank), digitalis, many species of mushrooms, laurel, rhododendron, azalea, nightshade, etc. etc. I might be dead.

Potato plants are in the nightshade family. As I understand it, they are mildly poisonous, not usually fatal. The amount of toxicity is prob. related to the growing conditons. If you eat small amounts of them occasionally, you might be fine. Maybe. But is it worth it?

The African people who use them as a food source may 1)have particular soil conditions that make it less toxic or 2) know special ways of preparing the leaves that render them safer (there are a lot of plants like this in North America that were used by Native Americans but they had to cook them in several changes of water, dumping out the water in between and starting with fresh water, for example). Also, don't forget: 3) they may use them as a food source because they are lacking other food sources that are available to us.

I hate to discourage anyone from eating plants, but personally, I wouldn't eat them. That's just me. I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to this stuff. For example, I know some people who enjoy wild mushrooms, and say they know how to recognise safe vs. unsafe mushrooms. I don't participate in this as I just don't feel comfortable doing it. I would REALLY want to study mushrooms for quite a long time before I would ever attempt that. Even though, many people around the world use mushrooms as both a food and a medicine. And there are some fabulous medicinal mushrooms, I think that will be more recognised by medicine in the future. I could write a lot about fungus, but I don't want to go to far off on a tangent! :-)

Anyway, in my youth I experimented with hallucinagenic mushrooms for fun. Technically, these were also poisonous. Scientist think the hallucinagenic properties are caused by mild toxicity. Who knows what damage this may have done to me? But I totally feel it was worth it for the enjoyment and insights I gained. To someone else, it might not be worth it.

I used to smoke too, also poisonous, but I enjoyed it. I decided the cons outweighed the pros with that one. I still have an occassional smoke though.

I guess, as I see it, if I'm going to take the risk of eating something that may be harmful to me, I want it to at the very least either 1) get me high or 2)cure some illness I'm suffering.

If it's just for food, I'd rather turn to a substance I know is not harmful, like potato roots. :-)

10:09 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Oh yeah, my banner was created by dear wonderful Katie of "Seldom Nice Nowdays!" isn't it great? She did it just to be nice. I love her. :-)

10:16 AM  
Blogger Jonniker said...

"If I'm going to eat something poisonous, I want it to at least get me high or cure an illness"

Ah, Kate. Such a classic quote. I love it. And I'm too much of a wimp to eat random plants. I don't trust myself that the plant I'm eating isn't poisonous, despite checking and double checking a hundred times. I'm such a wimp! WIMP, I tell you!

5:48 AM  
Blogger Salt Water said...

Thanks, Kate, for the info on potato leaves. I will post a link to your site and suggest others read it. I don't want to undo the my post because it was so much fun to discover, cook, and blog. Yet a good disclaimer is in order. Thank you.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Thiago said...

Quickweed is super tasty. Ever since I positively identified some in my backyard in Queens, NY, not a Summer has gone by without me welcoming their arrival in June with scissors and bowl in hand. I boil the plentiful pickings and then sautée them a bit with olive oil, onions, black pepper sauce and soy sauce (sometimes with tofu also). Last year, I transplanted two other edible weeds from different places I found them (namely, the local park and the Hudson riverbed) to my yard (the famous dandelion and the not so famous lamb's quarters). So, these days, I will go down to my weed garden, pull a bunch of these three tasty weeds, boil them and prepare them as I have indicated above. It's so easy!!! And they will be there next year waiting for you to come and eat them. I highly recommend these three very edible weeds. Quickweed and Dandelion have lots of vitamin A. Bon apetit!

7:27 AM  

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