I suppose to some, the essential question would be why? Why would I awaken in the middle of the night to slip into the deep-mountain woods at dawn, just for the sake of finding a food I could buy for far less trouble?

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) has been my garden staple this year. Last year, my little garden was filled with a lush carpet of lambsquarter. Because I ate it (pinched it back) every few days, it grew thicker every week, and didn't go to seed until well into September. I'd hoped for more lambsquarter this year, but the rabbits nibbled back all the early starts. That left the door open for purslane to overtake my garden. Who am I to complain? I invite any edible plant that can thrive there without water to set up shop.

If making queen anne's lace jelly sounds appealing to you, but you don't know how to correctly identify poison hemlock, walk away. I mean it. This isn't a pair of plants you want to confuse because of the toxicity of poison hemlock. If you'd like to learn more about telling the difference between queen anne's lace (Daucus carota, also known as wild carrot) and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), please start by reading this previous post I've written that has lots of pictures. The next step is to spend another year or two making certain you can tell the two plants apart. Only when you feel confident you can correctly identify both poison hemlock and queen anne's lace should you begin to cook with wild carrot plants.

Ever since I first tasted my friend's paneer tikka, which is cheese, onion, tomatoes, and peppers slathered with a spicy yogurt marinade then roasted, I could envision it with one of my favorite wild foods - milkweed buds. Because I enjoy them so much as a vegetable, and their season is so short, I've rarely eaten milkweed buds any other way than with butter and salt, or occasionally with garlic and sesame.

Cattail pollen pancakes are a necessary part of my summer ritual. No year is complete without a tall stack of their sunny yellow goodness. The challenge with cattail pollen comes in finding fun ways to use it without obscuring its delicate flavor. On its own, cattail pollen doesn't taste like much. But a little heat and steam is all it takes to wake up its milky/grassy/floral aroma. Cattail pollen also seems to excel in starchy goods, whether mixed into pasta dough or sprinkled atop basmati rice as it steams.

Some days become a part of your legend.

The kids in my foraging classes call it the potato chip plant, which gives you a clue about the flavor of orache (Atriplex spp.). Like its cousin lamb's quarter, orache is a mild tender green. The twist is that this plant, which favors growing in saline soil, tastes noticeably salty.

Forget that snap-where-it-bends nonsense. Forget it right now! If you snap off all of your hard-earned foraged asparagus where it bends, you will waste a shameful amount of what the land has given you.

Name: Lepidium (Cardaria) draba Family: Brassicaceae Common names: whitetop, hoary cress, draba

Name: Chorispora tenella Family: Brassicaceae Common names: musk mustard, blue mustard, purple mustard, crossflower