Wild in the Presidio: Foraging Fridays

For the past two months I have gone on a weekly walk through the Tennessee Hollow Watershed of the San Francisco Presidio. From early spring to early summer, I have watched the progression of species, as one dies back, the next takes the stage. Yesterday I espied a friend, and returned in the early hours of the morn for this week’s foraging adventure. (As a side note, the Presidio is part of the National Park Service…do not forage in protected or off limit areas. I collected on a wee trail between a road and the government buildings. Thank you ossifer, but I’ll just be on my way now…)…

The trail I love meanders between serpentine grassland and forests of cypress and pine. Due to conservation efforts, the area is lush with native flora and fauna…

California Buckwheat

California Buckwheat is edible and medicinal but I also feel protective of it as a native wildflower, and so I let it be.

The walk in was about 20 minutes to my destination, but I was in good company.

The Root Children did a good job on the shell shine...
Make a wish! I was once admonished against blowing the seeds to their fate...Dandelion is a weed, don't you know! Now that I know better, I believe in spreading the goodness. More greens and dandy wine for all!
Ithuriel's Spear

Ithuriel’s Spear is also edible. This member of the Lily family (or maybe the Onion family, depending on who you ask) grows from a corm (kinda like a bulb) that is edible and tastes potato-ish. Again, it’s a native flower, so collect prudently.

Pineapple Weed

Pineapple weed like to grow in disturbed soil. When I was a kid, we would pluck the blooms, crush the heads and then hold them under each other’s nose. “Think of apple, and then smell.” Very appley, indeed. “Ok, now think of strawberry and smell.” Goodness, how can it be? “Ok, now think of banana and smell.” It does! It smells like a banana too. I still play this game as an adult, but I take the flowers home and steep them as they make a lovely tea.

Checker Mallow
Sleepy Chickweed in the shade...all the little starburst flowers are closed. This is a nutritious yummy green.

At last I came across my prickly friend…

Milk Thistle! Check out those leaves, aren’t they beauties?

While you can eat the shoots and stems of Milk Thistle, and a top-notch liver cleanser is made from the seeds, I was only interested in the flowers.

Ok, this photo is really about my gloves that I had forgotten and then found.

You can eat the flowering tops of all thistles, the two most commonly harvested being the Milk and the Bull.

To make a meal out of these meanies, you would have to harvest approximately 8 billion. What we are after here is the receptacle, or as you may know it, the heart. What does this remind you of?

Yes indeed, the Milk Thistle is an ancestor of the cultivated artichoke. Mmmmm….artichokes. (By the way, just so you know what I sacrifice for these posts…my artichoke burned while I was writing this. Boo hoo! Actually, don’t take it personally. Since having a kid, I burn just about anything that takes longer than 10 minutes to cook. Bye bye short term memory, hello Mommy Brain.).

Even though the hearts of the Milk Thistle are about as big as your thumb nail, they are a true delicacy. Sweet, floral and scrumptious. Remember that wild edible forest I want to cultivate? There will be a whole field of these lovelies. You can come over and we will have Thistle Hearts au Gratin, and then take Milk Thistle Seed tincture to cleanse our livers afterward. Woo! Party!

Have a great weekend!

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5 thoughts on “Wild in the Presidio: Foraging Fridays

  1. I’m so glad you mentioned pineapple weed! I made a lovely sun tea out of that just the other day… When I was little I’d sit on my bum on the playground snacking on them (I’m glad they aren’t poisonous!!) and, indeed, I still do that from time to time! I didn’t know that thistle is related to artichoke, I ‘ll have to see if I can find some around here.

  2. Thistles! Pineapple weed! I used to eat so much pineapple weed when I was kid, I had some sort of crazy craving for it. I haven’t seen it around here and maybe that’s a good thing, but I’d sure like to pop some in my mouth right now. I’m feeling my baby chicks chickweed whenever i can find it and tossing some in my own salads too. Wonder if that’s why it’s called that…

  3. Ithuriel’s Spear is such a beautiful name! I’ve never heard of pineapple weed before and am wondering if we have any around here. I walk around the yard in all seasons and have never seen any before, but maybe in a different spot… We also have thistles but I’m not sure what kind they are. Time for some research! Thanks for beautiful photos and awesome info!

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