Minnesota Wild Edibles Prairie Biome
Prairies, Fields and Treeless Areas
Prairies are natural treeless areas that are dominated by grasses. Southern, South-Western, and Western Minnesota make up the majority of the Prairie, Field, and Treeless areas Biome. There are three Biomes in Minnesota- Northern, Deciduous, and Prairie- when two biomes overlap it is called an Ecotone where there is more variety of flora and fauna. Natural grasses in Minnesota include: Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Grama Grass. Other grasses- which dominate fields are Timothy, Brome, and Bluegrass. Wild flowers grow with these grasses are the spring blooming Pasque Flower and the late blooming Blazing Star. Fields have plants like Red Clover and Dandelion- which were imported for gardens and escaped to the fields. Plume Thistle, Canadian Thistle, and Daisy seeds made their way to Minnesota's fields. Below are some ideas for seasonal edibles in Minnesota.
This time of the year can be quite slow when it comes to foraging for wild edibles on the prairie. Majority of the plants are herbaceous and predominantly annuals and buried under the snow. One of the best ways to forage this biome during winter is to stake up plants in the fall- so you can dig up the dry leaves and brew some tea. When the ground becomes frozen, it's best to wait until spring to start eating wild edibles.
Now that it's spring time on the prairie, you can start picking strawberry leaves and have a fresher tea. It is recommended to dry the leaves before using because you can become sick from using the green leaves. A main course of wild edibles during spring is Wild Asparagus and Burdock- once known as Wild Gobo. Burdock blooms profusely in the field- it is a biennial, which means it takes two years from a seed to maturity. The first year it forms a low rosette that resembles shape of domestic rhubarb. the broad leaves of the plant shade surrounding vegetation and prevent the plant from being crowded out by neighbors. When Gobo is in the shoot state, it can be picked, boiled and eaten. The second year a tall stalk pops up and reaches a height of 3-5 feet. The stem can be cooked or candied. The roots are the best part of the Burdock plant. Dig up the root and slice down one side of it- there is a rind that surrounds the pith, remove the rind and save the innards. The inside root is then boiled until tender- drained and simmered five minutes in salt and butter.
Another common edible wild plant is Goosefoot- which is also known as Pigweed or Lamb's Quarter. This is one of the most popular wild foods of the Minnesota prairie biome.
Mustard greens are prodigious bloomers along the roadsides and are a favorite in the south. Harvest and boil it.
A tip for cooking wild edible greens it to simmer them for the last 3-5 minutes in butter and salt (don't use margarine).
Milkweed buds, shoots, and pods are edible boilable foods which give you a variety of flavors.
For a wild edible spring salad, try collecting Bracken Fern fiddle heads when they are under 8 inches long, Pigweed tips, Plantain leaves, Violet leaves and Dandelion leaves.
For a summer tea beverage, try collecting Vervain leaves or New Jersey Tea leaves. New Jersey Tea was popular among early colonists.
Try Dandelion coffee. Collect Dandelion roots and cut into 2 inch sections then wash them. Put them in the oven at 350 degrees F until completely dry. Then grind and use for brewing.
Chicory, plant with bright blue flower, can be gathered in a similar way but it will taste a little better. It was used by many southerners during the war.
Eating Dandelion greens is another alternative- the younger the leaves the better.
Creeping ground cover, Purslane.
Try mixing your wild edibles. For example: mix Purslane, Milkweed buds, Pigweed and boil. May want to season with vinegar.
Daylily- which has a deep orange flower that blooms all over the prairie biodome is another summer wild edible. They are prolific bloomers that can bloom and die daily. Boil and butter the elongated buds.
Giant Blue Hyssop: it's a member of the mint family, which means it has a square stem like all mints- whereas most plants have a round stem. The Hyssop has violet blue flowers on a spike which is found at the top of the stem or on branches out from the leaf axils. It can grow 2-4 feet tall in dry soil. Underside of leaves are downy.
Ground Cherries: light brown husks. They are clear, pale yellow and slightly soft when ripe and delicious. Don't eat them when they are not ripe. They will ripen in July-August.
More edible wild salad ideas: Clover, Dandelion leaves, Curled Dock leaves, Grape shoots, Plantain leaves, Pigweed tips, Purslane leaves and tips, and Rose petals. Maybe add Hyssop for flavoring and Sheep Sorrel for a distinct 'sauerkraut'-like taste. Peppergrass is a short mustard with seed pods and Onions are great additions to salads and seasonings for other foods.
Do not cook Peppergrass- it will ruin the flavor. It has a good pepper flavor which can be chopped and used as a seasoning.
For a sandwich, consider adding Peppergrass, Basswood leaves and/or Violet leaves.
Giant Blue Stem turns to reddish orange, Asters, and Goldenrod can be found in bloom.
Harvest grains for breads.
Teas can be of Hyssop, Strawberry or Sweet Fern
Chicory coffee can be made
Gather wild sunflower seeds- soak them in salt water and roast them
Jerusalem Artichokes grow 6-8 feet tall. They are in the same family as sunflower (helianthus)- but have smaller flower heads and a paler yellow color. Will form dense clumps in fields. Dig up the roots and boil them like potatoes.