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Wild About Weeds
San Francisco Chronicle, March 3, 1999

For Roos-Collins, the Berkeley author of Flavors of Home: a Guide to Wild Edible Plants of the San Francisco Bay Area, (Heyday Books, 1990) the chickweed, nettles, wild onions and purslane that pepper untended yards belong on the dinner plate, not in the dumpster. By learning to recognize a few wild edibles - and by steering clear of the toxic ones - Bay Area gardeners, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts can graze at nature's table, says the author. ... Unlike wild mushrooms, which can require a sharp eye to find, the greens were everywhere.

Mallow, a clump of furry, rounded leaves. ... In Turkey ... cooks stuff the large mallow leaves with rice of meat as they might stuff grape leaves. In Tunisia, they steam the leaves, then beat oil and spices to make a dip for bread. The nutrient-rich green is so high in Vitamin A - second only to polar bear liver, Roos-Collins says - that too much can be toxic.

Scallion, a shady patch of scallion-like foliage with delicate, nodding white blossoms. Gardeners could exploit wild onions and their faintly oniony blossoms in salads and fish preparations. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, New York celebrity chef, scatters the blossoms over salads.

Fennel, a thicket of 8 foot tall wild fennel .. with dark, licorice-scented seeds. In Provence, restaurants stuff whole fish with wild fennel stalks before grilling and toss dried fennel stalks on the coals. In Italy, cooks gather the pollen from fennel flowers and use it to season pork.

Radish, clusters of tender greens all over a slope. .. It's easy to recognize, easy to like when cooked and present in abundance. The tiny pastel blossoms which have a slight horseradish taste, are fragrant on a sunny day.

Curly Dock, a long narrow leaf that tastes like sorrel.

Stinging Nettles, are delicious in soup. At Pomponio Creek Produce, an organic farm near Pescadero, CA, Martin Bournhonesque harvests nettles that turn up on plates at restaurants. Nettles have gone from a pesky weed to a profitable crop.