Defending the Garbage Plate

Bring on the plants!

The wildcrafting season is in full tilt and what better way to christen the ship than preaching the good word of Garbage Plates.

Now traditionally, Garbage Plates, if you’re not familiar, are a dish native to Rochester, NY. They’re a regional food much like a Philly cheese steak or a Chicago deep dish pizza. They consist of nothing vegetable at all except for some greasy onions, potatoes, and beans.

Picture of a Garbage Plate

(I don’t know perhaps there’s some vegetable matter hiding in that mac and cheese too.)

But here at OTF we’re all about the vegetables and so we’ve co-opted the term not to refer to a mash-up of potatoes, macaroni, beans, meat, and plentiful condiments, but instead we’re just mixing up our wild foods, throwing away the recipes, and letting it all hang out.

Linden buds with asian greens

This could be called tossed salad, if you leave it uncooked. It could be chutney or even pickles if you decide to go that route.

Heck it could even be called stir-fry.

But we call it a Garbage Plate which for us just means mix it into something and then forgetta-bawt-it.

Cilantro, beets, dill, radishes and wild greens

Mix It Up, Cook It Up

You see, this blog serves up a lot of recipes, and we love to cook. And we do like to cook by the book. But we also like to garden, to write, and have a really busy family life. And our primary focus is food diversity and nutrition (not recipes), and encouraging others to eat from an assortment of foods. Eat from the whole plate. Don’t limit variety, diversity, in the diet. There are so many plants out there with such a diverse nutrient profile and what better way to get as many of these great plants in your diet as possible than throwing out the recipe book from time to time and just mixing it up.

Asked once how he made his daily tea from his extensive culinary and medicinal herb garden, Ethnobotanist James Duke said that he would just go from place to place and take a little of this and a little of that and then he’d steep it in water.

It’s really just that simple.

girl with mallow

I think sometimes when people find unique edibles, one of the very first things in their mind might be, “But what do I do with it?” Meaning what kind of recipe am I going to put it into to make it taste good? And that’s a good thought. But that’s not a thought to end all thoughts. What must occur after this thought is you must do something with it, anything, even if it’s a complete fail. Even if it tastes abysmal.

I assure you, more times than you realize your creative mind will probably concoct something tolerable or even delicious.

You don’t need a fancy recipe all the time. You don’t need to know exactly what to do with the food that you find. Let experience and a quest for good health guide you. Toss it away in a pan, cook it up, and voila, you’ve just made a meal.

Here are a few of the plants that we’ve found in our garden today to mix together and eat:

Woodland Sorrel

woodland sorrel

FIeld Sorrel
field sorrel



And here’s what it looked like in the pan …

Yes it’s ugly, it might even look a mess, but it tasted good with a little garlic, turmeric and salt.

And that made all the difference.

What plants from your yard are you planning on throwing together today? Leave a comment below.

And if you’re interested in more wild food posts follow this link.

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