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Trash is Tragic

By Melanie Bernier

June 22, 2021

Clowns Can Forage, Too

The other day, a clown called @apocalypse_housewife taught me how to forage invasive plants. Yes, she was in full clown gear. It felt surprisingly natural, beautiful even. I cried.

An invasive species is an introduced organism that negatively alters its new environment. Which is bad news because invasive plants are everywhere. Again, I cried.

The plants we ate were brought to this land and propagated for their nutritional, medicinal, or aesthetic qualities. Now they grow willy nilly, fuxing things up for the natives. People try in vain to kill them with chemicals, or simply overlook them because, well, what is plant?

Foraging is an incredible way to reduce invasive vegetation. It involves identifying edible plants that are not in a supermarket and eating them. You won’t die - quite the contrary! As the clown explained, foraging invasive plants is wholesome. Unless you have a specific allergy, the plants below are safe to eat. You can’t overpick them. They’re nutrient-rich. They teach us the history of colonization, allowing us to ingest the truth, digest our thoughts, and extrude our emotions.

Best of all, foraging teaches us abundance. Our incredible planet provides all this for us. No money or gear required - just help yourself!

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea). A member of the mint family, this flowering plant has a spicy, herbal flavor. It’s known to choke out native wildflowers. Payback’s a bitch: eat raw in salads, smoothies, tea, or infuse into gin.

Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major), a.k.a. white man's foot, has a delightful mushroom flavor. Use like spinach. When young, eat raw in salads and sandwiches. Once mature, sautee to reduce bitterness.

Norway Spruce Tips (Picea abies) is simply new growth at the end of spruce branches. Gobble ‘em raw - I certainly do. They’re bright green, packed with vitamin C, and have a sassy citrus flavor. The Norway spruce is invasive, but all spruce tips are edible. Just don’t mistake spruce for the inedible Yew tree (Taxus baccata - also invasive), which will give you diarrhea, cha cha cha.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) has many folksy, witchy associations. Once dry, use as tea to promote lucid dreaming, or burn as you would sage.

Field Garlic (Allium vineale) can be used like garlic. Harvest bulbs in spring and fall. The greens are tasty, too!

Dandelion (Taraxacum). Every part of this common plant is edible: stem, seed, leaves, and flower. Popular uses include dandelion wine, dandelion green salad, sauteed dandelion leaves, dandelion fritters, dandelion root tea…

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) Chopped leaves, flowers, and fruit are great for salads and pesto. The leaves, best when young, taste of garlic and mustard. Seeds and roots can be used to season food.

Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) has a tart, juicy stalk like rhubarb, and it’s safe to eat raw. Beware: this plant is incredibly invasive. It can reproduce from fragments of itself, a la John Carpenter’s The Thing. Be careful with scraps - don’t throw them on the ground or in a composter.

Check out all the art and columns of June's Boston Compass at


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