Foraging with Chandra Elmendorf

You may not know it, but you could be parking your car on a superfood.

Chandra Elmendorf

Chandra Elmendorf

Last spring, I foraged for wild edibles with naturalist Chandra Elmendorf at Open Minded Organics farm in Bridgehampton, organized by Slow Food East End leader and Good Farm Delivery owner Megan Schmidt. Farmer David Falkowski was kind enough not to weed that week, so Elmendorf could talk about what grew around the rows of crops.

I was so inspired by the walk, I made a salad with only weeds from my yard and a mashed strawberry dressing, for a potluck dinner to be featured in the Edible East End spring 2016 edition. I may be bragging here but but it was the best salad I ever tasted and by far the healthiest.

One ingredient, Plantago major, still grows in the sandy soil of our driveway, giving me a newfound respect for where we used to park the cars. I’ve stepped on the oval leaves, formed as rosettes, a million times without even realizing it’s considered a superfood.

Better known as the broadleaf plantain, it is a “flat wide thing” that grows worldwide and is sometimes confused with the tropical fruit. The stringy veins can be a little tough, so harvest them young and throw a handful into a raw salad or cook into soups. The weed has far more vitamins and minerals than any green you might buy from the grocery store.

Researchers “studied the cytotoxic, antiviral, and immunomodulatory effects of P. major on various human leukemia, lymphoma, and carcinoma cells and concluded that extracts of P. major possess a broad spectrum of antiviral activities, as well as the activities that modulate cell-mediated immunity.”

Chandra Elmendorf

Plantago major or the broadleaf plantain.

Place a simple poultice of plantain, also called snakeroot, on stings, bites, boils, “anything that itches,” even open wounds. Ingest it for digestive tract disorders such as diarrhea.

“If plantain had a fancier name it would cost a lot of money,” Elmendorf said.

Elmendorf and Schmidt are preparing their next foraging adventure this weekend, and I can’t wait to join them again.

“I’ve been leaving my recon til the last minute given the uncertainty of what will still have leaves, and be easily identifiable,” said Elmendorf, “I know I will talk about acorns, hickory nuts and probably beech nuts.” All the better for fall salads.

Event: Foraging Wild Edibles – Foraging Walk with Chandra Elmendorf
Date: Saturday, October 17, 2015 (rain date Sunday, October 18)
Time: 10 a.m. – noon
Location: Meet at Trout Pond, 3200 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor
Cost: $15 per person Slow Food East End members; $20 per person for non-members. Advance registration is required.
Reservations: www.slowfoodeastend.org.

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Kelly Ann Smith lives in East Hampton between Gardiner's Bay and Accabonac Harbor. She's been writing about the East End since 1995. Her weekly column, "A View from Bonac," can be found in the East Hampton Press.