Things I've Learned from My Chinese Family: 3 Amazing Wild Edible Plants | Speaking of China

27 Responses

  1. Marta
    Marta April 7, 2014 at 9:32 am | | Reply

    We went to some villages around Zhenjiang and Danyang (in Jiangsu province) for Qingming and my boyfriend’s mum and aunts were like crazy picking herbs. Now I know it was mugwort! Thanks, Jocelyn! haha.

    When I was a child in Spain I remember going some times to pick some kind of wild potatoes in the countryside. I don’t know what it was, we called it “truffles”. I also went some time to pick wild mushrooms in the north of Spain. But it was definitely not an every day activity!

  2. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian April 7, 2014 at 1:22 pm | | Reply

    Have tried fresh bamboo shoots. Depending on how it is cooked, fresh bamboo shots taste wonderful and crunchy to the bite.

  3. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary
    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary April 7, 2014 at 1:29 pm | | Reply

    I love reading about your life in China! It sounds quite amazing that you can go out and pick wild plants. I can only imagine how fresh, delicious, and healthy they are! I love bamboo shoots and have eaten them on countless occasions. My husband’s family usually wraps them and barbeques them on Moon Festival.

  4. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen April 8, 2014 at 1:40 am | | Reply

    This is such a good article! The photos and your explanations make the whole process, from foraging to eating, perfectly understandable. I didn’t know what mugwort looked like before.

    In the mountains around here (Washington state) people forage for morel mushrooms. They aren’t easy to find, and you have to know what you’re doing. There are so many poisonous varieties of mushrooms. Although I haven’t foraged for morels, some friends have. They’re to die for.

    Canned bamboo shoots are disgusting, but I love the fresh ones.

  5. Caroline
    Caroline April 8, 2014 at 10:42 am | | Reply

    These dishes look so yummpy. What a good life to live in the place where you can pick so many wild plants easily.

  6. PaolaC
    PaolaC April 8, 2014 at 10:51 am | | Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed this! thanks for all the details and the pictures.

    The mugwort dumplings and rounds look amazing. What a colour!

    I grew up in the countryside and in spring we used to forage for wild young dandelion and poppy plants, boil or steam them (dandelion is better boiled as the leaves are rather bitter) and then dress them with olive oil and salt, or saute them with oil and garlic. There were a couple of other plants, of which we ate the tendrils, and some mushrooms, too, but I only know the local names.

    Please post more!! 🙂

  7. chang
    chang April 9, 2014 at 4:43 am | | Reply

    love love love this post! I have no cool stories of growing up eating wild food, I grew up in the California suburbs. (We did grow veggies (baby bok choy) at home some years though.)

    My grandfather is from rural Zhejiang– someday when I finally visit the 老家鄉 I hope to look you up! 🙂 I don’t think any of my family are still there though. 🙁

    Anyway– I really love this post, and the pictures of your kitchen especially, I hope to see more like this. What an incredible, unique perspective you get to have. Envious! (I hope you write a book with pictures one day.)

  8. Sveta
    Sveta April 9, 2014 at 6:14 am | | Reply

    Unfortunately, none of my family members ever foraged for anything. In Russia, a popular pastime is collecting mushrooms, but because my parents couldn’t tell the difference between various mushrooms, my sister and I never picked any. I recall on my late grandmother’s vacation house, (dacha) she had a lot of plants and fruits growing there. I recall that I loved kicking mushrooms when I was a kid haha, especially after rainy days.

  9. chinaelevatorstories
    chinaelevatorstories April 9, 2014 at 4:36 pm | | Reply

    Using wild edible plants for cooking has become popular in Europe in recent years – a pioneer of this “movement” was the chef of Noma, an award-winning restaurant in Danmark (it’s sometimes dubbed Europe’s best restaurant).

    We didn’t use a lot of wild edible plants when growing up – we ate wild strawberries or other berries from the forrest and used fresh dandelion leaves to make salads (you’ll have to put them into water for a while so it won’t taste as bitter). It’s common to go hunting for bear’s garlic in spring in Austria, but you have to be very careful because it’s easy to mistake it for another plant which is poisenous (and every year there are a few cases where people have to be treated in hospital because they ate the wrong kind).

    I agree, bamboo shoots are great fresh and oh so bad when canned. Unfortunately, most (inauthentic) Chinese restaurants in Austria use canned bamboo shoots for each and every dish, meaning those dishes all taste the same and not delicious at all.

  10. chinaelevatorstories
    chinaelevatorstories April 9, 2014 at 4:38 pm | | Reply

    Sorry, meant to write Denmark.

  11. Judy Brutz
    Judy Brutz April 10, 2014 at 12:32 am | | Reply

    Jocelyn, I love your tasty offering.

  12. Vince Lin
    Vince Lin April 10, 2014 at 5:22 am | | Reply

    You are forgetting Taro

  13. Chris Waugh
    Chris Waugh April 11, 2014 at 6:36 am | | Reply

    One doesn’t need to be in the countryside to enjoy fresh wild herbs. Here in downtown Beijing some of my older neighbours pick /xiāngchūn/Chinese toon leaves and dandelion (蒲公英/púgōngyīng) – and those are only the two I know about, there are quite possibly others. Naturally, they need to be washed thoroughly to get the urban filth off (Jocelyn, treasure the “clean dirt” (as we call it in New Zealand) you have out where you live). I’m not sure about the Chinese toon, and I’m not a great fan of it, although it is alright stir fried in egg, but one of my neighbours explained to me last week the medicinal properties of the dandelion leaves. And then, of course, I immediately went and forgot what those medicinal properties are.

  14. Richard
    Richard April 15, 2014 at 8:02 am | | Reply

    I’m mad jelly that your husband’s family lives in the countryside! It definitely seems like a more authentic (and healthy) lifestyle than the one you get in Chinese cities.

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