Foraging in Los Angeles

El Sereno to be more specific. The hills are alive… with the sound of FOOD! After the rain there’s an abundance of weeds throughout every dirt patch in Los Angeles; be it your yard, the side of the road, parks, or that space between the sidewalk and the street I can never remember the name of.

What’s remarkable is that quite a bit of it is edible, at least the parts that haven’t been peed on too much by passing dogs and what not. A few weekends ago I visited the Hive House for a guided foraging trip by Joel Robinson. He taught us how to find and identify edible plants which we gathered to later make into a delicious salad. Was fun to see weeds in a new light and how to start telling them apart.

A few notes: be cautious! Plants can be hard to identify – when in doubt, throw it out.

Here are two edibles popping up in March and April with my notes on how to identify them. Both are mild tasting and good for salad.

Prickly lettuce:

Looks like lettuce! The identifying characteristic is the line of prickles like fine spiky hairs along the center ridge – midrib – as you can see below. The other characteristic is the serrated ridges along the sides. When cut or crushed there is a milky juice. In the sunflower family and can also look more scraggly with extra margins.


Related to marshmallow, with rounded disk shape leaf. You might say it looks like geranium with 5-7 lobes. This one has 7. It can be used for salad but it does have a sticky okra like texture, which could be used to thicken soups!

A few others coming up now:

  • Mustard (yellow flowers can be steamed and tastes a bit like broccoli)
  • Sows ear
  • Chickweed 
  • Yellow wood sorel (high in oxolate but fun to chew on stalks for lemony flavor)

I was surprised to learn most of these plant species are not native to CA, they were brought over by European settlers over time!

Foraging is a great way to learn about what is edible in your area, feel connected to the plant life coming up every season, and if needed could be useful in survival situations. Check out Joel Robinson for more information!

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