Foraging Hike Through Elysian Park with Joel Robinson
While I already considered myself fairly savvy at neighborhood foraging, having harvested figs, lemons, loquats, kumquats, dandelions, nasturtiums, and several different herbs from neighbor’s yards and public land, this hike really brought foraging to another level. Joel identified several species that are often considered weeds, plants that grow plentifully in the Los Angeles area, most of which have nutritional or medicinal qualities.
If you plan on foraging please be 100% sure of what you are harvesting before you consume anything, don’t go on my photos alone. Please also keep in mind everyone reacts to different plant species in their own way. There is also always a chance that certain plants may be contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, or other toxic chemicals. This is less of a risk in a place like Elysian Park where these plants grow wild, but it is always still a risk. If you are unfamiliar with the area you can check with the parks department and ask for permission to forage. Anything you consume is completely at your own risk.
I see this all the time hiking and had no idea it’s edible! The smallest, freshest, greenest leaves have the best texture and flavor, they are a very subtle taste with a substantial leaf. This would make a delicious salad green.
I love mustard greens so this was one of my favorite varieties we tried on the hike. You can eat pretty much the whole plant, leaves, stems, and even the cute little yellow flowers. Not only are they super easy to spot because of their distinctive flowers, they have a wonderful spicy flavor, and they were growing in abundance!
Having cooked with mustard greens from the farmers’ market many times before, I love to saute them up with some tomato and lemon juice. I will definitely be foraging more of these soon, and the yellow flowers will make for an adorable garnish.
This is another plant in the mustard family, which if you didn’t know is the same family as kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and arugula. Sorry this picture makes it a bit hard to see because there is so much cheeseweed growing around it, but if you can spot the little yellow flowers, the dried fronds on top, and the curvy arugula-like leaves, that’s the London Rocket.
The fact that it’s called rocket, which is a common name for arugula, speaks to it’s flavor, which is very similar to arugula but still with a slight mustard kick. You could use this as a salad green, or you could use it in the place of arugula, my favorite use for which is to top pizza!
I’ve seen this pop up in my garden before and I noted how similar it looks to a quinoa or amaranth plant, so I wasn’t at all surprised when Joel informed us it’s in the same family. While the seeds on these plants weren’t yet mature, they are edible once they are fully grown. But you can eat the leaves as well! They are a little thicker than some of the other leaves we tried, they would be good mixed into a salad or made into pesto.
I see these all over Los Angeles. They are all over Griffith Park and there are several in my neighborhood. This was my first time hiking in Elysian Park but I saw them all along the trail. It is a large growing tree that produces bunches of tiny pink peppercorns which aren’t even technically in the pepper family. They are much lighter, flakey, and less spicy than usual peppercorns. You can easily harvest the low hanging fruit and use it as a spice. I used some to top my Chicken Liver Pate recipe. I had no idea but wikipedia touts all of the medicinal benefits of this plant.
This is a super interesting plant that develops into a large bushy structure that eventually dies, dries up, then detaches from its roots to roll around in the wind to disperse its seeds over a large area.
What I didn’t know is that in it’s young form, tumbleweed is edible! We didn’t see very much of it, and the only little patch we did spot was right off the trail. It was a prime spot for dog pee so I must say I didn’t get to try what it tastes like, but it left me quite curious!
So this really is the worst picture I took that whole day, it was one of the last plants we identified as rain drops started to fall on us, just minutes before I had to seal my camera in a plastic bag and hike back in torrential downpour, and eventually hail. But I still included this one because it was one of my favorite tasting plants we tried, the leaves were especially crunchy and light. I found it similar to fresh baby spinach but even lighter and crispier.
The more mature leaves are round will little tiny flower pods in the center and a long slender stem (seen in here in his right hand,) the immature leaves much smaller and with a tear drop shape (seen here in his left hand.) The entire thing is edible and quite delicious.
To learn more about Joel or to attend a guided hike definitely check out his website at Naturalist-For-You.org. I also highly recommend this article that Stacy (co-founder of the Hive House) wrote about him for Atlas Obscura.